Workforce Changes: Future Head Scratchers

Consider this. It’s 2025 and the world we knew 6 years ago has changed dramatically.  The workforce no longer hinges on hierarchies and what worked in the past.  It’s about what could be possible and new agile systems schematics.  Data Analyst has toppled Dentist as the top job and Tech Ethicists are highly sought after.

And those are only a smidgen of what I imagine will be different in the 2025 world of work.  We’ll be scratching our heads as we think back on some illogical and inane practices, unwritten rules and beliefs we worked by. 

Here are my top 5 head scratchers on the workforce and why they’ll seem absurd in the near future:

1. Why was there an invisible barrier between employees and leaders?

I get it – executives are busy people. In the past they opted to put their faith and time into a tight circle of people surrounding them.  So how could they possibly tap into the ingenuity lying below them? They often didn’t. 

Conversely frustrated experts and innovators weren’t able to affect the value chain without ruffling feathers trying to leap over their manager to access senior leadership.

There’s a reckoning now with Millenials and Gen Zs; they’re unimpressed with hierarchies and prefer cross-functional relationships within an organization. They expect access to whomever they need in order to work collaboratively and achieve results.

We’re more comfortable now with flatter organizations and less hierarchy with glass ceilings in between.

2. Why did we believe high performers automatically made good managers?

It’s an easy assumption to make. If an employee proves to be a superstar in their role as a subject matter expert and sole contributor, why wouldn’t they make a superstar manager?

Did we ever get that wrong. Finally we realize that leading and inspiring others requires it’s own unique expertise. And, most people don’t come with the natural aptitude to be successful managing others. 

Companies invest in their managers, ensuring they have the critical people skills to guide and nurture their teams to success.

Companies have figured out the path to healthy employee engagement: having a specialized stream of people managers, whose only or primary role is the responsibility to develop, lead and motivate teams of people.

This also enables experts to become functional managers focusing on what they’re good at, without the added stress of human resource related issues.

3. Why did we believe employees be required to manage people to get a promotion?

This organizational policy always baffled me.  Sure, in theory it may have seemed like a good idea as a way to build soft skills and get a different perspective on leadership. But like head scratcher #2 above, it ran the risk of demoralizing both the manager and their direct reports.

A 2011 CareerBuilder survey revealed that more than a quarter (26%) of new managers felt underprepared for their new responsibilities and a staggering 58(%) reported receiving no management training.

The result? Gallup’s recent workplace survey found that almost half of all employees left their jobs because of their manager.  This begs the question: why have this policy when the potential for failure is 50%?

4. Why did we believe there was only one way to solve a problem?

For years we followed tradition. When success followed a certain approach to our work, we continued to rely on that method. Sure it may have moved us forward, but the kinds of challenges that are emerging don’t always lend themselves to “old think”.

I remember being referred to as a “maverick” by my supervisor because I challenged the status quo.  I was always looking at new ways of getting buy-in to change and looking at possibilities rather than “tried and true” methods.

With increased globalization, complexity and ambiguity, we’re in a time of disruption: everything we know to be predictable is on the chopping block.

This means addressing challenges in new ways. Whether it’s how we work, how we developing new insights to inform decision-making or shifting our focus on new technologies.

5. Why did the 9 to 5 work schedule ever last so long? 

Just ask Camilla Kring why this was never a good idea. Founder of Denmark’s Super Navigators aps, she’s on a mission transform the industrial work culture towards one that’s more flexible.

Her research on our personal circadian rhythms debunks the long held beliefs that to be successful we need to be an early bird. That’s great for certain people, but the rest of us may have family dynamics, work methods and biological rhythms best suited to working later in the day or evening.

Think about it. Are companies supporting flexibility more likely to have engaged and happy employees? Apparently yes according to Kring.

But that’s not the only reason for workday flexibility. With globalization, many of us need to be available to work with clients and colleagues in other time zones. It’s a 24-hour world; being able to adjust our schedules is now a necessity.

The Future is Now

As we move ahead in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complexity, ambiguity) world, questioning the status quo is required. Being open to possibilities, collaboration and asking “what if?” will become the norm in order to solve challenges and ignite new approaches.

Are you already scratching your head?

Can there be Trust In Virtual Teams?

Who doesn’t know the importance of trust is in the workplace? Okay, so maybe we don’t all get the significance of it, but that’s a topic for another article. Let’s assume trust is the most critical element of the workplace and, in particular, teams.

With huge demands, competition and the pace of technology, the need to collaborate has never been more urgent. Collaboration means coming together formally on a team, structurally defined for the purposes of the organization or, informally (ad hoc) to respond quickly and efficiently to time-sensitive goals.

In both cases, the ability for teams to work effectively hinges on the level of trust the members develop. We know from the work of Patrick Lencioni in his The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, without trust and commitment, results are hard to achieve.

It starts with all team members agreeing and knowing the critical elements of trust. Each must practice fairness, honesty, openness, exceptional listening skills, respect toward others’ expertise, and candor without being competitive or passive. This creates the space for members to be vulnerable, test out ideas, be creative and influence each other toward optimum results.

But what if your team is virtual? You’ve never, if ever, met your teammates in person and you all live in different locations and time zones. How easy would it be to build trust? Is it even possible?

The short answer is: it can be.

Recently working with leaders in a global communications company, I was struck by how highly they spoke of their teams and company culture. They were fully engaged in their work and committed to high quality results. This really surprised me as the majority of them worked virtually with team members thousands of miles away.

However, in another fast-paced global company the employee experience is far from being engaged and connected within the company let alone their teams.

I became curious. Why is it virtual employees in one company thrive while in another they’re stressed, disengaged and looking for the door?

A leader at a global IT firm knows all about success for virtual teams. When asking her if trust is possible for virtual teams, she emphatically answered, “ABSOLUTELY! !”

She cautioned, however, that for companies (large or small) wanting to move from ‘traditional face-to-face’ to a ‘virtual’ work environment, it’s a cultural shift that doesn’t happen overnight. Like any successful change, leadership needs to lead it and provide communication tools necessary to make virtual meetings and collaboration easy and effective.

But it doesn’t end there. The shift actually ignites when the culture of trust transfers from members of small teams to large teams and cross-functional teams they participate within.

These are key leadership behaviors that contribute to building trust in teams:

Essentials for Leaders of Small Teams:

  1. Establish Rapport by scheduling regular (weekly) 1:1’s, assigning work that capitalizes on members’ strengths and providing regular feedback.
  2. Focus intently by listening and actively engaging with your members. Never multi task during 1:1’s or team meetings as it demonstrates you don’t care and that erodes trust.
  3. Set Expectations that your team members show up to meetings prepared, on time, and ready to deliver quality work. Expect participants to activate their computer camera so you can see each other. Making personal connections often is key.
  4. Meet in Person by getting together twice or quarterly a year. It’s the casual as well as formal gatherings that solidify strong relationships.

Essentials for Large Teams:

  1. Build Rapport as above, with the added benefit of the smaller team’s culture and expectations cascading upward as reinforcement.
  2. Span of control for the leader of a large team allows for regular 1:1’s with the next level of leadership to set tone, culture and expectations.
  3. Skip Level 1:1’s several levels below your Direct Reports, scheduled quarterly, establishes relationships at multiple levels. Make sure all team members and employees feel a connection with you and that you care about their success.
  4. Be fully present to focus, actively listen and look to the camera; your team members know when you aren’t and that kills trust.

This is consistent with the findings of Niki Panteli, leader in Information Systems and researcher in trust: it’s the quality and consistency of content and frequency that’s necessary to foster trust in the virtual workplace.

Mutually negotiated and jointly constructed trust relationships are “situated”. As a member of a team, small or large, you too have a responsibility to be part of building the trust:

  1. Collaboratively create team rules – figure out together what’s most important to this team (hint: these may look different from team to team).
  2. Stick to team rules as it aligns with or, despite the culture of the company or leadership behavior.
  3. Hold each other accountable and call out the team when it gets off track.
  4. Embrace each member’s high value and expertise.
  5. Have fun! Work is work, but infusing  time together with a lighthearted personal approach can go a long way to reinforcing trust.

Working from home, I’m keenly aware I’m not my own island. As the future of work continues to be more diffused, so does the need for virtual workers like me, and teams and companies that build foundations of trust. Without it, results can never be guaranteed.

I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your experience working virtually with a team.

Picky is Actually Strategic when it comes to social media

How many of us find ourselves being picky about who we date or spend a weekend with? I bet most of us. So why is it we aren’t picky about who we connect with via email and social media – especially when it comes to business?

I recently posted a tweet about Twitter being the airport lounge of B2B. Got tons of hearts on that one. I also wrote a blog about the new noise causing stress – social media and the barrage of emails from people selling us things. I get it. Social media has become the grand master for small business marketing. It’s super cheap, highly accessible and can be done in 10 words or less. Sounds great!

The problem is that entrepreneurs cast their nets so widely I feel like I have to duck and dive with all the free offers and promotions. The other problem is the majority of entrepreneurs/on-line businesses all sound the same. (Believe me – I’m not saying I’m an exception.)

How is it possible to figure out who’s who in the zoo? Let alone if what they offer is of any real value. It’s the Wild West out there and anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves a coach or strategist. Suddenly everyone’s an expert. And maybe social proof isn’t – well just isn’t credible anymore?

For me, the amount of time I’ve used up trying to keep up with everyone online is taking a huge toll on my business and stress level.

So I’ve decided I don’t have to follow the lemmings. I can be picky. In fact, I’ve decided that being picky is actually strategic when it comes to social media.

Let me explain.

I’m shaking up my approach to inviting people into my world.

Before I subscribe to your site I check out who you are, including credentials. Do you give any deets on your FB page about your biz, education or past employment? Is your LinkedIn bio up to date and factual or is it stuffed full of filler? And how and what do you say in your tweets? I’m not a fan of constant profanity or meanness so if that’s your game, chances are you aren’t making it in my door.

Over the next few months I’ll weigh out if the value you offer me is worth the follow. A big name doesn’t always equate to a follow. I’ve unsubscribed to even the biggest names in the biz. They may be amazing but they aren’t for me.

And speaking of value, I’m looking for sites and people who challenge the status quo to help me stretch my thinking or who offer up well thought out systems for my business. Most of all, I want to surround myself with people who authentically want to make the world a better place.

By now you may be saying to yourself, “she doesn’t get it”. Social media is ALL about connecting, sharing information and staying on the pulse of culture. Here’s where I diverge. I’m in business and I admittedly use social media for the cheap marketing. BUT, here’s the difference, like any shop or service business owner, I want to work with a specific clientele and there are people who want to work with someone like me. So, like my clients, I want to be picky in whom I serve.

And guess what? Given this is business, being picky is strategic. If I’m not strategic on where and with whom I spend my scarce time, I won’t be giving my clients what they deserve.

I’m all about quality. If I follow you, I’ll spread your love. If I work with you, I’ll spread your love. Which may be odd considering that on-line business seems to be all about quantity (or am I missing something?).

It makes me wonder if we’ll hit a saturation point in this Wild West? In the meantime, I’m more than happy if you use a similar strategy when adding me to your community.

Are you being strategic in your business?