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Understanding the changing business model

The first of the 2018 series of Quora Consulting’s Smartworking Summits, which took place in March, resulted in a fascinating series of talks that encompassed gig working, diversity, multigenerational working and a call for Senior Managers to take key decisions based on fact not opinion

The nub of the summit, which brings together Senior Managers, CEOs, CFOs, COOs and HR Directors as well as Group Property/Facilities Directors from FTSE 100/ Fortune 500 organisations, was to discuss the sort of workplace we should expect in the future. It asked, how can organisations attract and retain the top talent, will automation affect jobs and what will it take to create “better” work?

With digital platforms making it far easier for people to work in exactly the way they want, Quora’s research has shown that there are five million people currently working in the UK gig economy or around 15.6 per cent of the total workforce. There is an increasingly diverse and multigenerational talent pool, with people working well past retirement age, alongside the younger generation of “digital natives” taking up their first managerial roles. For employers there is a challenge to offer people the kind of work they want, a need to better understand today’s talent landscape and embrace change as good.

This requires organisations, including those that have been fantastically successful, to “disrupt their own model and change the way they work. What’s made you successful in the past is definitely not going to make you successful in the future and that means you’ve got to change and figure out what that may mean to your people and teams.”

Businesses need to avoid complacency – manifested in as a “know it all” culture to transform into a culture and style of working from people who know everything to having “a growth mind set”, where they listen to customers, clients and colleagues alike, and ensure they respond to their needs.

A relatively new challenge is managing multigenerational workforces – with four generations now occupying the workplace, including the first set of managers from Gen Y –who are embedded in the digital landscape.

But digitisation means that for all of the workforce, whatever their generation, work is no longer a place but a set of activities which lead to a set of outcomes that could be delivered anywhere.

This, as John Blackwell Quora Consulting’s Managing Director concisely summed it up means the creation of a “smart everywhere” environment.

“CEOitis,” defined as people not being honest with their CEO’s is a “condition” that leads to senior managers taking nonsensical decisions based on opinion not facts, warned a senior HR speaker. But with the ability to google any fact we now have no excuse not to challenge these assertions. When determining the best conditions to produce the most effective teams, delegates were directed to Dan Pink’s seminal book ‘Drive’ which argued that the main motivational factor is not money, but rather a deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

The factors which attract and engage workers are those that connect people to their purpose in life and their values, their ability to perform their tasks to the best of their abilities and the autonomy that gives them control over their life and work. This means offering workers the kind of flexibility which allows them to determine how their working day will be, meaning that one of the simplest things we can do to drive people is create greater flexibility in their place of work.

Smart working isn’t confined of course to the private sector, so it was interesting to hear how it’s been done in the public-sector where a traditional environment is being transformed into an agile workspace.

Automation and smart IT is bringing great opportunities into the workspace but it’s also presenting some serious challenges in terms of cyber security. The main use of AI is actually to combat viruses – because currently the number of viruses on the planet are so great the human brain can’t process it. Cyber-security experts at just one tech firm are processing eight trillion logs a year – you can’t deal with that amount without using AI machine learning. And this is why the role of the chief information security officer (CISO), which was invented only around five years ago is growing in importance.

According to a recent report commissioned by INvolve, a membership organisation that champions holistic diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the economic cost of workplace discrimination to the UK Economy is £127 billion a year. Of this, £123 billion is due to gender discrimination, £2.6 billion as a result of discrimination against ethnic minorities and £2 billion due to discrimination as a result of sexual orientation. Yet the most diverse workplaces, in terms of gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation are 12 per cent more likely to outperform industry averages than the least diverse businesses. Despite this evidence, the report found overwhelming evidence that discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and sexual orientation minorities is still widespread, and this it emerged, was due to the underutilisation of human resources.

In an illuminating talk on inclusivity by someone who has encountered a lack of diversity in his own career, we learnt of a phenomenon known as “covering,” where people suppress elements of themselves to fit in. A Deloitte survey on diversity found that 61 per cent experienced covering at work and 50 per cent of them said their expectation to ‘cover’ by their leader had impacted their sense of community and their commitment to their work. To combat this employers need to do more, and this begins with working on developing an employee base that encourages both visible and invisible forms of diversity.

It also means asking, “how can we create an environment where anyone is approachable, ideas can come from anywhere and anyone can feel they actively contribute and engage with the work environment without fear of prejudice?”

Organisations should also consider utilising employee resource groups which represent certain parts of the community, whether that is race, gender or neurodiversity, ex-servicemen or women with children. These groups should be led by people with a knowledge of that area who can determine ways of countering the cultural status quo.

The topic of diversity continued into the Summit’s afternoon Workplace Evolutionaries round table session where one of the foremost opportunities that emerged was the need to create inclusive workplaces for women returning to work and for an older workforce. Quora’s latest research has identified that if women took part in the UK economy as much as men, it would add £600 billion GDP by 2025, equal to 0.7 per cent extra GDP growth.

That has got to be an incentive for change.

The 20th June Smartworking Summit wlll take place in conjunction with the Facilities Show at the Smartworking Theatre in the Capital Suite at Excel.

About Sarah OBeirne


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