“Exponential advancements in technology tend to dominate the agenda globally on the concept of the “future of work”.  The fact is, the future is here now and it is essential that business leaders prepare their workforces for change and disruption. Harnessing the capability and capacity of people, their development and potential is essential to this preparation, so that people are empowered to advance, unafraid and ready to take on the challenges of change and ensure their sustained employability.” 

Libby Marshall (May, 2019)

I wrote this quote in May 2019, long before the COVID-19 pandemic broke but at a time when immense workforce change was already taking place. Now, as we near the end of 2020, we have been forced to recognise these changes and act. This year has proven to be a catalyst for transitions and transformation and has brought with it a disruption that is compelling swift action.

For me, a focal point among the current shifting workplace dynamics has been the emphasis on the role and the responsibilities of managers and, when I use the term manager, I am referring to anyone who is responsible for the work of others.

This year highlighted the capability and productivity of every workforce – their learning, development and career success – is determined by the Manager.

Never before has the impact of workforce change been so visible and absolute with business leaders constantly being scrutinised and sometimes vilified for the way in which workforce changes are managed and executed. Complicating this is a new business paradigm that expects business leaders and managers to also be trusted, caring and transparent.

Bring together this shift in workforce expectations with the unique political and social events combined with exponential advancements in technology, and “Houston – we have a problem”. Our “new normal” is triggering huge impacts across all sectors as current business models are disrupted and changes take place in productivity, workforce capacity and business capability.

Pre COVID-19, disruption was being touted as a motivator and as something to aspire to. Disruption brought with it the promise of opportunity for business models to experience rapid growth in market share across multiple geographical zones, a reduction in costs to achieve greater productivity, and innovations which were not before possible but can now create greater profits for shareholders.

However, a threat that exists now for business and industry leaders is the management of people and their sustained employability. 

As we move into 2021 within this environment of massive change, how can we prepare our workforces for a future where disruption and uncertainty are the norm?

While it’s difficult to accurately predict the jobs of the future, it is possible to identify the skills, capabilities and proficiencies that will be required. This, combined with a strong sense of self and purpose, is the key to success.

What is certain is that businesses and workforces are managing immense change and there has never been a better time to empower and prepare your workforce so they are “change-fit” and ready to take on whatever lies ahead.

People will always be at the centre of business

This is the underpinning philosophy at Steam Capital. Often, when assigning success or indeed failure to an organisation, the brand is front and centre rather than the people behind the organisation.  

Many people have a misconception that the brand should be at the forefront of every company. After all, the brand name is what sticks; it inspires the logo and it’s what people notice via advertising and promotional materials. We usually don’t think about the people or processes behind names like Coca-Cola or Google, only that they provide a product or service to us which should function as intended.

For example, we talk about decisions made by governments, banks, and companies.  But at the centre of every decision is a person or a collective of people and it is the capability and capacity of each decision-maker that makes the difference. Delving further, it is not just decision-makers at the top of the chain creating impact – it is every person within an organisation. Every day, every working person makes a decision that will impact someone, something or, most importantly, the clients and customers.

Brands do not make decisions or enable innovation or create impact. People do. People make the decisions that create value, people motivate and enable innovation, people facilitate change, and it is people who ultimately decide on the allocation of resources. So, the capability of an organisation is absolutely determined by the capability of its people. To maximise your people and their decision-making abilities, you must invest in their learning and development.

Engaged, motivated, purposeful employees will go the extra mile for you and your organisation.

We know this is true. So why is 86% of the workforce either passively or actively seeking a job change? Why is productivity down? Why is stress continuing to rise?

Is it because people are too busy and change-weary, overworked and underpaid? Or is it because people at work in general FEEL unappreciated, taken advantage of, not respected and not heard?  

Workforce dynamics have not been – well – so dynamic. For the first time in history, there are four generations at work. Baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and now Gen Z and employee expectations are changing dramatically. People are driven more by purpose and personal and professional values. We are more independent and more people are starting their own businesses. Another new dynamic in the mix is the Side-Hustle where employees work full-time or part-time for an organisation while also working in or operating a second business.  

Your success as a business leader or manager of teams will lie in your capabilities to understand individuals, their motivations, their purpose, their goals and aspirations, their natural talents, their experiences, their skills and the impact they want to make now and into the future. 

How do you cope when your star performer leaves?

Remember, an employee’s long-term goals may not lie with your organisation. So, what is your strategy when your star performer leaves? Did you try to keep them or did you listen to their reasons and acknowledge their career growth and/or transition? Succession planning for an organisation need not be an internal function. Succession planning out of the organisation is a very interesting business model. Imagine an organisation which establishes a learning and development program that assists people to exit the business to achieve the next step in their career?

As we commence the road to recovery in a COVID-19 environment, here are a few tips to improve your relationship with your team:

  • Ensure employees know what their job is and what success looks like in the short-term and long-term, and ensure they know how to utilise their strengths every day.
  • Upskill your employees so they can do their job or undertake new responsibilities with confidence and job satisfaction.
  • Be highly visible and engaged. Listen to and invest in your employees based on their feedback and needs.
  • Offer work and not meaningless tasks.
  • Be open to discussing the matter of engagement with your team and identify solutions to create greater workplace satisfaction.

Importantly, take time to be a coach, a mentor and a manager who is genuinely committed to the advancement of the people in your team. Inspire your workforce to achieve success, cultivating a culture of continual learning. 

If we are to thrive in a world where change and disruption is constant, the future of workforce management is all about harnessing the power and the strengths of people. To achieve this, the future must be about putting people first, before technology, before processes and ahead of brand. By focusing on the human element of your business, taking a more holistic approach to the needs of your employees and developing a mindset that adopts “the whole person agenda”, you as a manager will succeed and so will your business. 

Remember, as the manager, YOU are the person who enables innovation, progress, development and, importantly, the sustained success of the individuals who make up your workforce.

Interested in learning more about effective workforce management?

Contact Steam Capital today!

Libby Marshall

Author Libby Marshall

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