Successful businesses tend to share similar values that boost their employee engagement. A loyal, dedicated, and energized staff, working toward a common goal, is the gold standard for a happy and engaged workforce. Across size, industry, market share, intellectual property, and other economic variables, employee engagement stands out as the hallmark of a successful company. What does the engaged workforce value in their employers? Diversity and inclusion, social and environmental stewardship, and transparency in company values and practices.
In a just society, the workforce should reflect the population. In universities, high tech startups, factories, farms, the workforce should reflect the color, age, and gender of the population. If this criteria is used to judge, there is not a just society on this earth. Education influences career, and gender, age, and color effects access to education. How can business step beyond the way things have always been, into the world of the future, where everyone will have equal access to education and economic opportunity? A world in which we have access to our full human potential?
Diversity and inclusion in the workforce is a company value that is appealing to workers across ages and socioeconomic strata. Efforts to recruit and hire a qualified and diverse workforce are aided by programs such as Textio, the AI system that evaluates job descriptions for language that discourages diverse applicants. Blendoor is a merit based recruiting app that removes pictures and names from applicants CVs, so issues of color, appearance, and gender are more neutral in the application and recruiting process. But companies that engage these types of programs have already taken the first big leap–understanding and acknowledging that unconscious bias is present in most humans, and efforts must be taken and progress regularly evaluated to make sure that unconscious bias is not keeping businesses from recruiting and hiring the most qualified workforce.
With a diverse group of applicants and new hires, workplaces are putting mentoring programs in place to assist new members of the workforce to adapt to the new company culture. Navigating the social mores and expectations of the workplace are challenges that all new workers face. Mentoring programs with mentors outside the chain of command allow workers to settle into their new positions and successfully transition from school to the working world.
When a company puts the resources into recruiting and hiring a qualified and diverse workforce, and then mentoring that workforce in the beginning of their careers, several things are obvious to all across the board. The company values their people, and understands that an engaged workforce is the company’s greatest asset.
If we think about organizational structure as a way to weather the disruptive change technology, automation, and outsourcing will bring to business is the next century, business can develop organizations that are built to weather the coming storm. One new structure that can adapt to rapid change is a triangle working group model, designed to bring the strength of a geodesic dome to business structures.
When Buckminster Fuller developed the model for the geodesic dome, he was developing a structure build on a small number of forms- triangles, mostly, that could sustain pressure from various angles. A geodesic dome can withstand winds, snow loads, earthquakes, because a disruption or pressure on one part is absorbed throughout the unit by transferring the stress along the individual units- the triangles.
A traditional structure for a building and for a business is a top-down linear model. But automation and outsourcing will leave a vacuum in the middle of the structure. Employee models are traditionally work-unit based. A person has a very specific, prescribed job, and they are not allowed to do any work in the company outside their specific job requirements.
Now, picture a work unit of three, charged with overseeing the outsourced finance, payroll, and regulatory compliance departments. Decisions can be made at the unit or recommendations sent upstairs; members of the team can rotate or stay the same; members of individual units can also participate on other teams, such as production or safety, with a new three person work group.
This model gives an employee several unique experiences and skills, and allows them to be able to move knowledgeably into a new area outside of their usual area of expertise. It also keeps employees from becoming stagnant or bored, and allows them to participate in growing a company in a way that engenders engagement and loyalty.
Many employees leave to start their own venture, because they need a seat at the table, the freedom to explore and experiment. Building these unquantifiable variables into the organizational structure, allowing employees to explore and help grow the company, may give a new business a workforce that is agile, experienced, able to rapidly adjust to disruptive change, and loyal to the business.
The future is here
What will business look like in 2050? Halfway through the new century, will we still be using organizational models and processes that belong to a different era? Will the predicted change be part of some digital transformation that has yet to be identified?
Even with a great deal of discussion about digital transformation, the term has yet to be adequately defined. While the goal of any change to a business model and organizational structure is improved performance, we do not know how to quantify the risks and rewards of digital transformation. But change is already here and impacting business models dramatically. What are the changes currently impacting the business environment, and what can we envision changing in the future?
One of the largest changes we’ve seen over the past fifty years is a move to outsourcing and automation. Outsourcing departments, such as human resources, allows businesses to get expert help in areas that have a large burden of regulatory compliance. Automation and digital methods of managing payroll and benefits allows companies who specialize in the area to invest in the new technology, rather than business investing in new technologies across several areas of responsibility, such as human resources, finance, accounting, marketing, etc. We can expect the trend toward outsourcing to continue, both with departments and individual units of work. Businesses that specialize in a single field, and can invest in the new technologies, will find their market share growing.
Big data analysis and trend and pattern prediction using deep neural networks will continue to form a growing part of planning and market analysis. Human-AI hybrid management teams will become more common. We may see something similar in the way stakeholders are planning and implementing complex infrastructure development now. Business may find itself regularly collaborating with government, education, and the private sector to plan, manage and fund business projects. This collaborative organizational model will allow the heavy burdens of regulatory compliance, funding, public opinion, environmental impact, and other challenges to be met by a team with a variety of skills. This new collaborative model can reduce the risks associated with the digital transformation of business.
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