The future of work

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As the ‘back to work’ conversation continues and companies like Twitter and JPMorgan make headlines for their respective approaches, companies must not lose sight of the task at hand: critical decisions must be made about the long-term health, competitiveness and vitality of the business – really, the future of work.

If we go back in time before the pandemic, many companies were already on the path to some amount of distributed virtual work. Some teams were already working remotely, some functions were already outsourced, many parts of your organizations were working from home on Fridays and partially working remotely in the summer.

However, this crisis has accelerated distributed labor and brought into question whether we have been efficient and productive in this virtual environment.

There are many ways to measure productivity, some of the traditional methods if you are a manufacturing company are produced units, if you are a call service center it is the number of calls handled, if you are a software publisher is lines of code and new patents, or the traditional measure of dollars versus headcount.

The human capital component (our employees) of the business is classified as an intangible asset which encompasses the economic value of the experience and skills of your employees. The fundamental elements of a healthy and robust layer of human capital are the depth of knowledge of your employees, the creativity they bring to the problem-solving of new product ideas, and the social fabric of teams that allows for debate and discussion. open discussion to achieve the best. possible outcomes.

At the heart of the productivity of our knowledge workers, the question is: do they really advance our businesses and do we imagine and create as in isolation as we do when we are together? We know we are dealing with work assignments efficiently.

The hardest and most effective thing for a business is to innovate and create a new product, service or way to market and satisfy customers by taking action and rubbing our entire offering. The tough things we found more difficult in a distributed environment were to identify and analyze a problem, quickly resolve the problem, and create new, inspired and unique offerings.

As Steve Jobs says, the best ideas came to him when he walked down the hall to the water cooler and ran into someone who, by chance, sparked a new idea.

The creative framework that we had was getting together in person to bounce ideas off each other, iterate on those ideas, spark each other’s thinking, and have that live debate and fight where the energy intensifies, and the result is something special. and unique concepts are created. I think most of us would agree that this has been difficult to replace in a virtual environment.

However, last year’s experience was not without valuable lessons and knowledge. We have found that we can automate many processes that we never thought possible. We have compressed our digital transformation from three to five years. We put things online. We went straight to our consumers and automated repetitive tasks incorporating AI and new business process flows, robotic process automation.

In fact, when we go back and do the forensic analysis, it might not be surprising if we now perhaps have a layer of fat in our business of legacy processes that are no longer relevant when the layer “Check auditors” and data aggregation functions may be removed and some employees reassigned.

There are many tools that have allowed us to work more efficiently in a virtual world, from Slack and Mural to the great tools from Microsoft.
MSFT
to see how much time we spend on screen and how many chats we have to help assess and engage and facilitate collaboration. We also have a series of HR tools that have allowed us to feel the pulse and check the feeling and mental health of our workforce.

But at the end of the day, we all need to decide what is best for each of our businesses and industries. The model of what works well for a Twitter or a Facebook doesn’t necessarily apply to a manufacturing production company or a strategy services company.

We hear from our major financial services institutions such as Goldman Sachs
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and JP Morgan
JPM
say that they are a culture of learning and that they believe that the most effective way to impart that learning and that culture is to work side by side with colleagues and actually train them in person.

If we think about it, I don’t know how the learning model is very different from the very essence of good management. Great managers lead their teams, set goals, coach, coach, train and inspire the group to be cohesive and productive.

When we think about today’s conversation, we mostly focused on the bottom of our pyramid, the great foundational layer that is our human capital, our talent pool, our people. We have heard in the popular press and with every survey that employees are tired, stressed, have lost their boarders between personal and business time, and they feel anxious and overworked. Yet, among these same employees, many express that they prefer a hybrid environment to return to work.

Maybe we should invert the pyramid and ask ourselves first and foremost to look at the top layer of the pyramid that is the business and ask ourselves what is really best for the health and vitality of our business. business? The middle layer are the teams and the way we operate and create results for the business through our teams i.e. the supply chain team, the marketing team, the team development, etc. Let’s see which metrics and systems have worked well to measure the units of work or productive outputs of our team. Next, consider what is most effective in engaging our critical foundational layer, our employees.

Every business will need to plan and create one quickly. Now is the time to ask management to create a policy, review it with the board and make the bold decision; making bold and sometimes difficult decisions is the essence of leadership.

Whether it’s good for your business to stay 100% virtual or come back 100% in person or be a mixed hybrid model where people come to head office or hubs. Every business has a unique culture and approach to answering the “back question” based on its values ​​and mission. Whether everyone is invited to come back in person, it will be up to the management team and the board to ensure that we have clarity and transparency. We need to inspire convincingly, explain why our vision of returning to work is best for our company, for our teams, for our investors and for our employees.

We will need to have passion to articulate our vision and motivate our employees, triggering their commitment to return. We need to rebuild and rebuild our social networks. We will be well served when we explain how the chosen plan promotes the professional growth of our employees. While there can be a boisterous minority who might not be happy, it is the essence of great leadership that makes the right choice of what is good for the business, not just right now. , but for years to come, as this will set the stage for your return to work.

I know we’ve all thought about it at length, and I’m confident that great leaders in all businesses will convincingly advocate their company’s unique response to return to work now. Now is the time to move our businesses forward!

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