Posts

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.

The irony is not lost on me that I am writing a blog (content) on why content isn’t all it was.

But talk to many business owners about their ability to directly link their content to active red hot leads is ambiguous. From a marketing standpoint yes, arggh, we know you need content. You need an active website. You need to update and revisit your content for the Google gods to reward you with a top of the pops ranking but if anyone out there is creating content it’s a hard slog. I know I’m the bearer of bad news here but you’re competing again millions of blogs getting published each day. That’s right each day. In 2019 its estimated that 4.4 million blogs were published E-V-E-R-Y day. It quickly starts feeling like a thankless task.

The reasons behind content creation is for two things.

  1. To share a little about you, let people get to know your area of expertise, your passions and what you do day to day.
  2. The next is to put them at the top of a sales funnel and with more and more content the intent is to work the prospect through your funnel, keep reminding them that you’re there until they are ultimately convinced that you and your business are the right option for them.

Here’s the problem of why the conversion is unclear. Subscribers, readers, followers can be a passive bystanders for many days, months and years consuming content and if we never purchase then that is a lot of time and money out the door for creators in the hope someone will pick up the phone. 

We can measure likes but we can’t measure engagement unless it results in an action.  Unfortunately, I’ve confirmed the need to create content is still there. Articles, blogs and videos are all necessary evils but if you want to engage people on a higher level we need to turn up the notch a little.

Ok Liv, ‘where’s it all at?’ I hear you say. It all lies with creating…

 …an Engaged Community

 Community offers the one thing that we all want and need which is connection. If there is anything that this time of housebound madness has taught us is that we need connections.We need to offer the chance for our customers and potential customers to meet with us on a different plain. Sure, it might not be face to face all of the time but many people have proven connection online is totally doable.

I’ve held some online sessions of late and it was with some apprehension and some reservation on whether I could create engaging experiences in the online space. My happy place is in a room full of people with a some post-its sharpies and an ability to read a room. These are all things I miss and I won’t lie it is slightly trickier in an online space but it’s totally doable. It comes down to authenticity and fulfilling a need. It could be the need for a chat or the need for information or inspiration. We’re all after something. 

Why is creating connections more effective than content?

By creating a community and connections you are offering an opportunity for people to connect, learn from each other and provide an experience.

When you write the next earth shattering post you’ll experience what many of us content creators do. Some people read it. Most will scroll past it, or like it without reading it, save it to read later (which is as good as filing it in the bin) or perhaps not even see it if because they haven’t opened up their spam that day or logged onto LinkedIn or Facebook.

By creating a conversation instead of posting an article you begin a live connection and form communication that isn’t all one way. There is back and forth, engagement respect and understanding. It’s not a passive speed read and then back into the newsfeed.

It’s an opportunity to connect with people who are facing the same challenges and discuss some solutions. It’s an opportunity to get off the sales soap box and step down and have some real conversations and its where magic happens. In this kind of scenario, its highly likely you won’t have all the answers and the good news is that you don’t need all the answers. You’re providing an opportunity for others to think.Connections are more important now more than EVER

Let’s look at the importance of connections in a time of crisis

At 8:45am on September 11, 2001 suddenly an explosion near the top of the north tower of the World Trade Centre occurred. Thousands stopped in their tracks to watch black smoke pour from the place of impact—an awful lot of smoke for what initially was mistaken for a small plane that had lost its way.

An attack on the world economy would leave more than an economic crisis, it was a human one. That statement might be sounding a little too familiar right now?In the wake of the attacks isolation and fear never being higher in NYC. Survivors had lost entire families. Workers lost colleagues and finding a new place in the world when overcome with grief is no easy feat. In 2002 Scott Heiferman done something he had never done before. He met his neighbours. The ideas of how to strengthen community engagement and connections gave him a flurry of ideas. 30 to be exact and two of which he acted on. One of those was the creation of the MeetUp platform.

Many of use have joined MeetUp groups to learn and connect over common interests and it’s a hugely rewarding networking experience. The last record of user numbers of MeetUp was done in 2017 and was flagged at over 35 million people worldwide. Clearly a few of us out there feel the need to be a part of a community.Let’s also not forget the theory of give to receive. By helping others on the journey by being involved in your world and further understanding your skills and flat out superstar charisma (ok not all of us have that but you know what I mean) people are less likely to feel pressured to click here or call now.

Now can you convert your customers and potential customers into a community? Don’t know where to start? Then let’s bounce some ideas around and start thinking what your community might look like…. I’m up for a coffee when you are.

In a survey by IBM CEO’s considered creativity to be one of the most important factors to success. Yet turn around and ask anyone in your office if they’re creative (outside of the creative department of course) and ask them are you creative. Yeah you know it. They’ll say no, as most of us do.

I love to say this but we’re all wrong. We all think of the arts when we talk creativity. It either lays in design that is tangible or its something we do when we’re a genius locked away in a room by ourselves, but both couldn’t be further from the truth.

So how do we unlock our creativity? Creativity relies on a depth of understanding of a problem that doesn’t come without a personal connection or experience. This is what evokes inspiration in us. If we are trying to solve the problems of our customers we need to connect with them. We need to experience the problem or connect with them to understand their perspective.

Why do you think startups have the ability to be disruptive over the big conglomerates? Its because their story comes from experiencing the frustration or pain of a problem and they become so focused on fixing it that it becomes a passion and purpose onto itself. They understand the problem intimately.

It doesn’t stop there the creative thinkers of our time experience something, get inspired by an idea and then analyse it from different perspectives to pull it apart to see if their idea is viable.

And here lies the journey to creativity. It doesn’t lie in your ability to pick up a paint brush or design some creative copy. It starts with ideas. That’s right ideas. Now correct me if I’m wrong but I’m betting you have had a few ideas of your own lately right? Then in that case you my friend have the capacity to label yourself as creative so let’s look at 6 reasons why organisations need creativity.

But first let’s hit the gym. ???

1. Increased workplace problem solving

“Creativity is like a muscle”. David Kelley form IDEO and Author of Creative Confidence said it and it’s true.

Imagine the first time you walk into a gym. You’re not sure what some of the equipment does, if you’re dressed right what stretches to do. It’s all feeling a bit foreign.

Then skip forward to when you’ve been going 4 times a week for a year. What is it feeling like now? You go straight to your routine warm up stretch and get to business. Heck you might even have a bit of a swagger as you walk through those doors and flick a few index fingers towards to Tom, Dick and Lucy. And so you should you’ve earnt the right to be there.

Creativity is the same. It feels totally foreign at first. It feels clunky, hard and uncomfortable but the more we look for any opportunity to pause and look at things differently it gets easier. Give yourself permission to suck at brainstorming then reflect and think about how the next session can be done better.

Start small. At the beginning of every meeting bring an idea to work on for 5 mins. Give your team permission to flex their creative muscles.

How many times do we tell ourselves I’m not the creative type? I’ve said it myself, many times. We link it to being able to draw or paint, but creativity isn’t just about tangible design. It’s simply about creation. Business models, customer experiences, processes. I mean we’ve all heard creative accounting. Creativity is within all of us.

Allowing teams, the time to collaborate and think differently helps them to work out how to solve problems. Our minds naturally want to solve problems so give them the time to do it.

2. Spend more time doing the work that matters by prioritising

Creativity allows time for perspective. It helps everyone identify the key elements to our organisation that are going to make a difference whether it’s in the long term or the short term. By having perspective this allow us to understand the bigger picture and where our time is best spent. Is it completing a to-do list, getting your inbox down to zero unread or is it doing something today that will make a difference to someone tomorrow?

3. Better teamwork and team bonding

I always hear this catch cry that everyone loves a brainstorming session. But why? Is it because we walk out thinking we’ve solved the world’s problems or was it feeding our need to collaborate, communicate and connect?

Organisations often believe that in order to improve workplace culture we need a team bonding event or more social club catch ups. These are quick fixes and unsustainable ones. Instead focus on how your team can work together more effectively and connect on a level that allows them to be open and transparent. Teams unite over a common problem. We may have different perspectives but when we work on finding a solution to a problem together, we can have healthy and higher-level discussions that unite us and give us interactive moments of meaning.

4. Increased team engagement and interaction

The next time you play scrabble have someone stand behind you and tell you what each word will be that you can put down. The only way you can play the game is if the individual behind you tells you what to play. Thinking for yourself is not permitted. Sound like a fun game?

Of course not. Why would we ever play a game like that?

Yet in the workplace this happens all the time. Whether it’s a CEO, middle manager or micro manager we think it’s acceptable to hand down the solutions with the focus on a deadline. It’s a do this by then not a we need to do this because……

We become driven by to do lists and tactics with no time to refocus. We’re driven by order for our hands, but not enough time is spent on engaging our minds and our hearts. Our minds are constantly seeking to solve problems and if we link that to our purpose or our hearts then we are more engaged at work. If we are more engaged at work, we are more likely to proactively seek out healthy interactions. As teams we work together more effectively because we are all playing a part towards a bigger picture.

If engagement and interaction are high people will seek more problems to solve. The less problems that exist in an organisation the more productive it is and the better results it can deliver.

5. Improved ability to attract and retain quality employees

I like to call this the happy kids in the playground affect. If you have a bunch of kids playing in one particular section of a playground you can bet that new kids entering are attracted to the area of the playground. There’s more fun, more laughter coming from that section so something great must be happening.

We run to what looks fun ;o) Even as adults!

It’s the same with a flourishing culture. When people are happy at work, word spreads.

6. Drives the desire to learn and be curious

In keeping with the theme of children they have a natural ability to be innovators as opposed to us more conditioned and seasoned adults. It all lies in their ability to ask why? Asking why repeatedly can lead us to a path to the ‘Aha’ moment. They become hard to attain as we get older and there is only one reason for that, and this is because we become programmed to act on assumptions. We become conscious of the judgment of others, so we don’t ask too many questions. If we do, we’re worried we’ll be seen as that co-worker without a clue but true innovation stems from a curious mind.

We spend so much time delivering a knee jerk reaction to problem solving that we end up doing a band aid fix more often and not and that is because we lack the root cause understanding.

Innovation is our driving buzz word, yet we spend more time in the tinkering and polishing phase that all that work is meaningless if we haven’t understood the root cause of the problem.

If you don’t know the root cause to a problem, you are trying to fix a headache with a band aid. Organisations who spend more time in the upfront stages of innovation are the ones more likely to get it right. This involves more time in discovery, more time defining the problem and more time in the creative brainstorming phase.

The best leaders of our time are continuous learners they adapt a beginner’s mindset and allow their creative mind to flow.