Nurturing The Workers of Tomorrow

This article is written for leaders who are looking for ways to invest in their respective teams, and themselves. If you are looking for self-help, you can still ‘self-administer’ the tips below and use it as a guide when you look for qualities of good leadership.

Many organisations started 2020 with the mindset of every athlete that competes in any tournament: “This is going to be my year”. Setting up for success, organisations invested in market research, business growth & human capital development. Start-ups scuffled for capital to kick off their novel ideas, millions were invested into some 400+ unicorns globally, and corporates doubled down on efficiency and digital transformations – And then came COVID-19.

In China alone, over“460,000 Chinese firms closed permanently in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic pummeled the world’s second largest economy, with more than half of them having operated for under three years…” (2)

Now more than ever, organisations need to invest in and prepare tomorrow’s workers, today – Nurture them to be people who are resilient, ready for & embrace change, and are empathetic members of society who can make sense of the ever changing needs of the world and the opportunities it creates for businesses. Individuals who, for example, can both analyse & synthesise the shift of customer experiences through the innovation in technology today, and evaluate the impact a pandemic like COVID-19 has on their ways of working tomorrow. These are the essential Humans who help build and sustain organisations by creating a holistic culture of performance, solutions that meet tomorrow’s customers’ needs, and successes that bolster financial profitability for growth and shareholders. 

Regardless of the challenge, it’s crucial that organisations are well equipped to quickly pivot. While many ‘band aid’ solutions can (and should) be deployed to help employees, customers, suppliers, and shareholders, organisations also need to seriously consider the need to play the “Infinite Game” (3)

1. "I want to always evolve"

Another characteristic of a Future Worker is one who is accountable to themselves, their team, and their line manager. They are carefully intentional with all that they do and only take the necessary steps to accomplish their goals. They set clear goals and anchor their tasks to key results to guide their decision-making. They are transparent with their decision-making process and demonstrate a level of confidence and bravado to manage upwards – all done with minimal to no ‘busy work’ (aka ‘work’ that masks as productivity; takes time but brings little-to-no value).

 

One of the main challenges leaders are now going through with remote work, is the lack of visibility to team members in order to manage deliverables. While organisations should ideally operate on a trust basis and provide space for workers to self-manage, this requires maturity and consciousness that many have not yet been able to build and sustain. Due to unfortunate home circumstances that make working from home challenging for some (or sometimes, just laziness / being distracted), workers are finding themselves in environments that are not designed for focus, productive work. As a result, productivity declines and leaders are at a default position to pick up the slack of their team members. This adds more things to their plate, creating a heavier weight to the responsibilities they are already shouldering.

 

As a leader, a way to mitigate this challenge of a dip in productivity and also help build Future Workers, is to build clarity and focus around what impact is, and how it is created. Approach each project with discussions and decisions centered around the value you are trying to create (as a project team and the individual roles we play), rather than the work we are tasked to accomplish. Help your team realise that they are not “researching for companies & names to sell to”, but “searching for opportunities to create value by identifying growth organisations and key decision makers to meet”. 

 

Bridging the gap – Here are some tips for how you can help yourself/your team focus on impact through our practice: 

 

At Human Inc, creating impact is how we approach each project — whether internal or client-facing. This means that alignment and understanding of needs are crucial (especially at the inception of the project). We achieve this by having frequent check-ins to make sure resources are being optimally used daily. 

 

  • A structured daily check-in (ie. ‘Stand-up Alicebot* feature on Slack) allows Humans to articulate our goals for the day, and be transparent about our roadblocks. This is filled in daily at 9.00am, and is shared out to the project team at 9.30am prior to a daily 30 minute virtual coffee standup. This method provides the opportunity for team members to pitch in on ways to help each project move forward. It saves time, optimises resources, and prompts for earlier pivots if necessary.

 

  • No projects are actioned without Project Charters being drafted, discussed and decided – this ensures that resources are not ‘wasted’ by working on projects that are not essential, and disciplines us to be focused. 

 

  • ‘Ideas are cheap’ – while ideation is easy, execution and implementation is where the money is. Many want to be involved at the front and end of a process (ideation & decision making/approving), but few want to do the actual work. We adopted a frame called ‘MOCHA’ which identifies the Manager, Owner, (who is) Consulted, Helper, and Approver of every project – this ensures all roles are identified before a project is started and that resources are spread out and can be managed (through an overview of all projects with MOCHAs listed).

2. "I am focused on impact"

Another characteristic of a Future Worker is one who is accountable to themselves, their team, and their line manager. They are carefully intentional with all that they do and only take the necessary steps to accomplish their goals. They set clear goals and anchor their tasks to key results to guide their decision-making. They are transparent with their decision-making process and demonstrate a level of confidence and bravado to manage upwards – all done with minimal to no ‘busy work’ (aka ‘work’ that masks as productivity; takes time but brings little-to-no value).

One of the main challenges leaders are now going through with remote work, is the lack of visibility to team members in order to manage deliverables. While organisations should ideally operate on a trust basis and provide space for workers to self-manage, this requires maturity and consciousness that many have not yet been able to build and sustain. Due to unfortunate home circumstances that make working from home challenging for some (or sometimes, just laziness / being distracted), workers are finding themselves in environments that are not designed for focus, productive work. As a result, productivity declines and leaders are at a default position to pick up the slack of their team members. This adds more things to their plate, creating a heavier weight to the responsibilities they are already shouldering.

As a leader, a way to mitigate this challenge of a dip in productivity and also help build Future Workers, is to build clarity and focus around what impact is, and how it is created. Approach each project with discussions and decisions centered around the value you are trying to create (as a project team and the individual roles we play), rather than the work we are tasked to accomplish. Help your team realise that they are not “researching for companies & names to sell to”, but “searching for opportunities to create value by identifying growth organisations and key decision makers to meet”. 

 

Bridging the gap – Here are some tips for how you can help yourself/your team focus on impact through our practice: 

At Human Inc, creating impact is how we approach each project — whether internal or client-facing. This means that alignment and understanding of needs are crucial (especially at the inception of the project). We achieve this by having frequent check-ins to make sure resources are being optimally used daily. 

  • A structured daily check-in (ie. ‘Stand-up Alicebot* feature on Slack) allows Humans to articulate our goals for the day, and be transparent about our roadblocks. This is filled in daily at 9.00am, and is shared out to the project team at 9.30am prior to a daily 30 minute virtual coffee standup. This method provides the opportunity for team members to pitch in on ways to help each project move forward. It saves time, optimises resources, and prompts for earlier pivots if necessary.

  • No projects are actioned without Project Charters being drafted, discussed and decided – this ensures that resources are not ‘wasted’ by working on projects that are not essential, and disciplines us to be focused. 

  • ‘Ideas are cheap’ – while ideation is easy, execution and implementation is where the money is. Many want to be involved at the front and end of a process (ideation & decision making/approving), but few want to do the actual work. We adopted a frame called ‘MOCHA’ which identifies the Manager, Owner, (who is) Consulted, Helper, and Approver of every project – this ensures all roles are identified before a project is started and that resources are spread out and can be managed (through an overview of all projects with MOCHAs listed).

3. "I am patient and forgiving with myself"

A part of growing means embracing the journey and all that comes with it — the learnings, the wins, the failures. The Future Worker understands this and is patient with their growth. They are forgiving of their own flaws and celebrate their failures. Instead of getting discouraged, they see opportunities in every challenge. 

A worker who treats themselves with respect will treat others with respect. When they are patient with themselves, they are patient with others. Nurturing your workers to embrace this attitude will result in a more empathetic organisation. 

 

Create a culture of healthy and productive feedback:

  • Celebrate even the smallest wins – find opportunities during project debriefs or weekstarts to recall a project outcome and highlight the important achievements, no matter how small. 

  • Always make the time to appreciate the effort that has gone into a project.

  • Follow up with concrete action steps to improve in future opportunities

4. "I equip myself with the right skills for complex-problem solving"

No two problems are the same, but there are a few fundamental methods to approach problem-solving that almost always delivers results. A Future Worker exercises these methods, in addition to having both the independence and collaborative skills to work through a challenge.

This is a valuable skill to have for companies to have more projects ongoing with self-driving teams. Additionally, workers who are comfortable with collaboration will also get things done much quicker and approach each problem in a structured manner. 

For us Design Thinkers, using digital tools like the Mural, a blank canvas with virtual post-its and a dot-voting feature, allows us to collaborate and ideate with user-centricity in mind. When needing to reach out for support through meetings, we use an IDOART framework that gets us all aligned on our intentions, needs, and desired outcomes for a quick and smooth meeting.

5. "I care for and help others grow"

Finally, the Worker of Tomorrow is one who understands that others’ growth is just as important as theirs. It’s not enough for one person to be well-equipped for change while the rest struggle. A high level of awareness, empathy, and humility is crucial for one to recognise their role and responsibilities in growing together as a team. 

Companies that see the journey of growth as a collective, not solitary, effort will most likely have great team dynamics. They are made up of people who care about each other and see their success and others’ success. A company made up of this type of individual can persist through even the toughest challenges. 

With the recent pandemic outbreak, some of us have it harder than others. With our different personalities, circumstances, and roles, we each face challenges that are new for us to navigate by ourselves. But there are those who may have experienced something similar before and take this opportunity to share their learnings. We have an open coffee channel for anyone to jump onto at any point during the day where, while still in a work setting, we can connect with each other on a human level, just like we would at the office

Closing

Nurturing the Future Worker surely isn’t an alone task. Employees themselves must have the desire and drive to be a better version of themselves. They should be aware of the mental, emotional, and physical resilience required to be prepared to take on change and are proactive in improving themselves in these areas. However, a solitary effort is not enough to drive an organisation-wide shift in readiness. Organizations need to be supportive of this effort and create the space for a collective shift.

If Human Inc is a testament to the effectiveness of these tips, then we are proud of and willingly endorse these ideas of how to nurture the workers of tomorrow.

#innovation #futureworker #workersoftomorrow #designthinking

 

What role do organisations play in nurturing Workers of Tomorrow?

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