More women at Davos? Not at this rate

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By Lynda Gratton

Recently in an interview with the BBC’s Peter Day, I was asked about the future and replied that I expected gender parity within the next decade. Peter simply looked at me and said “But that’s what you said when I interviewed you 20 years ago and it still has not happened.”

Of course he is right and at Davos this week I expect that, as in past years, there will be only a small proportion of women. I’m publically optimistic, but privately pessimistic about achieving a gender balance in the next couple of decades. There are four key reasons why Davos 2024 will probably look exactly like Davos 2014.

Firstly, while societal norms move fast (think about the speed with which attitudes to gay marriage or divorce have changed), corporate practices change at a glacial pace. For example, the way corporations select, promote, appraise people has hardly changed in the last 20 years. Since many of these practices were designed for people who had child care at home (ie a wife), who worked in an office (rather than at home), and who could work standard hours (rather than flexibly) they have proven to be barriers to anyone (often women) who want to work in a different way. And moreover, these are barriers that appear to be resolutely impervious to changing circumstances.

It takes a wise and courageous CEO to actively promote women into business orientated senior executive roles. Some of course do but many do not. Without this push it’s almost impossible to achieve gender parity. Research has shown that more often CEOs promote one woman to the senior team and then stand back and think the job is done. Or alternatively they support a women’s network, a process that we know makes little difference to promotion prospects. We need CEOs who realise these token efforts aren’t enough before we will see any big change.

Like many, I believe that gender parity will only be achieved when men are willing to take as much responsibility for raising a family as women do. Of course there are families where there is already a balance, but this is not the norm. Current working practices implicitly assume that the worker is supported by someone who can stand in for them with regard to family responsibilities, this needs to be true at home.

Finally, and most depressingly, the simple truth is that there are jobs that lead to the top – jobs that require significant management of large numbers of people, jobs that have a heavy dose of finance, jobs that involve working in multiple locations. These are typically not the jobs that women apply for, or are selected into. As a consequence many women are already out of the promotion ladder within a decade of joining the workforce.

I hope I am proved wrong. How marvellous it would be to see equal numbers of men and women at Davos in 2024 but I’m not holding my breath.

5 Trends to Watch in 2014

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By Lynda Gratton
The start of a new year is a natural point for thinking ahead and planning for the future.  Just before 2013 ended, I sat down for an interview with the BBC’s Peter Day, continuing a conversation he and I have been having for over 20 years.  During the interview I talked not only about the changes I’ve observed since he and I last spoke, but also about the five trends I see emerging in 2014 and beyond.

The shade of your future depends on where you are

Something that has become abundantly clear in recent years is that whether your future seems bright or dim depends on where you live. Young people in Europe, for example, are facing an extremely tough time and face the prospect of being less prosperous than their parents generation. But for their counterparts in India or China, expectations are entirely different, with many of them looking forward to a higher income than their parents.

It’s my belief that the youth unemployment we see affecting many countries is structural not cyclical. The past few years have been marked by the hollowing out of work, by which I mean that the  middle-skilled jobs traditionally taken on by graduates have been outsourced or being replaced by technology, leaving only low-skilled jobs or  high-skilled jobs which require more experience and education than the average twentysomething has to offer. This can leave young people adrift, without that very first job role from which to move upwards.

Online education

One major game-changer which I see having a huge impact in 2014 is online education. Online courses are becoming widely available – and they are revolutionising the scope of what people can aspire to. Suddenly, people all over the world are enrolling on courses that were previously only available to affluent individuals in specific locations. I saw a living example of the impact this is having at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2013.  There I watched a panel with Bill Gates, the head of Stanford, the head of MIT – and a 13 year-old Pakistani girl. If you’re wondering why this girl was invited to join these eminent figures, the reason is simple: this young teenager came top in Stanford’s online examinations. This struck me as an outstanding example of how the world is changing: here is a girl who even five years ago would have had no opportunity to leave Lahore, but thanks to a world-class university putting its courses and examinations online, she has the world at her feet. There is no doubt that this will create huge competition for young people in the West.

Quotas for women?

It’s astounding to think that while 50% of graduates are women and 30% of managers are women, only 10% of business leaders are women. For someone who thought that the glass ceiling was about to shatter 20 years ago, this is extremely disappointing. Despite all our hopes to see more women at the top of leading organisations, the speed of change has been glacial. It seems that large organisations remain hierarchical, bureaucratic and have a tendency to pay lip service to the concept of having women in the boardroom. Frequently, they are not places where women feel comfortable holding senior positions. One solution that has been put forward is that of female quotas, but this is an issue which divides opinion amongst senior women. For my part, I’m on the side that thinks quotas are a good thing. The way I see it, if you are in a situation where nothing seems to be moving, a shock is what’s needed.

The business side of social media

I also think we’ll start to see organisations using social media within their businesses as elegantly as people use it in their everyday lives. A trend that has emerged in the last year or two is that there is technology that connects every single person in an organisation in a very sophisticated way. For example, I’ve seen this happening at Tata Consulting Services, a business that employs over 150,000 people under 24 and connects them to each other using social media. The result of this is that people naturally form communities to get things done, to discuss ideas, and to have fun. Since their Knome platform was launched, TCS employees have formed themselves into 3,500 communities. My team at the Hot Spots Movement helps companies do this in a more targeted fashion with their FoWlab jams: facilitated online conversations which companies can use to engage their employees on issues as diverse as brand values, job design and meaningful work.  I see this becoming a model that many other companies will follow. 2014 promises to bring some interesting organisational changes led by technology, particularly the kind that allows people to communicate on a many-to-many basis. This kind of communication model will have a huge impact on how people work together – and on the role of leaders.  In fact, it has the potential to change the very nature of what we call leadership. After all, if information is flowing easily and horizontally – what does a leader do?

Reconsidering trust

Both online education and social information sharing rely enormously on trust – something that will prove challenging for some. For those of us who are Baby Boomers or from Gen X, building trust has always been based on face-to-face interaction – and building trust in a virtual environment can prove challenging. People from younger generations, on the other hand, have grown up working online and playing games virtually, which gives them the advantage of being able to develop trust easily without the need for face-to-face contact. A workforce is emerging where humans can build trust in a virtual environment and this promises to revolutionise how information is shared and how knowledge and expertise flow within organisations.

2013: Oh, what a year!

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Tina Schneidermann - Portrait 03 by LK - CONTRASTby Tina Schneidermann, COO, Hot Spots Movement

As 2013 comes to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about everything that has happened here at Hot Spots Movement, and I thought it seemed right to make my final blog post of the year a round-up of our highlights.

2013 was the year of the FoWlab Jam, with more and more companies realising the value of tapping into the wisdom of their crowd. We’re also increasingly seeing that it’s a very powerful change management tool. We’ve really enjoyed honing and perfecting our processes and platform, too, and taking the jam experience from strength to strength. Recently one user commented that it would be great to have ‘a permanent jam” and we say: “Bring it on!”

It’s been a great year for Lynda, too – her book The Shift experienced phenomenal success in Japan this year , which has been very exciting, and we were all very proud when she won HR Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement award in October. This year also saw Lynda ranked once again in the top 15 of the Thinkers 50.

2013 also saw The Future of Work Research Consortium enter its fifth year, focusing on the key themes of New Ways of Working, Engagement 2.0 and Resilience. As well as contributions from some of the most innovative companies we know – including Knack, ODesk, Holition and Tycoon Systems – we’re collaborating with Central St Martins on a multimedia project around the engagement theme. We were also really pleased to welcome a number of members from Japan and China, joining us for the first time. Our Inclusion and Diversity Research consortium went right to the heart of key issues such as the ‘root causes’ of I & D programmes not having delivered on their promises, and in true Hot Spots Movement style, it brought about some surprising insights.

Collaboration emerged as a major theme for us this year. We’ve come to realise that in today’s super-connected world, collaboration is part of the fabric of everything we do – and yet it’s harder than ever with issues such as diversity and virtualisation are making it increasingly challenging. It’s such an important topic for everyone we speak to that we’re keen to explore it further by making it the subject of a brand new consortium – contact me if you’d like to know more. With all this activity, it’s no surprise that we expanded our team in 2013, with Emma, Kyle and Sarah all joining Hot Spots since the start of the year, and adding their signature styles to our activities.

We’ll be taking a short break over the end of year holidays, but next year promises to be just as action-packed. We’re kicking the year off with the final Inclusion and Diversity masterclass, FoW will be taking a closer look at Engagement 2.0 and Resilience, and we’ll be calling participants together for a new Collaboration consortium. So, all that’s left to say is all the best for Happy New Year in 2014!

Why we need to stop sending mixed messages about flexible working

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by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work

Thanks to Twitter, I came across this blog by Microsoft HR Director Theresa McHenry for HR Magazine. McHenry’s main thrust is to remind us of the big changes taking place in business, society and our day-to-day working lives. However, at the same time, her post highlights the confusing advice we all receive around flexibility in the workplace. She starts off telling the reader to: “encourage employees to work flexibly” and then, a few lines down, reminds them to “where possible, reintroduce boundaries… and encourage colleagues to switch off in the evenings and weekends.” So, which one is it? If we are to create truly flexible organisations whereby work is no longer a place we go, but a thing we do, perhaps we need to wave goodbye to the idea of a Monday-Friday working week.

Flexibility requires us to look beyond the false dichotomy of “work” and “life”. Rather than perpetuating the narrative of achieving “balance” between the two, we must be bolder and aspire to the harmonious integration of all parts of our lives. This aspiration will be particularly important for the future of work as people embrace portfolio careers, working for many organisations and individuals at the same time. Preserving the traditional work schedules in this context will be increasingly challenging and, likely, unappealing.

At the Future of Work Research Consortium, we collaborate with some of the world’s leading organisations to find new solutions to long-standing challenges, and gain surprising insights into issues such as flexible working by taking deeper look. To find out more about how your organsation can get involved, contact tina@hotspotsmovement.com.

Why Enterprise Social Networks Fail

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Companies have understood the benefits and pitfalls of using social media to engage customers for some years now, with Facebook and Twitter now commonly used as platforms for identifying new customers, fostering brand recognition, and building or harnessing engaged communities. However, few companies have successfully replicated the success of these social platforms internally.

Engaging employees and motivating them to embrace new ways of working often proves difficult, with companies often seeing low uptake rates of enterprise social networking platforms such as Microsoft’s Yammer and Salesforce’s Chatter.

Though enterprise social networks can take off, they tend to end up supporting a small group of core users, whose interest in the platform ebbs over time. We have spoken to a number of companies who have been frightened away from internal social media after they have failed to gain traction.

The problem with internal social networks is that they often lack purpose, they are rarely facilitated, and they tend to lack sponsorship from leaders. Providing a platform is a prerequisite for enabling new ways of working, but it is rarely sufficient. People need to have a reason for engaging.

The importance of purpose

One of the most successful enterprise social networks we’ve seen, Tata Consultancy Services’ Knome platform, creates engagement by encouraging people with common interests to share their experiences. Building on people’s preexisting passions is a quick way to create engagement with a platform, as it taps into a nascent desire to connect.

Uniting a large and more diverse audience often requires the identification of a broad challenge that everyone in the organisation has a vested interest in addressing. For our FoWlab Jams, we always identify a big strategic challenge, and try to tie the Jam itself to an existing organisation-wide change program. This frames the platform as a vehicle for change, and as a unique opportunity for employees to contribute to high-level strategy.

Facilitation

Personally, I don’t like networking events because I’m rubbish at striking up conversations with people I don’t know. I’m sure it’s a common trait, and one that I know translates to the online world. Though we’re often given a confidence boost by a cloak of anonymity on certain online platforms, most if not all enterprise social networks build on our existing work identities and reputations.

To avoid everyone lurking around the canapés or pretending to check their phones, you need someone facilitating interactions. Someone to introduce them to others and reveal common interests they can talk about. We’ve found that facilitators in online platforms are almost a prerequisite for engaging a diverse audience. They may not be expert in the area under discussion, but they are expert in creating exciting questions and connections between ideas and people.

Motivated sponsorship

Unlike customers, employees have a reason to be scared of sharing their opinions. They think they are being observed by people who want an excuse to fire them. This is the default assumption, and the mentality arises even in the absence of overt authority. It’s something that needs to be actively and continually refuted by leaders in order for their employees to feel they can be honest and open.

Transparent and authentic leaders, who value and act on the opinions of those working for them, are invaluable in getting employees to embrace enterprise social networks. Even for those lucky enough to work in ‘flat’ or ‘horizontal’ organisations, there needs to be a shared understanding that your opinions matter, and that you won’t be penalized for openly collaborating with others.

By providing enterprise social networks with purpose, facilitation, and sponsorship, the chances of people engaging with them will increase dramatically. In our FoWlab Jams, we tend to see 50% of our target audience engaging with the conversation – and that’s just over three days. Employees won’t naturally transition to these new ways of working, but if you give them a reason, guidance and leadership support, you’ll remove the main barriers in their way.

Outsourcing gets complex

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KyleBy Kyle Packer, Head of Online Engagement, The Hot Spots Movement

An amusing story doing the rounds this week concerns the singer R Kelly who has found himself having to deny claims that he outsourced a personal appearance in Louisiana to an impersonator, leaving thousands of fans up in arms.

This might be an extreme anecdote, but it does highlight the still-relevant question of which tasks are appropriate to outsource. While most might agree that performances and personal appearances are probably best not outsourced, there are a whole range of other ‘personal’ tasks which fall into this area of debate. An acquaintance of mine regularly makes money by picking up the slack for tired, sick or – in one or two cases – nonexistent bloggers and yet another celebrity, actor Danny Dyer has recently complained about being vehemently criticised for misogynistic content in a column he claims he never wrote. These tasks tend to be grey areas – many people and organisations outsource them – but the flip side is that as soon as audiences discover what they see as a deception, they feel cheated.

In a more corporate context, we’ve been reading about an employee who outsourced his coding job in China, paying them 20% of his salary for work which exceeded his employer’s expectations. When discovered, however, he was dismissed for breach of contract. The likes of commentator Tim Ferris would describe this individual as pioneering a great new way of working, but ultimately his bosses felt duped. Again, it’s an interesting grey area and, alongside the issue of what to outsource, raises the question of who should do the outsourcing.

These questions are just another example of the complexity engendered by our increasingly connected world where technology and connectivity are rapidly outstripping our ability to change the way we think about ways of working. The good news is that where technology goes, attitudes are bound to follow. So who knows, by 2030, outsourced concerts might be all the rage.

Highlights from the Thinkers 50 Awards

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by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work

The Hot Spots Team was at the Thinkers 50 Event earlier this week, where Professor Lynda Gratton was ranked #14 on the list of top management thinkers.

Lynda also participated in a panel debate at the event alongside Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School, author Tammy Erickson and Stew Friedman from Wharton School of Business. During the debate, Lynda highlighted the fact that although longer life expectancy is one of the most important issues organisations will face in future, few are preparing for it:

“Longevity will be one of the most important issues we face. It will affect everyone and organisations are extremely ill-prepared.”

The event also included an awards ceremony where award-winner Clayton Christensen delivered a moving acceptance speech in which he reminded business professionals and academics alike of the value of time for balance and reflection in our working lives and the unrivalled importance of deep and meaningful relationships with family and friends to provide the support for creativity and success in our careers.