Labor and talent are on the minds of almost every leader these days, so I was intrigued when I came across a new report from Korn Ferry titled “Future of work trends 2022: A new era of humanity”. This report reinforced what I heard from leaders and employees: if your organization isn’t exploring new people-centric ways of working, it’s time to start.
Because we have all experienced such radical changes in recent years, rethinking the organization and functioning of teams is essential. The Korn Ferry report argues that in the past we were used to thinking of work in terms of jobs, but today leaders need to think creatively about capabilities and skills to recruit and retain staff.
“Power has shifted,” the report said. “From organizations to people. From profit to mutual prosperity. From “me” to “we”.
The report goes on to say that an organization is only as good as the people it employs. New or fluid organizational structures – such as flatter, non-hierarchical structures or project-based work – may be the wave of the future, providing the fluidity and agility needed to compete.
I posed the following question to key local leaders: “What are some new agile ways of approaching organizational structures or workforce arrangements that you are exploring or would like to explore?
Peter Bratney, President and CEO, Bratney: A big part of our culture at Bratney is support for personal and family commitments. There will be times when professional duties will have to be replaced by family or personal circumstances. Providing flexibility to meet these periodic obligations helps retain the best employees. That said, it’s more than just a commitment from the employer. It also creates additional responsibility for co-workers – work still needs to be done. Creating a culture where employees know their co-workers and the company have their backs will contribute to strong trust and lasting bonds within the team and within the company.
Dr. Anthony B. Coleman, President and CEO, Broadlawns Medical Center: We are ready to experiment with shared governance boards. It is a model of partnership between executive management and individuals at all levels of the organization, using their knowledge and expertise to influence decision-making at the organizational level. Shared governance boards exist for nursing, IT, professional development and employee engagement. I believe this model will foster a sense of ownership within the organization and allow staff to take an interest in moving the organization forward.
Abby Croll, CPA, Tax Partner, Eide Bailly, LLP: The events of the past two years have taught us that individuals can work from anywhere. This is causing our business to move from an office/location based structure to a single corporate structure where we share resources across all offices based on who is sometimes best suited for a particular project, instead of who is closest to the customer. This structure also allows us to better utilize our staff and hopefully reduce the hours needed during some of the peak weeks of our traditional busy season.
Beth Nigut, executive vice president, EMC Insurance Cos. : EMC’s priority is to attract and retain the talent we need to keep us moving forward. Team members are interested in continuous development – and that doesn’t always mean others reporting to them. Some team members are interested in advancement paths that allow them to partner, collaborate, and influence as individual contributors. Creating opportunities that are different from the traditional path of “advancement by managing others” is a prospect we continue to explore and look for ways to implement.
Geoff Wood, Founder, Gravitate Coworking: Understand that “remote work” does not necessarily mean “work from home”. Employees shouldn’t have to trade the benefits of maintaining a healthy work/life balance or being part of a community with other humans in order to participate in a flexible work style. Investing in their work experience — like encouraging or even covering their membership of a local coworking space — can go a long way to showing your remote employee that you value them just as much as the employees you see at the HQ office every day. .
Tips for leaders to rethink your organization.
Be clear about the purpose of your work. Moving to a people-centric organization requires being clear about why you do what you do and what it means to each team member. “It’s imperative that our EMC team members understand what the business objectives are and the ‘why’ or purpose of the work,” says Nigut. “The more we can all be on the same page with where we’re going and why we’re going there, then the question of ‘How are we going to get there in terms of structure and culture?’ becomes a high-impact conversation where employees can express themselves.
Rethink performance reviews and feedback. One of the changes made to the workforce arrangement by Bratney is to avoid the traditional annual review. “The process of preparing and submitting annual reviews was time-consuming, administratively cumbersome, and stressful for managers and their direct reports,” says Bratney, noting that while it is absolutely necessary to document serious performance or behavior problems, good HR practice, the reality is that these problems were rare for their company. The company decided it was more important for its employees – especially Millennials and Gen Z – to receive continuous feedback for positive reinforcement and improvement. Bratney says, “It contributes to a culture that supports growth and where people want to build their careers.
Experiment with structures and strategies. Nigut encourages a growth mindset, accepting to make mistakes and learning from them, saying this kind of iterative philosophy will allow EMC “to continue to evolve our organizational structures, processes, and business strategies.” . Croll also advocates experimentation; after trying a few different remote working models and determining what worked well for their organization, Eide Bailly switched to a hybrid working model. “It would probably be easy for leaders to make decisions pretty quickly on these types of changes, but because of the importance of our people and the shortage of staff, I think it’s really important to try some options. and keeping the needs and wants of employees in mind,” says Croll. “New hires seem to be more concerned with the structure of our workplace than they were in the past, and that’s a question that seems to come up in almost every interview.”
Pay attention and invest in your team. “Over-communication is key and works both ways,” Coleman says, suggesting that leaders should listen more than they talk and pay attention to nonverbal cues as much as what is actually being said. Coleman tries to guard against groupthink by making it clear that he wants to hear the individual thoughts of the group and by being the last person to share ideas. Listening and then reacting with action indicates that you are ready to invest and develop your team; Wood suggests that investing in the individual experiences of workers — from their workplace to training or tools — sends a powerful message that you’re flexible and committed to their needs.