Ilkka Mäkitalo, CEO and Co-Founder of Howspace
The pandemic pushed more than three-quarters of companies to change their structure to adapt to new ways of working. Since then, according to Deloitte, 61% of executives are now focused on transforming work. And yet, employees are increasingly dissatisfied. We believe that in the midst of all this urgent change, too much emphasis was placed on structure and control and not enough on how people actually work together.
Employees value collaboration and making an impact with their collective work. These factors represent what workers need from leadership and what they desire in their everyday work, yet the majority don’t believe that these areas are valued or being developed which is causing them to turn off and check out.
Using our latest report on the state of collaboration which surveyed 3,000 employees across 10 industries and seven countries, I’ve pulled together four essential areas leaders must focus on now to establish collaborative workforces of the future.
Organisations with shared values and a defining purpose outperform their peers and achieve higher employee satisfaction. Collaboration is essential to identify, develop and nurture purpose. Collaboration is also what fuels the trajectory from purpose to impact.
74% of employees say company purpose is important and 81% want to work together for a bigger impact. However, only one in three states their company purpose is clear. The writing is on the wall here, leadership has work to do to shift the perception that purpose matters and double down on embedding purpose and impact in daily work and workplace experiences.
Embedding purpose and aligning for impact are mission-critical, but they rely on collaboration. Determining a purpose requires deep engagement from everyone and certainly requires the contribution of every worker. These discussions and working times must be considered as important as every other aspect of work, with the process kept alive and visible in everyday work and employee development.
- Human Centricity
Most executives say that their people are their organisation’s greatest resource, yet alarm bells ring when looking at the statistics. Just one in ten employees strongly agree that their voice is being heard at work, and 60% fear the current business leadership model will remain static or become less human-centric.
Top-down hierarchies feel less effective than ever, yet they are still overwhelmingly present. We must place more emphasis on how we enable human connections and relationships. A change in mindset – from top-down controlled structures to designed collaboration – will play a vital role in addressing this issue.
Invitational leadership is a dynamic shift toward human centricity where leaders integrate and learn from multiple different perspectives in order to inform sense making. By inviting workers into dialog, it ensures that decision makers have the information needed to lead, and also results in an engaged workforce.
- Learning and Development
In 2021 research from Deloitte observed 72% of executives declaring that the ability of their employees to adapt, reskill and take on new roles is an important factor in addressing future business disruption. But just 25% of employees told us they are learning enough to progress at their jobs. More worryingly, fewer than one in five are receiving any training relating to the future of work which is predicted to be highly collaborative. Digging deeper, a sizable number of respondents cited that development focused on inter-departmental collaboration was lacking.
Collaboration is learned, not trained, leadership and development has a crucial role to play in collaboration design. Learning happens on the job every day, in big and small ways. As a result, a new discipline of collaboration design has emerged in order to develop individual collaboration skills and enhanced organisational collaboration capabilities. In this new arena, L&D builds new systems and capabilities for wider collaboration across organisations, while also positioning learning as experimental and part of the everyday. This in turn, builds a workforce where collaboration becomes an organic, healthy working practice that learns and grows communally, all the time.
Even with more people shifting to part-time remote working, 58% of workers report that new technology has yet to be rolled out to aid and encourage collaboration. Just one in three respondents tell us that the new technology they’ve been exposed to has been very helpful for collaboration.
The issue is that most technology solutions provide a virtual context rather than embracing a human one and enhancing how people collaborate. The world of work has been document-centric, with IT systems and management practices focusing on process and reporting. This has made people part of a machine where they can’t do what humans do best.
We are now moving into a place where technology is becoming more transparent and collaboration comes to the fore. To expedite this more immersive and modern working environment, synchronous and asynchronous events need to take place seamlessly in rich and fluid environments to provide just enough structure for a more collaborative and adaptive workforce.
The positive takeaway is that employees tell us they’re keen to change and adapt their work to a more collaborative approach across departments. Addressing the four areas provides a pathway for organisations to change how work happens in a post-pandemic world.