As the world of work changes, so too must the approach of those who design, build and maintain our physical and/or virtual offices. Accordingly, how those who are in charge of managing the teams who occupy these physical and virtual spaces is also in a state of flux. With four generations in the workplace for the first time in history, we also need systems, processes and offices that support and adapt to the needs and talents of the entire cohort, fostering constructive interaction and collaboration across generations. We've shared a few posts recently about the future of work, including digital workspaces, human capital trends and driving culture change. Continuing on with this 'future of work' theme (because a good offence is the best defence), this week's HR Blog turns an eye to the practical solutions for managing the future of work, workplace and the performance of your workforce.
Design to Perform as a Social Enterprise and Adapt Within a Circular Economy
For generations, the construction industry has followed a ‘linear economy’ model with materials and resources mined, manufactured, used and then thrown away. With the global demand for resources surging, raw materials becoming harder to extract and the threats of climate change increasing, this status quo cannot hold.
The circular economy model offers an alternative, more sustainable, ‘regenerative’ approach, prioritising the retention and refurbishment of buildings over demolition, and designing for the separation and reuse of materials at the end of a building’s life.
Currently, too many buildings are designed with little thought for the future, and risk leaving a legacy of obsolete architecture, composed of complex components irretrievably melded together, that locks away precious resources. By designing buildings with more modular elements that can be deconstructed, adapted and reconstructed, we can extend their life and enable resources to be salvaged and reused.
Similarly, ensuring greater energy efficiency must be a priority for next-generation workplaces, not just to reduce costs but also to meet global emissions targets. As a result, the future of office power will be electric, with more buildings generating their own power via built-in solar panels, and using low carbon and energy efficient solutions such as heat pumps and heat recovery.
Facilitate Data-Enabled Collaboration and Customisation
Innovation purely for innovation’s sake dates quickly. What matters most is ensuring that the latest technologies deployed in workplaces support users, enabling them to work more efficiently together.
To that end, with more of us equipped to work on the move, there’s a growing need for flexible workplaces designed to bridge the gap between home and more traditional workspaces. This, in turn, is having a profound effect on the wider market for office space, both financially and physically.
Unsurprisingly, the shift to more agile working is influencing the design of the future office, where a range of formal and informal areas for meeting and collaborative work are interspersed with quieter areas, providing a wide variety of task-specific workspaces and, crucially, providing valued staff with choice and autonomy.
Building on this, the increasing prevalence of sensors in workplace fixtures, fittings and equipment is already helping offices to adapt to their users’ needs. As an example, through learning and responding to people’s individual preferences for lighting levels and temperature. And, in the future, new technologies could help to make collaboration and individual work even more efficient. Wearables will enable more personalisation of space, and voice and mood sensors in office buildings could recognise the energy of impromptu conversations between colleagues and ‘bring the meeting space to the people’ through a temporary acoustic bubble.
Your People Will Always Matter the Most
More and more of our routine tasks will be automated in the future office. But, as the leading business commentator Geoff Colvin asserts, our very human ability to empathise, collaborate and innovate will remain essential. While the size of the human workforce may decrease, therefore, the value to organisations of their employees and the highly-skilled work they do will only grow in importance.
In response, we envisage a time when the office user will become the client, with workplace design increasingly centred on developing a community base (virtual or physical), that supports comfort, creativity, productivity and job satisfaction. More and more organisations now recognise that their people are their most expensive and valuable asset. But understanding and measuring the impact of workplace environmental factors on issues such as employee motivation, satisfaction, productivity and mental health is a complex task.
According to AECAM, a workplace purposely designed around wellbeing must reach beyond the physical and environmental aspects of wellbeing, such as noise, light and indoor climate, to include social and psychological dimensions.
For example, AECOM’s holistic wellbeing assessment at work embraces six dimensions of health: physiological (getting through our day-to-day work without undue fatigue or physical stress), psychological (support for our mental health and emotional balance), social (feeling connected and part of a community), intellectual (being able to use and develop our knowledge and skills to perform well), values (the match between the organisation’s and the individual’s values), and material (experiencing a sense of fairness in terms of the availability, quality and quantity of rewards).
From Performance Management to Employee Development
The final, and perhaps most challenging piece of the future workplace equation, is managing the performance of your employees and teams. The term Performance Management may remain, however, the management process used to help employees perform at their best is, like most other aspects of the workplace, undergoing an epic transformation. The future of performance management is following a continuous, coaching-based and people first process, as a means to motivate, rather than stagnate your teams.
Consider these analogies:
- The sports coach - they're a winner when the team is victorious.
- Likewise, a conductor puts on a great concert when the orchestra performs in synchronous harmony.
Teams are made up of individuals, each with their own personal objectives, values, ways of working, and unique style of fitting in with the group. Therefore, a manager’s success is measured by their employees’ performance, both as individuals and as a team.
Leading a high-performing team in today’s dynamic work environment first means properly leading the team’s individual players. How is this possible in the context of four generations of workers in the modern and the future workplace? It will require that leaders and managers shift their style and mindset from the historical conception of performance management to one that focuses on continuous employee development. This type of managerial style breeds highly-motivated employees and the ability to meet and exceed performance goals.
The majority of companies today are still stuck with an outdated performance management process. This means going through an annual performance review, preceded by a performance appraisal and some kind of self-evaluation form. Usually, these are also followed by performance planning and goal setting. And that is often still the sum total of it.
It’s not that these processes are necessarily broken. However, the workplace has changed, and so too have the employees who now bring to the workplace toolkits packed with intelligence, creativity, soft skills, and a healthy obsession with personal and professional growth.
In today’s workforce, people and community are at the centre of things and managers now serve employees in a bottom-up relationship, unlike when workers feared the command and control approach of their managers. Management and leadership have been transformed and operationally business is being remade. This means that performance management needs an upgrade too. It’s essential to be more agile and frequent with goal-setting, measuring progress, and feedback. Ultimately, what that translates to is that it is time to focus on continuous employee development.
Gallup has recently described 'a cultural shift in how people work and how they work together.'
The shift goes from a historical process of performance management where the manager is boss and which has become ineffective:
- Dictating unclear expectations.
- Giving infrequent feedback.
- Acting like a boss who doesn’t need to be fair or accountable.
To this form of employee development where your manager is your coach:
- Establishing expectations together.
- Communicating more frequently and openly.
- Acting like a coach who is accountable and fair.
How does this look in action if you apply them in your day-to-day work lives?
In theory, utopia might be described as: employee development and communications management empowers each individual, who when banded together form high-performing teams, every manager’s dream. In this scenario, individuals teach and learn from each other, and combine into fresh talent-matrices for the co-creation of great content, products, ideas and both customer and public service.
Given that every individual is unique: an increase in the frequency and quality of your coaching sessions with the people in your team/s, you’ll get to know each unique personality much quicker. The time you put into learning about your individual players will not go unappreciated. Naturally, knowing each individual better will translate into helping them grow and exceed their goals.
Do you have a system in place in your organisation that enables you to manage performance in the way we've just described? If not, we've just released a new and improved Performance Management solution to enable you to do exactly that. If you're ready to implement a process of continuous development in your workplace, book yourself an obligation free Discovery Session now.
Image Credit: AECOM: A journey to wellbeing.