Human progress and productivity accelerate during periods of heightened disruption and innovation, such as the Industrial Revolution and the Digital Revolution. In the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a similar effect, creating massive disruptions and accelerating human behavioural changes that have fueled a workforce revolution.
What emerges is the ‘Workplace180’ (W180), a new way of working that is highly productive and here to stay. As its name suggests, the W180 represents a 180-degree shift from the traditional analogue, attendance-based workplace of the Industrial Era. Instead of always working in the office, people work wherever they choose and can be most productive.
Digital transformation accelerates
As part of the pandemic shift, businesses rapidly adopted digital solutions such as Zoom for collaboration and communication, which accelerated the digital transformation in businesses of all sizes. These digital solutions are now foundational for how work is done.
Talent wars escalate into the workforce revolution
The talent wars that challenged businesses in the years leading up to the pandemic were escalated by the workforce revolution. Workers are seeking better, higher paying jobs that align with flexible work options they value. With 48% of CEOs planning to expand their workforce, they will be challenged to reach those goals (Vistage, 2022). To compete, CEOs are focused on creating compelling employee experiences to attract and retain the workforce their businesses need to thrive.
Shifting workforce demographics add complexity
While some Boomers have been leaving the workforce through planned retirements, others have retired early as a result of the pandemic. The new workforce is taking shape as Millennials step up into higher levels and Gen Zs begin to step in as frontline employees. These generations value meaningful work, a purpose-driven culture and the flexibility to achieve life-work balance.
Many of these shifts were already underway, but the pandemic accelerated them. According to Vistage data (2022), the W180 is quickly gaining traction. 72% of CEOs now offer remote work options, and 64% offer flexible hours and schedules. They have changed our work and lives forever.
An old adage is that work expands to fill the time allocated for it. However, with the shift to hybrid working, time and attendance are no longer relevant. What matters more is performance and productivity.
When managers cannot witness people at work, they must focus on their expertise and execution instead. When and how work gets done is less important than whether the work is high quality. Allowing workers to complete individual tasks at their discretion unleashes productivity, provided they complete those tasks on time.
For many managers, a major obstacle is trust. Some may say: “How do I know if an employee is working if I can’t see them?” The truth is, the same people who did — or didn’t — work hard in the office are doing the same thing at home. However, when workers are evaluated based on deliverables or quality of work, underperformers are more readily exposed.
A successful shift to the W180 depends on the strength of the employee experience. And no one impacts the employee experience more than frontline managers. CEOs need to train and empower their managers to:
- Bring culture to life for individuals and teams
- Lead, coach and manage every employee
- Have strict standards and expectations for deliverables and accountability
- Think less about authority and more about influence
- Manage and inspect less; motivate and trust more
- Build connections with workers they don’t see every day
Adapting to the W180 will be a key consideration for CEOs of small and medium sized businesses over the next 6-12 months. On top of this, CEOs have other decision factors related to the economy, talent, customers and leadership they must take into account going into 2023. W180 has the potential to unleash productivity in ways we’ve never seen before. But in order to do that we need to look at our approach to management.
Vistage is the world’s leading business performance and leadership advancement organisation for small and medium sized businesses. For more information visit www.Vistage.co.uk.
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