The future of work is... to let your employees be more flexible

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 6 July 2016
Peter Cosgrove
Issues covered:

Ade McCormack has written a great book titled “Beyond Nine to Five”. One premise of the book is that the way we are working needs to change. He takes us back 12,000 years and highlights how we were highly mobile (chasing or being chased), highly social and connected in our groups and we made decisions all the time. If we fast forward to the industrial age, that was when everything changed in the world of work and we began to work set hours and wait for instruction on what to do. It is essentially where boredom and slacking off on the job started. You would hardly have stopped looking for food 12,000 years ago  just because it was past 5.30 or because you did not like the person who told you to do it!

The future of work will mean working with our human nature, employees want to connect, be social and feel empowered to make decisions. It is incredible that we take our playful, energetic kids and sit them in a classroom and tell them to sit still, not to talk to anyone and not to speak until spoken to! Companies now and in the future will recognise the need to change the way we work to empower and engage their most important asset - their people.

They will embrace working flexibly and from anywhere, realising often sitting behind the same desk is not the most efficient way of working. While we still have many who worry about what employees are doing when we cannot see them, the reality is work should be outcome driven and if someone produces high quality results it should not matter if you see them or not. Interestingly flexibility is often in my mind mis-construed. Saying that you will work from home every Thursday is by its nature quite inflexible, in reality you want to aim for the ethos – be wherever is best to get the job done.

They will be great to work for, why – because now with online sites like, employees will tell you if the company is a good place to work. You can no longer say you are good to work for, your employees will tell the world the reality. This means investing in your culture, values and being authentic. Culture is essentially what happens when the boss leaves the room. People are using devices to connect and share information more than ever and they will share the positive and negative stories of the company they work for. Look at the negative publicity that Amazon employees created last year.

They will empower their employees to make more decisions. It is time consuming and inefficient when we wait for others to make a decision we already knew. In one assembly line in Toyota Japan, they improved employee well-being significantly by letting any employee stop the assembly line if they saw a problem. While stopping the assembly line was a big deal, they trusted that any employee would know when to do this and the fact they put this trust and decision making ability into the hands of staff was seen as a huge positive. Technology now allows for more collaboration tools for ideas to be collated and reviewed throughout the organisation, so ensure these are being adopted. As I heard a speaker say “if Hewlett Packard knew what Hewlett Packard knows, what a difference that would make”, so do your best to get the information from your employees, they have great ideas, just listen to them.

This article is correct at 06/07/2016

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Peter Cosgrove

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