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Author's profile photo Susan Galer

Preparing for the Future of Work: From Slave Drivers to Inspirational Leadership

Reigning world chess champion Magnus Carlsen became the greatest player ever by disrupting everything with his unconventional style of play. According to Jacob Morgan, Principal at Chess Media Group, this is the strategy that every company needs to take towards getting work done in a dramatically new world of work. Kicking of the Future of Work Forum at SAPPHIRENOW in Orlando, Florida, Morgan began by urging companies to challenge convention.

“We have to rethink how we work, lead, and structure companies. When we challenge convention in the workplace we get three key things: the ability to attract top talent, build and foster the best leaders for our company, and create competitive organizations.”

In a digitized world, the concept of work has move far beyond traditional dictionary synonyms where managers are the equivalent of “slave drivers,” employees are “cogs,” and work is “drudgery.” Morgan says that five trends are forcing companies to challenge convention as employees increasingly seek not only the same experiences they enjoy in their personal lives at work, but also inspirational leadership from managers.

Social media means that we expect to be able to find information when we need it, and build communities when we want. Technologies like big data, the internet of things, cloud-based software, and smart machines are completely changing how companies do business. In addition, by 2020 millennials will comprise the majority of the workforce, bringing new ideas as they assume more managerial positions. Mobility allows people to work anywhere at any time. Globalization eliminates boundaries creating a virtual working environment. At the same time, only 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged at work

As these trends accelerate dramatically in the next five years, Morgan calls for the reinvention of how companies work. “The world of work is changing at a much more rapid pace of change than organizations can handle. As that gap grows, so does the employee engagement problem. If we’re working at an outdated company, we become more and more disengaged.”

Morgan’s argument goes to the heart of the definition of work. He reasons that in today’s highly collaborative, technology-driven workplace, the new goal of management should be focused on employee engagement. “Management was originally created to make sure employees showed up to do the same job over and over. The shift to knowledge workers means we need to use flexible work environments, encourage employee innovation, shape career paths, use collaborative technologies like SAP JAM, and practice autonomy. These are some of the things that smart, progressive organizations around the world are starting to do.”

Examples include Whirlpool, which Morgan says is one of the few organizations where innovation is everyone’s job. Peter Aceto, the CEO of Tangerine Bank in Canada, has built employee trust by giving employees the right to complain with no consequences. At other companies HR professionals say they are attracting top talent with flexible working environments in exchange for nominal pay cuts.

Advising managers to challenge management practices, Morgan suggests focusing on engagement instead of fear, embracing vulnerability, serving employees, and earning leadership. Calling for flatter hierarchies and smaller, more nimble distributed teams that include freelancers regardless of location, he says, “A lot of organizations always assumed that employees needed to work there. But what good is cash when employees want more than just money? Many companies are starting to shift focus to creating organizations where people want to work there, not because they need to work there.”

Morgan suggests companies challenge convention by taking three initial steps: assemble a Future of Work team dedicated to creating an action plan, experiment to explore potential ideas, and eventually implement broad-based change. Challenging convention is actually quite simple. It begins by looking at the current situation and asking why.

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Watch the SAPPHIRENOW session replay: Gearing up for the Future of Work by Challenging Convention

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