Tomorrow’s workers, today.
Co-written by Willy Ling & Kamila Solihin
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.
“Covid-19 is not a one-off challenge... Preparing for the next crisis (or the next phase of the current crisis) now is likely to be much more effective than an ad hoc, reactive response when the crisis actually hits.” (1)
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)
This article is our take on some of the core elements ‘future workers’ need to build - the head, heart and hands - to prepare themselves and their organisations to ride the waves of change.
Are you a business leader and would like to prepare your organisation for change? Reach out to us and we'll be happy to speak with you!
1. "I want to always evolve"
In the face of challenges or predictability, the Future Worker relies heavily on themselves to evolve and maintain a consistent effort to make it happen. They find systems that work to the changing needs of today and tomorrow, and focus on bringing their personal performance to new heights - today’s best is tomorrow’s baseline.
While this may seem logical, many lack the level of consciousness needed to recognise the disparity between their current & desired state, and the help they need to cross the divide. Especially during times of crisis where ‘creatures of habit’ are put to the test, the defense mechanism of those who have not built in this rigor default to blaming the circumstances around them - COVID-19, the government, business leaders, family & friends. While this is convenient, no value can come out of externalising and focusing on aspects outside our locus of control. Future Workers need to be able to “Bring It Back In” - an exercise designed to help prevent externalisation and feeling defeated.
Investing in this level of self-drive will help collectively create a culture of turning inwards and having a high level expectation to oneself as they would others. An organisation with workers who are constantly improving on their own will undoubtedly see improvements all across the board - higher quality work, quicker project turnaround, well managed stakeholders and most importantly, self-managing performers.
Bridging the gap - Here are some tips for how you can help yourself/your team evolve:
Build the desire and discipline to be honest with yourself about what distracts you, what slows you down, and what discipline you need to step away from it - encourage your team to do the same through your check-ins and conversations.
Build a safe space for your team to be open and vulnerable without judgment - this begins with you being conscious and reflective enough about your leadership style, your tone/disposition in conversation, and asking for feedback about how you can help your team grow.
Most importantly, get to know your team - what are their personal & professional goals? How do they (not you!) define growth and success? Then, be proactive in introducing them to new challenges that match their goals and, at the same time, out of their comfort zone. Provide them with guidance along the way and have frequent check-ins to see how they’re doing and what support they need.
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).
(1) Insights You Need from Harvard Business Review: Coronavirus + Business (Harvard Business School Publishing, 2020), Pg. 10, https://store.hbr.org/product/coronavirus-and-business-the-insights-you-need-from-harvard-business-review/10440
(2) "Coronavirus: nearly half a million Chinese companies close in first quarter as pandemic batters economy" https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3078581/coronavirus-nearly-half-million-chinese-companies-close-first
(3) Infinite Game by Simon Sinek, https://simonsinek.com/product/the-infinite-game/
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.
There are a few more important qualities of the Workers of Tomorrow and how you can cultivate them in your employees. Catch Part 2 of the article next Monday! Sign up below for our newsletter, to be notified when future articles are published.
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