Let’s start with the Tidal
Waves. These are implications of the future, which will roll out with enormous
force whether you like it or not. Take flexible working for example. The
combination of technological advances and ever increasing globalisation means
that many people are linked up with different time zones and can make choice
about when and where they work. The 9.00 to 5.00 routine has been swept away
years ago, and home working is rapidly becoming the norm. I know your CEO feels
uncomfortable because he/she does not know what home workers are up to. But
what we are talking about here is a tidal wave – inevitable, forceful, and
momentous. People want to work flexibly, technology allows it and it is
becoming a choice which many expect. So – keep up with the flow, adapt, learn
Next are those changes which are inevitable, but Tricky. What I mean by this is that they are inevitable, but it’s not going to be easy to make them work. An example is virtual team working. The combination of globalisation and technology plus the need to reduce carbon footprints means more work will be done through people working virtually, and often in teams. Working virtually is tricky as our research has shown (take a look at our revamped website at www.hotspotsmovement.com on Friday to learn more about this). Some of the old rules of team working are not appropriate, and we are only just learning what combination of face –to –face and technology really works. Plus of course, the technology supporting virtual working is wobbly to say the least. The FOW project leader Julia Goga-Cooke is still furious about the difficulty we had getting Monday’s meeting broadcast to 50 people across the globe (WebEx – you are in our bad books!). What do you do when these changes like virtual teams are tricky? You experiment, run pilots, learn quickly, collect lots of feedback and adjust rapidly.
So that takes us to the third category – which I have called The Contested. Tricky is tough – but actually, everyone knows the future is about working virtually and about working in teams. It is going to be hard to get there – but there is a broad consensus around the place that we need to get to.
The contested are those areas and issues which will be impacted by future forces but where there is currently no consensus about how they will develop. Take executive pay for example. For decades, there has been a belief that the talents to be a CEO are very rare and the impact they make on corporate performance is very strong. That’s why, the argument goes, CEO’s are paid on average 531 times the blue collar workers pay (up from 42 times in 1980). However, if we reflect on the five future forces – globalisation for example is uncovering talent pools around the word, which no longer makes these executive competencies rare. At the same time, social technology has enabled ‘wise crowds’ to make the decisions only CEO’s could have made in the past. Plus of course increasing market turbulence will impact on the control the top team actually have on profitability. All these factors suggest that senior executive pay needs to change. Yet very few HR teams, or consultants, or CEO’s are prepared to talk about this. This is an example of what I would call a contested change.
It’s contested because it is deeply embedded within the norms, values and power base of the company and as such is not amenable to easy conversion. So what to do about the contested? I’d make three suggestions. First, take a dispassionate view of the subject. For example, David Bolchover’s recent book ‘Pay Check: are top earners really worth it’ is a no holds barred description of the data around executive pay and is a must read for anyone interested in the topic. Next, begin a conversation, create a task force, create a buzz which surfaces the ‘undiscussables’. That might be as far as you get. Or you could get to the third phase – make a stand. The contested rarely change without this!
So, thinking about the future of work, let me ask you these three questions:
* What do you see as the inevitable tidal waves – which have there own momentum?
* Where are the tricky areas which require more thought and experimentation?
* Perhaps most importantly – what are the contested areas of your company – I’ve focused on executive pay – but there will be many others.