It seems paradoxical that in a world where we can communicate with anyone in the world at any time, employees are still in the habit of sharing bright ideas only with their manager in the hope that they will be pushed up the food chain. An unfortunate result of this custom is that valuable pockets of expertise can remain untapped due to poor inter-departmental communication or managerial oversight. It’s hard not to notice the way teams and their managers become anxious to gain status by “owning” a project or issue – with the frequent and unfortunate consequence that the company’s leading expert might be left out of the process because they work in another team.
This is at odds with the communication habits most of us have outside work, where people are becoming increasingly used to commenting on, amending and even criticising the decisions, actions and statements of others. Social media democratises communication and makes it possible for people to share their knowledge – and benefit from that of others – regardless of location or status. This is the sort of spirit that exists within our FoWlab Jams, where we seek to level the field when it comes to communication and draw out the best ideas from around an organisation based on their relevance to the issues being tackled rather than the relevance of the job titles held by the commenters. Breaking out of the work communication structure doesn’t come naturally – our jams are facilitated conversations – but the benefits it brings can make a tangible difference to your business.
Hopefully companies will soon be comfortable updating their communications practices to ensure valuable contributions are heard irrespective of where they sit in the organisation.
by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work
Not a particularly catchy phrase is it? Yet, it was perhaps the loudest message to attendees of a recent conference on gender in the workplace.
The delegates, predominantly 20- and 30- somethings, were treated to a line up of some of the most incredible women in the fields of business, government, finance and media. Many of these inspirational leaders attributed their success to good networks, a strong sense of purpose and never shying away from risks and opportunities when they arose. Interestingly, however, many also emphasised the importance of “finding the right husband.” And in this case, the right husband was one who would be prepared to raise the kids, relocate for your career as quickly as he would for his own, and who would accept your long working hours, high stress levels and long periods of absence.
Now, few women, even us stereotypically independent Millennial types, would reject the benefits of having a supportive, caring and kind partner to turn to while we navigate our complex careers. What we might perhaps find less palatable is turning this “nice to have” into a “business critical”. (This sentiment was echoed by one attendee, who posed the question “What advice would you give to single mothers because I’d hate to add ‘find a husband’ to my to-do list?” That this question received a rapturous round of applause, spoke volumes.)
With 42% of marriages in the UK ending in divorce, finding the right husband is not a particularly resilient career plan, nor is it advice that anyone can really act on unless partner-finding takes on the same rigour as the average recruitment campaign (and while there are signals that this is the approach favoured by some, it is thankfully not yet accepted by many). Instead, perhaps we should be encouraging men and women to create sustainable and resilient networks of support including, but not limited to, a husband/wife should they desire one, find one, marry one and manage to avoid divorcing one. Likewise, the advice should perhaps be for a stronger call for real flexible working arrangements that cross something off the to-do list of single parents rather than adding to the workload.
The advice was of course well-intentioned and drawn from the particular experiences of some of the guest speakers in attendance. To request they recommend anything else would be insincere. Instead, we’ll do well to take the principle of the recommendation – building good support networks – and then tailor the rest to suit the lifestyle we ultimately half create and half have bestowed upon us by luck, circumstance and events beyond our control.
Perhaps the phrase should instead be “Behind every great leader is a support network, future-focused organization and an awareness that relationships can rarely be project managed.”
Still not very catchy though is it?