As we look back to the receding horror of 2020 and the misery and fear it brought to so many, we must also recognise the flexibility and resourcefulness demonstrated by countless organisations and their employees in rising to the challenges created by Covid-19.
Today it is clear that the pandemic served to accelerate workplace changes which were already underway, and we believe that over the year ahead leaders have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to permanently embed these new ways of working into their organisations.
Here is our summary of the Top-5 items we think every leader should have on their ‘to-do’ list for 2021:
1. Have an informed opinion on hybrid working
We are predicting that one of the liveliest topics of conversation amongst business leaders will be around where the organisation should position itself on the hybrid working spectrum.
Some will argue that remote working will deliver productivity and work-life balance benefits, while others will argue that bringing people together enhances creativity and team cohesion. Both are correct and the challenge will be to navigate a balance which meets the specific needs of the individual organisation and its people.
The role of HR in these discussions will be pivotal as the outcomes will have a profound impact on the long-term People Strategy of the organisation from the size and purpose of office locations to the acquisition of key skills in a global talent ecosystem where the best people can work from where they want. Having an informed opinion about hybrid working will, therefore, be vital.
2. Embrace work-task planning and the global talent ecosystem
In the past, organisations would focus on workforce planning (who does what) and the talent acquisition processes required to hire employees with the right skills and experience.
Recent months have shown that the organisations which were able to adapt most effectively to disruption are those which focused on work-task planning (what needs to be done) and harnessing a wider ecosystem of employees, contractors, and technology to achieve the required outcomes.
We are predicting that this change in focus, coupled with an increase in hybrid working, will transform the way organisations think about talent management and organisation design. In particular, we anticipate a shift away from filling the boxes in a rigid structure with ‘owned’ talent, towards task-focused global teams of internal and external talent operating within an increasingly dynamic organisational framework.
3. Use AI and machine-learning to generate insight from employee data
The Big Tech firms now routinely generate valuable marketing insights by using AI and machine-learning tools to analyse the consumer data they hold in vast, virtual ‘data lakes’.
We have now created our own data lake containing employment data for over 700-million individuals – around a quarter of the global workforce. And, because this information is updated by our army of data bots every two days, it gives us a living, real-time image of the global labour market which our Data Scientists can explore using the same technologies as the Big Tech firms.
It is a uniquely powerful combination which has already enabled us to answer some challenging questions:
- What skills are currently in the greatest demand?
- What new skills are emerging?
- Where are the individuals with those skills?
- Where are specific organisations hiring from?
- Who are they losing people to?
- How good are they at retaining key talent?
Doing this has helped us to realise that whereas the past was shaped by people and organisations that had all the right answers, the future will be shaped by those who ask the right questions.
4. Boost the wellness and neuro-productivity of every employee
The pandemic has heightened employee awareness of the importance of workplace health, and while many organisations have wellness programs in place these are typically focused on stand-alone initiatives such as the employee assistance programs offered by health insurance providers, peer-to-peer mental health ‘first aid’ programs, and gyms or gym memberships.
These are all useful tools, but to make a long-term, sustainable difference OrgShakers believe that organisations need to evolve a culture which takes a holistic approach to physical and mental wellness. An approach which focuses not just on supporting those individuals who need help, but also on boosting the performance and neuro-productivity of the entire workforce.
To help organisations achieve this, OrgShakers have created NeuroLab – a multi-disciplinary team of specialists with experience in shaping the culture, leadership capabilities, and individual behaviours required to drive meaningful and measurable change.
We are excited about the opportunity this will create for us to partner with progressive organisations to develop initiatives which will positively impact the performance and wellbeing of their people in the year ahead.
5. Hard-wire resilience into everything we do
In his 2017 book, The New Leadership Literacies, futurologist Bob Johansen identified his “big three” disruptive global challenges for the 2020s … “climate disruption, cyber terrorism, and pandemics – all of which will likely be on a scale that was previously unimaginable”.
We cannot assume that the disruption caused by Covid-19 is a one-off event. Rather, we need to ensure that the hard-won lessons of 2020 are embedded into the fabric of our organisations in preparation for the systemic shocks that are likely to disrupt us in the future.
To achieve this, organisations will need continue to evolve their cultures, enhance the capabilities of their leaders, and create the dynamic structures and working practices required to ensure their resilience to external disruption.
They will need to plan against previously unthinkable scenarios, and ensure their people are equipped and inspired to deal with whatever the future may bring.
They will, in short, need to be ready for anything.
In doing so, however, they will also become better organisations, making a bigger difference to their customers, their employees, their communities, and the planet.
Together we can shake things up for the better in 2021!