Category Archives: Strategy

Are you ready for the future of work?

Future of work

Predictions of the future rarely turn out to be accurate. Many of the predictions about the future of work will be no different. It seems clear, however, that we are at the beginning of a substantial change in the way we work. For many people, the most visible change is the growing pace of technological change, but there are many factors driving us towards different types of work, and equally, different ways of working.

From Robyn Moyle, The H Factor, 16 July 2019, used with permission (Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash)

Many people may feel threatened by reports of technological change, particularly in the area of automation. We believe that it is very important to be extremely careful of simplistic predictions. In fact, the World Economic Forum anticipates that artificial intelligence may actually deliver up to 58 million new jobs globally, which is perhaps contrary to the popular view that automation is going to take people’s jobs away.

In any event, technology is only one of the catalysts for workplace change. There are a number of other drivers, including:

  • The generational change taking place in many workplaces as the baby boomer generation edge deeper into retirement, and the increasing diversity of generations that are now of working age;
  • The changing skills required to do different types of work, especially in many of the traditional white-collar industries;
  • The fear of disruption in many economic sectors as a result of changing customer expectations;
  • The greater use of outsourcing and offshoring arrangements; and
  • The changing expectations of the employment relationship.

​It is the combination of these that is leading to changes in the needs of employers, and at the same time changing the desires and expectations of employees.

TECHNOLOGY
Nobody can ignore the impact of technological development on the future of work. The impacts fall into 3 critical areas:

  • The number of tasks that are now being automated, especially through the use of artificial intelligence. Many businesses are seeing the productivity gains from automation and the potential for cost savings that are essential to keep them competitive. 
  • The amount of new technology that now enables different business opportunities. Drones are one such technology through which businesses can now offer services that would have been cost-prohibitive in the past, and provide the job opportunities that go with them.
  • The ability to access vast amounts of data through which business can perform reliable predictive analysis. The access and use of big data is having a big impact on the way businesses go about their activities. For those businesses that can access the analytical skills to make use of it, big data is presenting opportunities that may have otherwise remained unexplored.

Technology is no doubt changing the types of work that we do. For businesses to fully access the opportunities that arise from technological change, they must have access to people with the appropriate skills to develop, deploy, use, and maintain it.

CHANGING SKILLS
Many of the new jobs being created by technological change require different skills. Creative thinking, technological competency, and learning agility are all skills that are now valued more highly by employers. 

As businesses themselves strive for greater agility and adaptability, they look for those same skills in their workforce.  Perhaps a myth to be busted is that these attributes are about attitude; to a very large extent, they are learned skills.

The future workplace will almost certainly require greater collaboration.  A job in the future will more likely require you to use your head more than your hands. The jobs that require creativity, interpersonal skills, organisation, and decision making will be the hardest to automate. This means that what has previously been called soft skills will become more important. These include the skills of communication, empathy and relating to others, collaboration, conflict resolution, and planning. Effective leadership will therefore be especially important.

When we created The H Factor system, our entire approach is based on nurturing these skills. In particular, having outcomes-based position descriptions and instilling an effective conversation about achieving the outcomes is especially important in the transition from measuring performance based on pre-conceived assessment criteria, to inspiring and monitoring performance through a natural conversation based on a shared understanding of the desired result.

THE FEAR OF DISRUPTION
As technology has become more accessible, the expectations of customers have changed. For example, in the past many of us caught a taxi without the need for a mobile phone app, but now Uber has shown a different and better customer experience by ordering on demand to where we are, rather than us having to hail a passing taxi by chance, or go to a defined taxi rank. Similarly, we rarely need to go into a bank for day-to-day transactions, and many of us may not even know what a cheque is.

For businesses, this has created the need to have greater flexibility in how they can manage their workforce and in their working arrangements for their teams. It impacts not just the types of work that people do, but it also impacts how they go about that work.

The bigger changes in customer expectations are based on technologies that have improved the human experience. This is why we believe that the biggest risk for employers is not that their industry will be superseded, it is that their competitors will find a better human experience for their customers. This is not merely a technical risk, although it is likely that some form of technology will be the enabler.

Therefore to minimise the risk of disruption, employers again need to tap into skills that may not have applied in their industry in the past.  These will include technical skills such as coding, user experience design, and data analytics.

Those business leaders who have clarity about the problem their business exists to solve, and who can communicate why that matters, will reduce their risk of disruption by building organisations that are focused on the human experience. They are more likely to be the disruptors than the disrupted.  

This is why The H Factor system home page is your business story – why your business exists at all. It enables your team to engage with the problem, and contribute their ideas and effort to your business being at the forefront of the solution for your customers.

OUTSOURCING AND OFFSHORING
For some tasks that can’t be automated, employers have found outsourcing or offshoring those tasks to be an effective method for reducing costs.  In some cases, this approach also provides those organisations with access to specialist skillsets.

The use of subcontractors – whether they be in Australia or overseas – has been a growing trend for some time. One of the challenges in transitioning to these arrangements is effectively engaging the external team to work effectively with the workplace culture, deliver the appropriate quality of work, and managing the procedures for transferring work between internal and external parties.

An increasing number of people are employed on a contractual basis. They may even be full-time employees for the period of the contract. This is especially impacting traditional white collar workers, with particular technical skills, where employers see a need for those skills for specific projects.  Again, the challenge is how to engage those contractors effectively with the workplace culture and ensuring that their work is consistent with the desired result.

In The H Factor system, the type of work is separate from the type of employment contract.  Every position exists to achieve an outcome. How a person is employed in that position is then a separate matter, and the outcomes conversation process for managing their performance still applies whether the person is employed permanently, or on a contract, or is located internally, locally, or offshore. Equally, the system enables access to policies, procedures, and training wherever or whenever they’re needed – that have been created for the business by the people who actually do it.

CHANGING EXPECTATIONS OF EMPLOYMENT
Workplaces are more diverse than they have ever been. There are a number of factors driving this:

  • Greater levels of immigration over the last 20 years has seen a greater diversity in the cultural backgrounds of people now engaged the workforce;
  • There are now multi-generations in the workforce at the same time, with Baby Boomers at one end of the spectrum and Gen Z at the other, and the Gen X-ers and Millennials in the middle; and
  • The (possibly false!) perception that full-time permanent employment will be a thing of the past.

Immigration has had a dominant impact on social change in Australia over the last 20 years. For employers, this has enabled access to a larger talent pool for many skills. 

Once in the workplace, people from different backgrounds bring with them their different cultural values around work ethic, the need for perceived status from their employment, and different expectations of the work environment itself.

At the same time, the participation of women in the workforce has also substantially increased. Employers therefore have developed more flexible approaches to work, including actions such as specific policies around acceptance and inclusion, and organisational structures and working arrangements that accommodate such a diversity of needs and expectations.

Every generation brings with it different expectations about the role work will play in their lives. Some people started their working life in an era when their parents had one employer, or even one job, over their whole career, while others are starting their career with a desire to avoid investing in skills that may ultimately be automated.

There is a common perception that full-time permanent employment opportunities will become fewer as technological change becomes more rapid. So far, the statistics don’t support that perception, but that possibly won’t matter. If people don’t believe that they will have a secure full-time job in the future then they will naturally seek greater fulfilment from the job they have right now – or they will seek to find a job that does provide such fulfilment. We hear this in many conversations we have with business leaders around the challenges of managing employees who are Millennials and Gen-Xers for example.

The H Factor system was designed to help leaders manage diverse workplaces by building the positions in their business around the “stuff that needs doing”. This enables people to engage with the needs of the business, and self identify their own approach to fulfilling those needs. This enables a greater potential of fulfilment for people as it enables them to ‘grow into’ their position, and take genuine ownership of it. For managers, it provides confidence that the people in their team see the business priorities the same way that they do.

Research has shown that the desire to be engaged in their work is a common aspiration for people across all generations.  It enables people to achieve a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction from what they do. In an era where we have the greatest diversity of generations working together at the same time, it has never been more important.

We are optimistic about the future of work. It is our belief that, ultimately, all of these changes are leading to more interesting jobs, an increased capacity for businesses to make a positive difference to their customers and in the societies in which they operate, and an increased appreciation for and value of humanity itself.

Sources:
Mercer Global Talent Trends 2019 Report; #7 Building The Lucky County, Deloitte Insights 2019; and OECD Library – Editorial: A transition agenda for a Future that Works for all.

CLIENT CASE STUDY: Culture Mapping

map organisational culture

You may have heard us eagerly discussing the diagnosis, design and development of better organisational culture.

What we really relish is not just the talk but helping to map the current state and plan what needs to be done to reach a desired future culture.

Susan had the pleasure of working with the CHOICE team on their journey. Check out what they did, as told by Jessica Hill, Director, People & Culture at CHOICE:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” a phrase attributed to management guru Peter Drucker.

Organisational culture is so very important, it’s one of the main reasons that people leave an organisation and why they’re drawn to a new one. Culture is often hard to describe, although when it’s not quite right it becomes clear very quickly.

At CHOICE we’ve spent a number of years focusing on employee engagement. This has been a comprehensive approach with feedback loops and dedicated action that’s led to a highly engaged workforce. But engagement isn’t all-encompassing. There are aspects within an organisation’s culture that don’t typically surface when looking solely at employee engagement. It was this realisation that led us to focus on our culture in 2016.

How do you define culture?

Initially we loosely defined culture as the “way we do things around here”, recognising that this takes into account the values and beliefs that shape our organisation. There are some other good definitions:

“Organisational culture is defined as the shared values, norms and expectations that govern the way people approach their work and interact with each other. In other words it’s “what am I expected to do in order to fit in and get ahead here.” Mike Gourlay, Director, Human Synergistics

“Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organization is transformed; the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day.” Frances Hesselbein

Mapping culture

To identify and map our culture we found a simple and effective tool in Dave Gray’s culture map.

This map allowed us to take stock of the behaviours we were seeing and the enablers and blockers that were influencing those behaviours. It also highlighted the outcomes that they all contributed to.

Mapping culture while balancing rigour

The CHOICE culture is built on rigour, so these culture workshops with post-it notes did seem a little vague to some of our teams. We looked to validate some of the behaviours that we collectively agreed were present in our culture. We then asked leaders to complete a Harrison Assessment facilitated and debriefed by Susan Rochester from Balance at Work . We analysed the group’s collective Harrison data and compared it with what we identified in the workshops. This gave us a mark-in-time view of our current culture.

Mapping our aspirational or future culture

With a new strategy underway, we wanted to understand what our future or aspirational culture looked like. This is the culture that would allow us to deliver our strategy. We again used a collaborative approach to define our future culture using Dave Gray’s culture map. We came away with an agreed future state, with three key aspirations:

1. A collective understanding of the strategic direction

2. A learning organisation

3. An improving organisation

What does the future hold for culture at CHOICE?

Culture is constantly moving while we’ve mapped our current and future culture, they’ll be forever evolving.

What did this achieve?

  • A common language around culture
  • Culture now measured at points in time
  • Less focus on employee engagement numbers and more focus on qualitative measures
  • We identified gaps in our current culture vs where we want to be (future culture)
  • Taking stock of and leveraging the strengths in our culture (mutual respect, flexible thinking, collaboration, information sharing, motivation to making a difference)

We’ve also worked with fantastic coaches Susan Rochester and Dr Sean Richardson to help us shift to where we need to be. We’ve started with organisational communication and looked at ‘possibility’ conversations. While we have a united organisational purpose, this focus has shown us that individual team purposes haven’t yet been clearly articulated.

Where to next?

We’re moving into another strategic planning process. As part of this process, we’ve embedded a focus on culture as a key determinant in the success of the new strategy.

CEB/Gartner research from 2017 found organisations with strong cultures do two things really well:

  1. They know where they want their culture to go and;
  2. they measure it at regular intervals.

Have you thought about mapping or measuring your culture?

Balance at Work can help you, too! Find out more here or ask us how.

How to leave your business in good hands

As a business owner, your succession plan is one of the most important plans you can have — but most leave it far too late.

A comprehensive succession plan will include financial, legal and other factors that set out what will happen as you move out of the business and someone else takes charge.

Understanding them is vital to making sure you have the best chance of leaving your business feeling satisfied with what you’ve achieved.

1. Start early

The main purpose of starting early is making sure you have a plan under all circumstances because sometimes circumstances dictate that you leave a business hastily.

Ideally, you’ll have a nice, smooth transition away from your business — but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Sometimes you need to sell a business for financial reasons or to spend more time caring for an ill family member. Starting early ensures that you have a plan to fall back on.

Starting early also allows you the time you need to review and refine your plan as the business changes or more information becomes available.

But it’s important to note that a succession plan can take several years to execute, so being thorough is a must.

2. Choose the right successor or buyer

What each of us looks for in a successor will differ, so it’s important to think about what’s most important to you.

In every succession or sale I’ve seen, the most important part of the exit strategy for the departing owner was to believe the same level of service would continue for their customers well after the owner leaves the business.

That can’t always be guaranteed and is often an unrealistic expectation.

When choosing your successor or a buyer, there’s a lot you need to consider beyond pure technical ability:

  • Financial benefits (and costs)
  • Ease of transition
  • Continuity of service standards
  • Future staffing requirements
  • Personality and cultural fit

Some of these factors are easier to measure and predict than others, but they all need to be taken into account.

The more time you take, the more questions you ask, the more likely you are to make an accurate assessment.

The challenge here is to discover what is right for your needs and the future of the business.

Be as clear as you can about what the right things are for your business, even after you’re no longer a part of it.

3. Let it go

This step is particularly important and extremely difficult for most entrepreneurs.

You conceived and nurtured your business. It’s your baby. It can be very hard to trust that anyone else can care for it as well as you do.

Early in the life of Balance at Work, an adviser did me a great favour by asking me what my exit strategy was.

It was a confronting question because if you haven’t been asked the question it can be painful to be forced to consider the harsh reality of your business continuing without you.

If you’ve thought about your exit but avoided putting any structure around it, your plans are no more than wishful thinking.

Knowing how you would prefer to manage the transition is essential in any succession plan.

Whatever the circumstance, it is likely you’ll end up working in your (former) business alongside the new owner for a period.

The loss of authority might require a change of mindset for you, and for them if they were one of your team members before.

By agreeing on guidelines for managing the transition from owner to your new role, if you plan to stick around for a while, will help you avoid future tension and misunderstandings.

Starting early and knowing your goals will make it much easier to let go when the time comes.

By allowing enough time and choosing wisely, you may walk away with confidence and pride, rather than a sense of dread.

Are you ready to start your succession plan?

It’s never too soon!

Take a look at business.gov.au or business.govt.nz for excellent free resources to get you started. Then seek professional assistance to help you flesh out your plan.

Know your succession goals, enjoy the process and good luck!

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

 

"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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