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The “New Rules” and You: How to Thrive in the Organization of the Future

By Lisa Iarkowski

Image via Shutterstock

The digital age is upon us, for better and for worse. As anyone with a smart phone can attest, technology is advancing faster than ever. At the touch of a button, we skype with family overseas, share information with coworkers, check in with our kids, and track our daily steps. As individuals, we are adapting relatively quickly but many businesses are having a hard time keeping up with the rapid pace of technology and are struggling to redesign their organizations to remain competitive. Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report suggests businesses around the globe are ill-prepared to build the organization of the future. In their survey of 10,000 organizations across 140 countries in a broad cross section of industries, Deloitte reports that 88% of businesses say that building the organization of the future is important or very important, but only 11% of businesses say they are prepared to do so. Deloitte shares trends and “new rules” organizations need to follow to redesign their organizations for the future.

The New Rules

Organization 21—Designed with You in Mind

The organization built for the future will be organized for learning, innovation, and customer impact. What can we expect?

Employee experience at the center. Successful organizations will prioritize and reshape the employee experience by creating a more holistic, work-life balanced, end-to-end recruitment-to-retirement experience that their employees are seeking. Employees can expect more help with balancing personal and professional demands, compensation, financial and nonfinancial benefits (such as meals, leaves, vacation, fitness, wellness programs), and rewards and recognition designed to make people’s lives better.

How we work together. The traditional hierarchical structures will give way to agile networks and small, project teams empowered by team leaders and fueled by collaboration and knowledge sharing. Employees will have greater support for risk-taking, creativity, and innovation. There will be more opportunities for greater input, influence, and leadership. In the future organization, leadership is a role anyone can play.

Who we work with and the skills we need. Teams will be more diverse. The traditional workforce will continue to be augmented with contingent workers, contractors, and crowds. Essential human skills will be augmented by technology (robotics, artificial intelligence) to perform nonessential tasks. Research by Deloitte in the United Kingdom finds that the future workforce will require a “balance of technical skills and more general purpose skills such as problem solving skills, creativity, social skills, and emotional intelligence.”

How leaders lead. Still crucial, leadership will align with the future organization’s focus on learning, innovation, and customer impact. Effective leaders of the future are agile, collaborative and team-based. A leader’s success will be measured less by their expertise or judgement in a given area, and more by their agility and creativity, their ability to build and lead teams, and to utilize resources such as client teams and crowds to solve new business challenges.

How we grow our careers. Careers for employees and leaders will be built on advancement through many assignments and diverse, multi-functional experiences, as opposed to a linear, hierarchical progression up the ranks. Employees will see growth opportunities through increased training and support on the job, continuous feedback on goals and performance, and more access to continuous learning through flexible, mobile, on demand content.

Get Ready for the Future – Now

How can we survive the shift and prepare ourselves to thrive in the future organization? Here are some suggestions:

Build your change muscles. You can get more comfortable with change. In fact, your happiness at work depends on it, as change is not going away, ever. Knowledge is your super power here. The more information you have, the more you understand the change, why it’s happening, and what it means to you personally, the easier change is to roll with. If you find yourself feeling resistant, ask yourself “what else do I need to know about this?” Armed with information, ask yourself “where’s my opportunity?” Focus on your opportunity. Of course, if a change still seems like a bad idea, then bring forward the risks and provide alternative solutions. Super Power Booster: Step it up a notch and become a change leader in your organization. Volunteer to be part of a team or lead on a change that is meaningful to you. Offer to mentor others struggling to adapt, or offer to mentor a senior leader who needs to know how changes are affecting employees.

Take small bites, chew thoroughly. Change can feel overwhelming because there is just so much of it. It can help to break down changes into smaller pieces and do one of thing at a time. Multitasking is not your friend here. While it feels like you are doing more, you end up more stressed and not as productive as when you focus on one thing at a time. This approach can also help you build capacity to try new things and take risks (which are both future organization skills you’ll need). Super Power Booster: Work with your team to select one change you want to make on a project—just one. Pilot that change, set two milestones to assess how it’s going, and make changes as needed. Set the expectations upfront that the team should expect to tweak how things are working based on their feedback.

Make Friends with Tech

Admit it, often we’re drowning in email, tweets, texts, and meetings. As teams become increasingly global and augmented, we need help simplifying and organizing how we communicate, share information, and meet. Collaboration tools like Workplace, Slack, Basecamp, Asana, Trello, and Workboard may be options. Investigate tools your organization uses now or is planning to implement. As your organization continues to bring new technology solutions online, be open to training and learning. Super Power Booster: Experiment or pilot one collaboration tool to simplify how your team communicates and works together on one project. Assess how it’s working.

Build Your Essential Skillset, Continuously

More and more, essential human skills will be augmented by technology to perform nonessential tasks. Essential human skills for the future workforce include project management, listening, and moral and ethical decision making, empathy, communication, persuasion, personal service, and strategic decision making. Managers who can coach and develop staff will be in demand, as will leaders who demonstrate agility, collaboration, resilience, and systems thinking. Invest in your own training and learning in these essential skills. Leverage your organization’s training programs or create your own through external resources like Udacity, Udemy, Coursera, NovoEd, and edX which offer accessible, low-no cost high quality-learning. Deloitte reports that skills are becoming obsolete at an accelerating rate, with learned skills having a half-life of only 5 years. Expect that keeping your skills fresh will be an ongoing process of growth that will help you stay competitive. Adopt a continuous learning mindset, where your learning is “always on.”. Power Booster: Create a learning plan with milestones to grow and practice your skills in areas that are crucial to your continued development and success. To increase your knowledge about other functional areas, reach out to colleagues or consider asking to work on a short-term project in another functional group.

Own Your Career

More career development help is a promise of the future organization. But no one cares more about your career more than you, and this is a good time to revisit or create your career development plan. As organizations shift into matrix or lateral structures, how you can advance within the organization will change. Your plan should consider how organizations of the future will create advancement opportunities, and can include assessing what is meaningful to you, your professional and personal goals, and how you want to invest in your own learning and training, as well as how you can balance your personal and professional demands. Check with your HR rep: your organization may already have career development tools that they use or recommend. Another thing to keep in mind is that talent recruiters are relying more on social media beyond just LinkedIn, with Twitter, Facebook, Glassdoor, Pinterest, and Quora. Consider pushing your professional presence beyond LinkedIn; get active on social media to create a dynamic professional presence. Super Power Booster: Work with a career or executive coach to help you create a career development plan. Find a mentor or sponsor in your organization who can guide and promote you in creating advancement opportunities to grow your career.

Many of you are already doing these habits and actions. You are the future!