Leading in the Human Age: New approaches to work

by External14 Mar 2013

The work environment has changed, meaning companies need to build adaptable, adjustable work models and drive a culture of collaboration to succeed. Lincoln Crawley outlines why an era of certain uncertainty requires new approaches to the world of work.

2013 will require new approaches to the world of work: economies are re-segmenting, labour markets are shifting, technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and economic and political uncertainty continues. The work environment has changed, meaning companies need to build adaptable, adjustable work models and drive a culture of collaboration to succeed.

At the recent World Economic Forum, ManpowerGroup released a global white paper, Why an era of certain uncertainty requires new approaches to the world of work, outlining how organisations should respond to the resulting impacts on their business.

The traditional approach to managing business has changed and organisations will need to adapt to emerging trends.

Markets have been redefined and re-segmented

Emerging markets currently represent about 39% of world GDP. Between now and 2020, it’s expected that 70% of global GDP growth will come from emerging markets. China is now the primary trading partner of most countries in the world, while Africa is quickly moving into the world’s economic spotlight.

Traditional employment sectors in Australia, like manufacturing and retail, continue to decline, and the resources sector which has been a consistent bright spot is slowing in many parts. However, other sectors continue to grow, creating demand for roles such as social assistance and aged care workers, IT specialists, engineering professionals and technical trades.

This re-segmentation is evident in ‘bubbles’ of society, where groups traditionally kept apart by geographic or generational divides have become defined by a common interest, use of a certain social network, or particular political viewpoint. It is important however to keep in mind that these bubbles can overexpose people to like-minded peers and distance them from those who think and operate differently.

Companies should consider how to leverage social frameworks to drive business results. For example, internal social networks in corporations can facilitate more collaborative virtual work and require flexible rules of engagement.

Economic evolution

Rising populations, prolonged life expectancy and advancing technology have created an abundance of skills, workers and potential productivity, yet companies are still unable to find the right talent.

As productivity gains from technology reduce jobs in some sectors, talent resources are freed up for use elsewhere in the economy. Some middle management jobs will likely disappear due to more efficient ways of sharing information in hierarchical organisation structures, but this will increase horizontal collaboration, which requires new skills sets.

Companies will be challenged to plan for these shifts by ensuring their talent pipeline has the skill set they need.

To prepare talent for these evolving economies, companies should provide training and development that will evolve talent. Exposing workers to other functions helps them gain new skills, increases their understanding of the overall business, and gives managers the flexibility to move individuals across departments to meet changing business needs.

Accelerated technological R&D

Widespread adoption of emerging technologies, including geo-localisation, Big Data, and mobile platforms and ‘apps,’ has altered the way we work. Companies must harness this technology effectively. The challenge is to balance the need to introduce new technology into the workforce, while managing employees’ resistance to change and ensuring they have the right skills to work with new technology.

Companies should look for next-generation ways to facilitate employee-company relations, such as specific apps that will impact work models and allow employers to communicate tailored information to individual employees.

Certain uncertainty

Market cycles have changed significantly. We have moved into an era of certain uncertainty, where changes in social, economic and political spheres happen quickly and regularly. Business goals need to be flexible and companies must be innovative to adapt to new and changing horizons.

Companies must align workforce strategies with business strategies to meet these variable economic conditions. Investing in training and skills development will mean companies can innovate and adapt to changes on the horizon in the most efficient and effective way.


About the author

Lincoln Crawley is Managing Director at ManpowerGroup Australia and New Zealand