Since the dawn of business there has been a certain style of how and when work should be done. In almost every organisation the processes tends to flow from the top down: beginning with the organization, to the managers, and finally the employees. In this particular case ‘organization’ refers to C-level executives and key stakeholders; those at the helm of the business. It is this group of people that make the decisions on behalf of the rest of the company, decisions that include what time employees should clock into work, where and what they should work on, what tools they should use to get the jobs done, and pretty much anything else that falls in between. Over time this is how the corporate culture in most organizations around the world has remained, however, a lot has changed over the last few years which has caused this historical model to become somewhat diluted as companies look to attract talent that can help drive innovation in a digital landscape.
It is the impact of social media and technological advances that has paved the way for this change. We are now starting to see a fascinating shift in who is guiding the flow of work and many organizations have started to adopt a complete reversal from the well cemented model of top-down to bottom-up. Employees are bringing new attitudes, ideas, values and expectations with them into the workplace, making them highly attractable to companies looking at new ways to keep on top of a constant changing landscape. It is these ideologies that has forced this reversal and it is becoming more commonplace to see these getting passed up to managers, who are being forced to adapt and react in order to attract and retain top talent, and managers in turn are passing it up to the organization, driving broad-based change across the entire company. Dan Pink echoed this shift when he said, “talented people need organizations less than organizations need talented people.”
But why is this shift happening and why is it happening now? I have listed five trends below that are shaping the future of work and driving the change.
New behaviors, such as living a more public life, building communities, and an increased focus on sharing and collaboration.
Technology, such as big data, the Internet of things, and robots and automation.
The millennial workforce, which is expected to comprise 50% of the workforce by 2020 and growing to 75% of the workforce by 2025. A generation of digital natives with new values, ideas, and expectations about work and social balance.
Mobility, enabling us to stay connected via multiple devices anytime and anywhere.
Globalization is providing organizations around the world with numerous opportunities to conduct business in markets where social and economical boundaries are diminishing.
These five trends are clashing together causing a disruption to virtually every organization in every industry around the world. The trends are compelling organizations to rethink the meaning of work and employment opportunities. Some forward-thinking organizations are already beginning to challenge the conventions of how employees work, how managers lead, and how organizations are structured.
An example of this would be Unilever, a Global product based company with a workforce of 180,000 employees, are planning to make 30% of their workforce location-independent by 2015 in an effort to grow the company while simultaneously helping to reduce their carbon footprint. Netflix on the other hand became famous for their company culture, allowing employees to take their own vacation days without worrying about approvals for all expenses. Valve, the popular gaming company, has abandoned the notion of managers altogether in favor of a completely flat structure where employees steer the ship. They even actively promote this on the company’s about page by simply stating “no bosses, no middle-man, no bureaucracy”.
Each of these organizations are responding to or promoting the five trends above because they recognize that being able to thrive and succeed in today’s ever changing landscape requires challenging the conventions of how we work in the digital age. If your organization doesn’t think about and plan for the future of work, then your organization may have no future!