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 email@example.com.
- Flexible Working Shown To Be A Prerequisite For Productivity: Give A Little, Gain A Lot (modernghana.com)
- Skirting the Issue: Flexible working shouldn’t equal the Don’t Promote list (telegraph.co.uk)
- How Flexible Working Can Help a Business Attract The Best Staff (onsmb.com)
- Flexible working good for business (gulfnews.com)
- Why Leaders Need To See Flexible Working As A Strategy For Success Rather Than A Perk For Some Employees (forbes.com)
- Why Flexible Work Arrangements are the New Black (projecteve.com)
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.
- Top Outsourcing Disadvantages (ian6steyn.wordpress.com)
- Outsourcing – the alternative to hiring people (robertwellsportfolio.wordpress.com)
- Why Outsourcing for Busbars Could Make Sense For You (hvwooding.wordpress.com)
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.
- The 15 Most Influential Thinkers In Business (businessinsider.com)
- The World’s Most Influential Business Thinkers 2013 (forbes.com)
- Canada among top in list of world business thinkers (theglobeandmail.com)
- World’s most influential management thinkers (venitism.blogspot.com)
- Peter Drucker Forum 2013: “The Top Mangement Perspective: Is Complexity on the Agenda?” (globaleduc.wordpress.com)
by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work
Our theme for October was Collaboration, so we asked our newsletter readers to share some of their thoughts and experiences around that topic. One of the responses we received was from Brian Snowdon, Learning and Development Manager at Insight Investment, who gave us a really fascinating perspective into how even the language used around collaboration can be challenged by diversity. He says:
“Even the title of the article itself threw up a pertinent example of cultural difference – working previously in a pan-European organisation, a corporate value title of “Collaboration” had very different connotations for people in France and Holland, notably in age groups that had a recollection of the 1940s. We chose to use “Working together” instead.”
Our theme for November is Meaningful Work – if you have any interesting examples or experiences on this topic, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to appear on our blog or in our newsletter. We’d love to hear from you!
If you haven’t done so yet, sign up to our newsletter for the latest insights into collaboration, engagement, workplace diversity and the Future of Work.
- INSIGHT Into Diversity Magazine and NADOHE Announce Formal Collaboration (prweb.com)
- The Science of Innovation: 4 Ways Big Data Informs Innovative Processes (business2community.com)
By Lynda Gratton
As a business professor, I’m often asked about the nature of leadership today. When I think about what it means to be a leader right now, the first thing that comes to mind is complexity: today, leadership means being prepared to deal with many stakeholders – from NGOs that are becoming more voracious in their demands to followers who are increasingly emboldened.
This situation is not only complex, but also tough to navigate – particularly in a world that is increasingly transparent and connected. However, there are still things leaders can do to smooth the process – let me share three of them with you.
- Keep your eyes wide open More than 15 years ago my colleague Sumantra Ghoshal and I wrote business cases on three companies that were at that time leaders in their field: BP, Royal Bank of Scotland and Nokia. In one way or another, and for rather different reasons, all of these companies have since struggled. So my first observation is that in an ever more complex world, a company and its leaders are subject to continuous de-stabilizing forces. Being vigilant and observant about the nature and velocity of these forces is crucial. In complex times leaders do not believe the hype that surrounds them – they keep their eyes wide open to the reality of their world.
- Find the balance between being authentic and being a custodian The debate about leadership authenticity is an important counter balance to earlier notions of hierarchical and role based leaders. Rather than following a narrow description of what a leader is – individuals are asked to be themselves, to be authentic and by doing so to bring more of themselves to work. I believe this is an important antidote to old style leadership. However, in an organization that is becoming ever more complex, being faced with a group of leaders all of whom are idiosyncratic in their authenticity, could become confusing and distracting for those that follow. Over dinner we talked about Steve Jobs, who was indeed idiosyncratically authentic, but was also engaged in founding what would become one of the world’s great companies. For many leaders, their role is less as a founder and more as a custodian who is capable of growing and passing on to future generations of employees and shareholders the value that past generations has created. So yes, be authentic to oneself – but not so idiosyncratic that those that follow need a ‘rule book’ on how to engage with leaders. The world is complex enough without this further variable to be considered.
- Remember: it’s all about teams Thinking back to the cases mentioned earlier, I believe that if there is one underlying factor that accounts for the problems encountered by BP, RBS and Nokia it is their failure to build diverse, highly collaborative leadership teams. At RBS, CEO Fred Goodwin isolated himself from his colleagues, failed to listen to others and behaved in an increasingly idiosyncratic manner. At Nokia, the senior leadership team was for a long time extraordinarily homogenous (mostly men, mostly from Finland, mostly software engineers, mostly educated in Helsinki) and so failed to spot the rapid consumer developments in the Asian markets, or indeed the accelerating technological and design developments in Silicon Valley. At BP, the difficulties the leadership team had to integrate the US assets and build close collaboration with those that ran the US acquisitions was one reason why safety standards never became globally embedded. Simply put, as the world becomes more complex, so it becomes ever more crucial to put together leadership teams who have sufficient diversity to see beyond the hubris and myopia, and sufficient collegiality to work collaboratively with each other even when under stress.
- The Entrepreneur Within – Authentic Leadership (shanjonesblog.wordpress.com)
- Declaration and Call to Action on Women and Leadership (ILA) (leadershipspirit.wordpress.com)
- Leadership In Troubled Times (lalitaraman.com)