Monday, June 5, 2023

The great redesign of organisations, work & workplaces ⭐


Organisations around the world have been redesigning their work pattern keeping pace with the changing dynamics. Work and workplace dimensions, too, are changing accordingly.

This is a watershed moment for organizations across the world as they grapple with managing a new generation of workforce with a viewpoint about work, life, and, most importantly, quality of life that is remarkably different from the past. The existing HR and leadership playbooks are finding it difficult to interact with this new workforce, putting relationships and existing equations to the test. The process of churn has begun, setting in motion new forces that demand a complete redesign of work, workplaces, and the organization itself, as the future emerges from the flux.

Employer-Employee – the new equation

In today’s volatile employee-employer relationship, organizations are oscillating between WFH (Work-From-Home) or return-to-office, with decisions changing every alternative week, and employees digging in deep with average attrition reaching 25%, effectively meaning that every fourth person is quitting in the IT industry. Those who aren’t resigning are in a Quiet-Quitting mode, doing just enough to go by without putting in any extra imitative. 

While some employees want the flexibility to do freelance work in their spare time, CEOs feel it is unfair and ‘cheating’ the freedom given to WFH. The outcome is fuzzy as emotions harden on both sides. There seems to be a widening gulf between organizations, the mindset of their leadership and their understanding of this generation of new employees who have never experienced pre-pandemic workplace life, corporate hierarchies, and organisational culture.

Why employees are quitting

Gartner has come up with a survey on why employees are quitting. The analogy they use is like a homeowner deciding to sell their house. The decision to sell will likely stem from factors related to the house itself or factors related to the external market. The house may need repairing, it no longer meets their needs, they’ve found a better house for sale, or they’ve lost all desire for any house at all — perhaps they want to go live on a boat. 

The decision to actively search for other opportunities and ultimately leave the organization is quite similar: It can be triggered by an internal factor related to the organization itself or An external factor related to the labour market or general environment, an added layer for switching job opportunities is the reason underlying the shift in the employee’s experience, which has changed their overall attitude toward their employer. The fundamental reason for the shift in the employee’s experience is typically related to dissatisfaction with the work experience or dissatisfaction with their life experience. 

From the Harvard Youth Poll to Deloitte’s Global Survey, excellent contributions by the Pew Research Center and myriad other studies and surveys, there’s a growing body of work that has helped to make us aware of Generation Z’s values, their political activity, and interests. Understanding this generation of young people is only part of the challenge.

We must also prepare ourselves and our institutions for a future where Zoomers are increasingly in positions of leadership and influence – and that includes helping them to attain those critical roles. We must find ways to listen and thoughtfully engage with the members of Gen Z as co-workers, classmates, and neighbours so that future plans for every sector of our society are being developed collectively.

The need for a systems redesign

CXOs, with decades of people-leadership experience and a sensitive finger on the employee pulse, feel that there is a generational shift in the workforce, which the existing leadership and systems of the organizations are unprepared for. People management and HR systems need a redesign. Some even take a step further to say that the entire organization must be transformed into a people-centric design, as opposed to a customer-centric redesign.

This will, of course, cause a revolution in the organizational structures, which through the industrial age and even in the information age, had placed the customer at the centre of the universe. Today, we are in the social age, where the needs and wants of employees have changed dramatically. It is time to recognize it and respond with an organisational redesign, job crafting, and even creating a new architecture of the physical office space.

The force of social changes

It might be worthwhile first to understand the social changes that have been unleashed and accentuated during the pandemic. This generation of employees in the mid-to-late twenties, which has seen the most intense job switching, were no longer burdened by the pressures of grandparents and parents to slave in a job, regardless of whether the environment was toxic or not. Their parents slog hard to educate their children and invest in a house.

This generation, therefore, has a head-start as basic needs have been taken care of by their parents. They are now looking for quality of life. The job is now a part of their lives and is not the centrepiece of earning a livelihood. Gig working is possible to manage revenue streams from multiple sources. Entrepreneurship is very much feasible, as funds from VCs and PE are available, provided one has the right idea and the pitch deck. 

Twenty-five per cent of employees is looking for other opportunities because they want an entirely different lifestyle, finds the Gartner survey. Employees’ personal lives outside of work have been challenged in a multitude of ways, causing them to reevaluate how they spend their time and whether they are achieving all they wish to at work and outside of work.

One-third of employees have spent more time with their families, 22% have experienced a significant change in their personal relationships, and 19% have new caretaking responsibilities. Most of these experiences are generally positive but still often add stress and shift an employee’s priorities. A notable amount of employees (28%) have also experienced the death of a close friend or family member or suffered from a severe illness themselves (14%). These negative experiences typically trigger reflection and a reordering of priorities while also requiring additional grief support and recovery. 

Quality of life takes priority

These moments affect employees and their preferences toward their work life — and what their work life allows them to do in their personal life. Employees who are actively searching for other positions are looking for an organization that can better meet their life needs. Sixty-three per cent of employees want work to have a lower priority in their life overall.

Others are looking to get more out of their personal life simply: 83% want to spend more time on their personal life or with their family, and another 83% want to find purpose in their life beyond work. More than three-quarters of employees are looking for a different lifestyle, some through a significant change in their work circumstances (e.g., changing their industry, career, function, etc.).

The Organization Redesign – from customer to employee-centricity

The most crucial redesign that will take place is in the organization redesign – from customer-centricity to people-centricity. Industrial-age companies structured themselves to meet customer needs, which will continue to be highly critical, but leaders now must put people in the centre of the universe to redesign the organization. The logic is simple – happy employees lead to happier customers. Gallup research found that employees who are engaged are more likely to improve customer relationships, with a resulting 20% increase in sales.

In a recent analysis, analysts at Glassdoor asked: Can companies achieve excellent customer satisfaction without also investing in employees, assuring that workers who deliver service to customers are themselves satisfied with their jobs? Their answer was clear: There’s a strong statistical link between employee well-being reported on Glassdoor and customer satisfaction among a large sample of some of the biggest brands today.

A more satisfied workforce is clearly associated with companies’ ability to deliver better customer satisfaction — particularly in industries with the closest contact between workers and customers, including retail, tourism, restaurants, health care and financial services.

Redesigning the Work – Job Crafting

The era of human-focused company culture has begun. Employees are now reevaluating what matters most to them in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting employers to focus on the well-being and personal satisfaction of their employees. This is where Job-Crafting becomes critical in redesigning the work to make it more engaging and meaningful. Employees today want to feel that their job matters and is making a difference in the world. We have seen this during the first and second waves of the pandemic when frontline employees went far beyond their job descriptions. 

To find out how employers can better shape jobs to employees’ needs, ManpowerGroup asked 14,000 workers what they really wanted. The findings were indicative of a new employee ecosystem — one where skilled employees call the shots and vote on where they work with their talents. Top priorities cited include having autonomy over when and where work gets done, balancing work and life for greater well-being, and having options for career mobility and skills-building.

The top five things workers want most from their current employers are:

  • Better overall compensation
  • Challenging work
  • Flexible hours
  • Proximity to home/easy commute
  • Opportunity to develop skills

Redesigning the Workplace

If work has been redesigned to make it more engaging, fun, and collaborative, then the physical workplace has to be transformed. There are ideas ranging from creating hub-n-spoke models of smaller units designed like Starbucks spread across the city, where people meet, exchange ideas, and collaborate, to more open space offices with hot-desking as an option. The needs of the new generation of employees are to cut down on commute time, meet to collaborate and then isolate themselves to do their slices of work as an individual. Health and well-being would be the driving factors in these redesigned office spaces.

Given that many will be coming into the office to collaborate, something they cannot do in their home, simple desk cubicles won’t really fit the bill. The office environment should therefore be optimized for collaborative work in different ways. Things to include could be moveable whiteboards, physical materials such as paper, pens, post-its, large displays, and moveable workshop tables – essentially, a more ‘hackable’ or customizable space. In the near future, companies will need to design their workplaces where the virtual and real worlds will converge to create a new experience zone. 

The jury is out

Hybrid work is now a well-accepted business practice. Almost every company is reinventing “where to work” and “how.” Several studies have now shown employees like this new situation. More than 50% of employees are willing to forgo as much as 5% of their pay for the option to work at home. However, as new research points out, many leaders expect people to come back to the office. A new study found that 70% of leaders want their teams back in the office, while fewer than 40% of line workers feel the same.

Many executives believe true career growth requires face-to-face interaction. While the jury is still out on fully returning to the office (many tech companies have explicitly told people they could work remotely forever), it’s clear this is an issue that will be with us for some time. While nobody likes a long commute, as more and more people show up, others will also want to be there. 

The old idea that working at home was synonymous with goofing off is gone. We can now accept that hybrid work is routine. And desk-less workers, who make up almost 70% of the global workforce, are getting new tools and more flexibility. The big trend in 2022 will be better virtual tools (Teams, for example, has myriad new features to help schedule, manage, coordinate, and record meetings) and the emergence of the metaverse when our physical and digital worlds will merge to create the new space to meet, collaborate and co-innovate.

Companies everywhere are discovering that their own well-being is inextricably linked to their employees’ well-being — mental, physical, emotional, and financial.

Also Read: The big shift – from customer first to people first

(Abhijit Roy is a technology explainer and business journalist. He has worked with Strait Times of Singapore, Business Today, Economic Times and The Telegraph. Also worked with PwC, IBM, Wipro, Ericsson.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)


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