The Engaged Yet Unfulfilled Employee; What Is He/She Looking For?
What trends will dictate the survival of YOUR organization and employees in the next 10-15 years?
Based on a study by Constellation Research, the average life expectancy of Fortune 500 companies is shrinking by the year; some of the most powerful companies in the world are being destroyed as we speak as a result of digital disruption. This disruption, coupled with the expected technological advances in the next 10-15 years creates an extreme urgency for adaptability and innovation both in the nature of our work, and in the job positions we create. Our survival is completely dependent on our ability to adapt and innovate as companies, teams, and individuals. How are you adapting to the disruption of technology? A bit insight from David Lee in his recent TED talk...
According to a study conducted by Forrester Research, 25 million jobs are predicted to disappear in 10 years — 3x as much as was lost in the financial crisis. No matter what your job is, at least some, if not all of your job will be replaced by robots or software in the next few years. We need to take responsibility in industry and start to design new jobs that will still be relevant in the age of robotics.
We have endured two mass extinctions of jobs before; the challenge we face this time, however, is that instead of a hundred years to move from farms to factories, or 60 years to fully build out a service economy, we may only have 10 or 15 years to adjust, and could be living in a world that’s robotic, largely unemployed, and stuck in depression.
If we start taking steps right now to change the nature of work, we can not only create environments where people love coming to work, but also generate the innovation that we need to replace the millions of jobs that will be lost to technology.
David insists that we brought this upon ourselves, not just because we are the one building the robots, but because even though most jobs left the factory decades ago, we still hold on to this factory mindset of standardization and de-skilling. We still define jobs around procedural tasks and then pay people for the number of hours it takes to perform these tasks. We’ve created narrow job definitions like cashier, loan processor or taxi driver and then asked people to form entire careers around these singular tasks. These choices have left us with two dangerous side effects. The first is that these narrowly defined jobs will be the first to be displaced by robots, because single-task robots are just the easiest kinds to build. But second, we have accidentally made it so that millions of workers around the world have unbelievably boring working lives.
To counteract this, we have to start creating new jobs that are less centered on the tasks that a person does and more focused on the skills that a person brings to work. For example, robots are great at repetitive and constrained work, but human beings have an amazing ability to bring together capability with creativity when faced with problems that we’ve never seen before. It’s when every day brings a little bit of surprise that we have designed work for humans and not for robots.
Companies need to realistically think about the tasks that will be disappearing over the next few years and start planning for more meaningful, more innovative work to replace it. The narrow job titles not only sound boring, but they’re actually a subtle encouragement for people to make narrow and boring job contributions. But I’ve seen firsthand that when you invite people to be more, they can amaze us with how much more they can be.
Innovation isn't derived from a single person or team. For a company to not fall behind, it requires that each employee consistently evaluate the nature of his/role, and pinpoint inefficiencies to maximize the impact of the role. As we all know, a company is only as strong as its weakest link, which makes it crucial that employees are trained and engaged adequately.
In recognition of this, the past few years have seen a dramatic shift of attention toward employee engagement practices and measures, with an extreme emphasis on company culture. In many cases, organizations have reported spending more on developing culture than on the company's products.
...What is your innovation strategy?
One of the greatest issues that Fortune 500 companies are now recognizing is that despite these employee engagement practices, employees are still unfulfilled.
As we've been guided to think that engagement=happiness, leaders of large corporations find themselves wondering about the missing link. Are we not engaging employees properly, or are employees seeking something beyond engagement? Is it possible that engagement is only a piece of what employees seek? If so, what's the next piece?
Fortunate 500 companies & consulting firms like Facebook and Bain & Co. have begun to tackle this issue and develop testing to identify the gap.
Employee Expansion, The Uncharted Domain
Years ago, we realized that the traditional 1-dimensional growth model of a career ladder was based on an old leadership style intended to make mass production more efficient. Employees wanted purpose and companionship—and as a result, the 2-dimensional model of employee engagement was introduced. Fast-forward a few decades and we find ourselves facing a similar problem now—employees are engaged and still unsatisfied. Why, we ask? The answer is simple: Engagement is only a piece of the bigger puzzle. And the next piece? Expansion.
Imagine the life of a millennial, raised with the aid of interactive experience. Everything must happen immediately. They believe they have the energy reserves to challenge work-place leadership principles. To them, a high standard of living is clear in itself. Things like information, skills, dreams, and lifestyle are but a click away. In the workplace, it translates to a desire to experiment with roles, skills, hard problems, and responsibilities.
It doesn't end there. Millennials are raised with ownership; at a young age, they have their own computers, accounts, cell phones, credit cards. Yet we look around us today and still wonder why 40% of the workforce will be freelancers in the next few years (based on various studies from Inuit to The Freelancer's Union). Isn't it obvious?
This expansionist mindset, along with the concepts of exposure, immediacy, purpose, flexibility, and ownership are deeply embedded into millennial identity and in the way they live their lives and, manifesting into our professional cultures. As such, employee expansion allows employees to explore beyond his or her current role, knowledge and environment and 1) embrace the power to shape his/her role within the company, and 2) bring outside inspiration back to the office.
Just putting into perspective why millennials feel the constant need to expand inside and outside of our workplace. It’s beyond vertical growth and horizontal growth — it’s about purpose and it’s about absorbing everything that we can so we can create & innovate. Our growth is no longer 2 dimensional.
And while millennials are more willing to leave jobs to explore other opportunities, the desire for expansion is very much universal. When asking around, we found that employees of all ages and backgrounds value expansion, it’s just that millennials recognize it first because they’re raised to do so.
Taking a look at the responses of employees based on studies conducted by Korn Ferry and Flexjobs, employees are placing flexibility at a level of critical importance.
Flexibility is what will keep an employee motivated & devoted to the company and his/her role. And these numbers make it impossible to ignore or postpone it!
Especially with Generation Y millennials taking over leadership positions and generation Z being released into the workforce...
How prepared are you?
In order to gain some clarity, we asked around to see what flexibility meant to employees. As seen on the left, answers range from expansion outside of the employee's role to expansion outside of the organization, with a focus on time and location flexibility, as well as professional development.
As one employee answers, "It's about freedom to work on my own growth and explore my path with the company, and not just at the company--sometimes that also means outside of the company."
With a need for flexibility on the rise, we expect to continue seeing growth in co-working spaces and networking events, places where individuals are encouraged to venture a little outside of their role and company in order to absorb outside inspiration needed to fuel ideas.
"You know that sensation you feel when you meet someone or do something and instantly feel yourself expanding? That's what we want to feel at work."
The Infinite Team
It's important to note that companies are transforming quickly as well. In 2007, a study was conducted to identify the central characteristics of chosen leaders. These characteristics were identified as: honesty, predictability, competence, and inspirational nature. This research was conducted again in 2013, this time focused on generation Y, where they found that the same characteristics were relevant, only competence was replaced by ability to collaborate. Here, we find an emphasis on teamwork over individual output.
In a recent Creative Mornings podcast featuring Simon Sinek, Sinek differentiates finite companies from infinite companies based on the mission of the companies. He argues that the finite company exists primarily to out-do its competitor, while the infinite company exists for a deeper purpose, a mission. The infinite company understands that sometimes it will be ahead and sometimes it may fall behind. The important aspect is that there is a greater mission that drives it, and that's what makes it irreplaceable.
Now let's take a step back and apply the same concept to teams. With the rise of independent consulting firms, you can virtually outsource entire departments. With this in mind, we shall define the finite team based on the standard role of a team: to support the organization's mission and strategic goals, and work with other departments to provide the tools necessary for the company to function and profit. What then, would an infinite team look like?
The infinite team functions as an organization of its own, and holds itself to the same standards and expectations as consulting companies. The purpose of the infinite team isn't merely to support the company's function, but to become a leader and isnpiration to their industry/specialty. This requires not only dedication to the company's mission, but also a high level of trust and communication. In order to create these infinite teams, a few things must line up.
- Alignment between employees and the company such that talent is maximized and aligned with strategic goals. This alignment provides a foundation for trust, growth, and commitment.
- In order for teams to work, there must be a deep understanding of each person's role within the team beyond their job responsibilities. One of the most costly mistakes a company can make is to underestimate the importance of team compatibility and communication system.
- Finally, individuals, teams, and companies can only go so far if it's confined within the company's walls. Innovation requires not only motivation from within the company, but also inspiration beyond the company. Employees and teams must venture beyond the company for exposure to trends, innovations, market research to truly understand the customers, market, and how to more effectively approach their responsibilities. Only so can they produce truly innovative and impactful ideas.
When Toys Age is the home of Employee Expansion and founder of B2B Mentorship, with a mission to transform B2B relationships & expand employee and company potential two teams at a time.
At When Toys Age, we envision greater collaboration and transparency between organizations. There's been so much progress in the last few years--blogs, conferences, co-working spaces have developed into platforms to share information and best practices. Imagine where our companies would be, how much harder your role would be without this exposure. As far as we know, these institutions and platforms are still individual-focused rather than team-focused. As such, our mission is to take the next leap of transformation to tighten B2B relationships & expand employee and company potential two teams at a time.
As for employees, our vision is that by allowing employees to gain clarity on their unique power, style, and mission, coupled with the organization's support for expansion, more employees will commit to the roles they built, innovation comes more natural, and greater trust and collaboration emerge both in the workplace and between companies.
B2B Mentorship is a platform to gain exposure to best practices and new ideas by allowing you to tackle growing pains and barriers of your teams with a team from a different company who is facing similar challenges. Whether this is in your industry or out of your industry, expect a fun and highly interactive brainstorming, hackathon-like experience with a new team. Not only will your employees gain exposure to different systems, processes, technologies, innovations, and approaches, but they'll be able to reinvent their role and reevaluate what they bring to the table, how they fit in to the team, and the greater vision of the organization. When David Lee ran a prototyping contest within his company, this is what he found. Keep in mind that this is just one company, with people they already work with.
We were trying to figure out whether the primary limiter to innovation was a lack of ideas or a lack of talent, and it turns out it was neither one. It was an empowerment problem. And the results of the program were amazing. We started by inviting people to reenvision what it is they could bring to a team. And when people were no longer limited by their day-to-day job titles, they felt free to bring all kinds of different skills and talents to the problems that they were trying to solve. We saw technology people being designers, marketing people being architects, and even finance people showing off their ability to write jokes. We ran this program twice, and each time more than 400 people brought their unexpected talents to work and solved problems that they had been wanting to solve for years.Collectively, they created millions of dollars of value,
Imagine what can happen when teams from different companies come together.
What is your employee strategy, and is it ready for what is coming our way? Following the 3-day experience, we offer additional services to guide you through the design and implementation of an employee engagement & employee expansion strategy suitable for your organization.
Our mission is to prepare organizations for the impending employment & technological changes
To transform B2B relationships & expand employee and company potential two teams at a time.
We're not just another workshop. There's an extreme urgency for innovation, and traditional employee engagement workshops have yet to recognize the importance expansion in the workforce. We wholeheartedly believe that employee expansion is the future of employment.
WTA is gathering the most innovative companies around Boston to pilot
Do you want to be a pilot or a passenger?
In five months, what will your company be doing? What about in five years?
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