The rapid transition of new ways of working hasn’t failed put even the global innovation giants into a tailspin. Many are still working through their return to work plans and what the future holds for remote and hybrid working models.

Leading innovative organisations respect that a powerful and healthy workforce can give the business results and competitive advantage they are seeking. In what has been a human problem many organisations are embracing the fact that the solution to the problem lies with reframing our focus from tech and policies to fostering a more human side to work.

In the Forbes article How COVID-19 Transformed the employee experience Meghan Biro describes…

“Working from home can never be considered a trend again, or a privilege. For so many employees it’s become a part of their experience, a crucible moment when everything changed. From now on, it’s going to be a part of our lives. And instead of aiming to shape a better workplace experience for our employees, we’d best let our employees’ experiences do the talking.”

In a time of turmoil wouldn’t it be nice to think that we could regain our ability to reflect on the importance of human connection and collaboration? And then redesign this little thing called work…?

Let’s look at what the plans are for some of the big players when it comes to the future of work.

Hybrid Vs WFH

Dropbox have shunned the idea of Hybrid working model for staff. Instead they’ve adopted the “Virtual First” approach. Once teams are safe to then meet and collaborate face to face, they will offer on demand collaboration spaces called DropBox Studios.

“Hybrid approaches may perpetuate two different employee experiences that could result in barriers to inclusion and inequities with respect to performance or career trajectory. These big-picture problems are non-starters for us,” Dropbox explained in a blog post. 

“We also hope this Virtual First approach will give us the best of remote and in-person work, balancing flexibility with human connection, and creating a more level playing field for everyone. 

Importantly, going Virtual First is an opportunity for us to build an even stronger, more diverse workforce as we hire from increasingly different backgrounds and perspectives. And it’ll set us up to make the right investments in people to grow our business for the future.

While we think Virtual First is the right choice, it’s new for us and we know we may not get it 100% right immediately. So we’re committed to maintaining a learning mindset—to staying open to new information and feedback and iterating over time until we do.”

Earlier in the year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg voiced hybrid work to be the future and expected 50% of its staff to work from home over the five to 10 years. The company has 48,000 employees in 70 offices around the world.

More recently, tech giant Microsoft announced a shift to hybrid work for all its global employees.

Almost seven months after testing large-scale remote work experiment Microsoft has issued guidance to allow at least some staff to work from home even after the pandemic abates. The tech behemoth summed up its vision for the future of work in a blog post by Kathleen Hogan, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, Microsoft. Here’s an excerpt.

“Moving forward, it is our goal to offer as much flexibility as possible to support individual workstyles, while balancing business needs and ensuring we live our culture. For most roles, we view working from home part of the time (less than 50%) as now standard – assuming manager and team alignment,” Hogan says

Speaking at the recently concluded Microsoft Ignite event, CEO Satya Nadella made a case for hybrid work culture and said tech intensity is key to business resilience and digital transformation. Nadella added “there is an urgent need to empower employees and foster a new culture of hybrid work. “

What are some of the other giants planning?

Google and Apple have extended remote work at least until mid-2021, and so have Salesforce and Uber.

Where does workplace culture now exist in a virtual workplace?

Global workplace health and wellbeing consulting firm The Energy Project share their thoughts on workplace culture. “Many people believe culture is intangible and cannot be intentionally altered, but in fact, policies and practices can be deliberately designed, tested, and tweaked. Today some of the most forward-looking companies are engaging employees by designing policies and practices that address four core human needs—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual—the same factors used in human-centered product design.”

For many organisations, the transition continues to evolve. In Perth we are lucky enough to be back at the office albeit on rosters or part-time but the fear of close human contact is still very real and many desks and offices remain vacant as a constant reminder that this isn’t yet over.

For leaders to begin designing their modern workplace a human centred focus or employee centric culture is your recipe for success. Here’s some elements to keep in mind.

This article, how the modern workplace is driven by 6 core human needs gives a quick summary of what core human needs exist at work.

  • Security – We desire health, safety, familiarity, and competence.
  • Status – We seek recognition of our contributions.
  • Achievement – We strive for excellence and take pride in our accomplishments.
  • Autonomy – We seek freedom in our actions and decisions.
  • Purpose – We want to make a meaningful difference.
  • Belonging – We want a meaningful connection to others.

Think about how your workplace delivers on these? Where are the opportunities for improvement? What are some simple solutions you can implement quickly?

Global firm Aon who provide risk, retirement and health solutions have taken an employee centric approach to managing the needs of their 50000 employees.

“We have found that our open, employee-centric approach attracts the kind of employees we are looking for — those who are engaged, healthy, and share our values in terms of creating a good work-life balance, and because of this, we have a very good retention rate too. The board is very engaged in how we develop these strategies, and our management team are invested in making them work.”

Starting your journey to designing new ways of working can be daunting. Even the giants are still managing their way through it. One thing they all have in common however is a human centred approach. By focusing and uncovering the needs of your employee’s new ways of working will reveal themselves.

Organisations that listen and design solutions for their employees will reap the benefit of a more stable, engaged, and productive workforce.

Need more information? If you’re thinking about how to create new ways of working for your team with a human centred approach contact Liv for a coffee and a chat.

This article was written by Olivia O’Connor founder of Liv By Design a human centred research and design thinking consultancy. If you’d like to look at ways to improve your organisations focus on the human side of work reach out today.

Innovation managers, chief innovation officers and head of innovation. These are all new titles becoming more commonplace as organisations realise the importance of developing new solutions and ideas for their markets. Often these roles are filled by someone with no previous experience in a formal innovation role but who have proven themselves and displayed abilities transferrable to driving new ideas across the organisation.

We have the top 3 tips for innovation managers.

Teamwork makes the dreamwork!

It would be a tough task to try and drive innovation alone and its one of the glorious aspects to your role. Who doesn’t love a good brainstorming session and being able to give people in the organisation a chance to have their ideas heard as well as being able to contribute to the next big thing that they’ll be working towards.

Implementing regular forums for collaboration will start things moving in the right direction. It’s important the wider team in the organisation understand the big picture and how important innovation is to the direction of your organisation. Start with an ‘introduction to innovation’ with examples of companies who have transformed themselves through new and innovative ideas. Then provide a summary of what you are trying to achieve, where the organisation sits currently and where it needs to get to in the next 6-12 months and then in the next 5-10 years. You want to gain your teams interest to ensure their future engagement.

Culture Club

You’ve made a good start. You’ve got the members of the organisation together and shared the big vision for the future but now the challenge is to keep up the momentum.

Examine your workplace culture. Chances are that if your organisation have made a specific role for driving innovation then there is a belief not only on the importance of new ideas but that there are areas for improvement in how they have done things in the past. Challenge the status quo and examine why it is that new ideas haven’t succeeded in the past or what improvements could be made on those that did succeed.

Develop an ecosystem that is built on being open to new ideas and open to one another. The acceptance and willingness to share new ideas must be cultivated and encouraged from all members of the organisation. Leaders should demonstrate productive leadership and model the behaviours of what they are trying to instil. Silicon Valley is an example of one of the most innovative ecosystems in the world and it’s these traits that promote the free flow of ideas and lay the grounds for so many success stories.

Seek Out New Methods

Try to view things differently. Examine other organisations who have successfully achieved what you are trying to do or look at different industries that you can learn from. In the global 2018 report “State of Innovation” by CB Insights it clearly states that one of the primary factors affecting innovation velocity is the insular view on how they will attack new developments. Rather than partnering or buying most organisations choose to build innovations themselves. “60% of companies say it takes a year or longer to create new products, with almost one-forth saying it takes over two years from ideation to launch.”

Look at the market and seriously consider partnerships or acquisitions that will help you accelerate your release date. Also, consider opportunities for co-design as you may find a partnering organisation with equal expectations for success who are embarking on the same or similar challenges. If managed correctly co-design and co-creation can ensure more efficient go to market timeframes and less risk.

If you have recently been appointed as an innovation manager congrats! We’d love to hear about your experiences for our research. Do you think we all have a little innovation manager inside of us? :O)

Thanks for reading! We love talking innovation so if you want to chat more contact us here.