Employee Experience: Why the Future of Work Starts Today

Employee Experience: Why the Future of Work Starts Today

In May 2017, I was privileged to be able to present at Australia's first ever Employee Experience Conference, hosted by PwC in their wonderful new premises in Barangaroo, Sydney.

The below is what I took away from the event.

From the C-Suite of a Big Four Firm

To have an idea book-ended by arguments from a Chief Economics Officer and a Chief Creative Officer was fascinating. Different perspectives. Similar conclusions.

The Chief Economics Officer: The economics were in-your-face brutal. Traditional powerhouse economies (the G7 / G20) are being caught up and overtaken by emerging economies. All signs are that the key indicators of economic health in many of the G20 countries are beginning to flatline. He predicted that talented people will start draining out of these countries and go to where the emerging money and interesting new work is.

The data is obviously worrying leaders. There was a great degree of pessimism about the chances of serious growth in all major English-speaking economies. Likewise, there was evidence that people didn’t believe their leaders were capable of comprehending and delivering the technologies necessary for becoming more competitive in such a world.

Except for Australia! Australian leaders are confident they can deliver growth - despite being seen by their employees as the least capable of comprehending and delivering new technologies of all leaders in the English-speaking world. That’s some disconnect!

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What is a Healthy Organisational Culture

What is a Healthy Organisational Culture

The clue is in the word. Organisation. From organ. An arrangement of specialist parts (i.e. heart, liver, kidney) that make a larger whole. The etymology of organisation is from the human body. It's one of many metaphors management research has borrowed. Usually from the natural sciences or technological innovation. To try and explain how organisations work. 

Trendy Metaphors

Looking at the trends, it seems we have not moved too far. The body metaphor persists. Organisations must be lean, agile and flexible. They must carry no flab. An optimised combination of bone, sinews and muscle.  Capable of making the organisation look hot, quick and strong.

They must be able to leap from one opportunity to the other. Never miss a step or stumble.  Land with such ease that complicated manoeuvring looks simple. They must be able to twist themselves into all manner of shapes to adapt to the task at hand.

We're talking Brad Pitt merged with Nadia Comaneci, topped off with a little Zlata.  

Now, it's not to say that these concepts are bad or wrong.  But that they come replete with built-in blind spots and risks. Just like all our other organisational metaphors did. Risks and blind-spots that a further investigation of the metaphor will reveal. For example:

Leanness: Whilst leanness is far healthier than obesity, it carries inherent health risks. A too lean body leads to decreased performance. The increased risk of fractures and illness. The loss of reproductive function, dehydration and starvation. Organs can get damaged, weird growths can occur. You might even die.

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A Fit Organisation? Really?

A Fit Organisation? Really?

The clue is in the word. Organisation. From organ. Meaning an arrangement of specialist parts (i.e. heart, liver, kidney) that interact to keep a larger body (you) alive, well and productive. Yes, the etymology of organisation is from the human body, just one example of the many metaphors organisational and management research has borrowed from the natural sciences and technological innovation to try and conceptually explain how organisations work. 

Looking at the trends in current organisational design, it seems we have not moved too far from the original body metaphor. Organisations must be lean, agile and flexible. They must carry no flab, being an optimised combination of bone, sinew and muscle capable at making the organisation look hot (hey, great bod!), quick and strong. They must be able to nimbly leap from one opportunity to the other, never missing a step or stumbling, landing with such ease that their complicating maneuvering looks stunning simple to the outside observer. They must be able to quickly twist themselves into all manner of shapes to adapt to the task at hand. We're talking peak-era, Thelma and Louise shirt-off Brad Pitt merged with Nadia Comaneci, topped off with a little Zlata.  

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