The new social workplace — G. Venkatraghavan
JUNE 11 — Great leaders know that they need to cultivate the skills of their workforce while simultaneously building a work environment that motivates, excites and inspires employees. Not surprisingly, those who are committed to developing a strong workplace culture tend to perform well.
Today, the rising forces of globalisation and technology have inherently changed the way we communicate, exchange information and work.
Against this landscape, IBM’s new survey of more than 1,700 chief executive officers is signalling a new shift in corporate culture — one that will embrace a new spirit of openness, transparency and employee empowerment.
This shift has significant implications in ASEAN where CEOs lament the war for talent, while continuing to rank people skills as the Number One factor impacting their organisation’s future, and human capital as the most important source of sustained economic value in their organisations.
FROM CONTROL TO OPENNESS
The CEOs that IBM spoke with discussed the whirlwind of “social” change they are witnessing — Facebook, Renren, Twitter, Weibo, Foursquare and other technology upstarts have stormed across markets and industries.
Taking note of the popularity of social sharing and a new generation of employees in the future, CEOs are looking to shift their focus from using email and the phone as primary communication vehicles, to using social networks as a new path for direct engagement.
In doing so, they are showing a growing appetite for technology — specifically social media technology — that tap into the collective intelligence of an organisation’s networks. These forward-thinking leaders no longer view technology as simply a driver of efficiency; they now see technology as an enabler of collaboration and relationships.
While CEOs see greater organisational openness ahead, they also acknowledge the need for continued operational control — to enforce regulatory compliance, drive standardisation and avoid waste. Openness increases vulnerability. The Internet, especially through social networks, can provide a worldwide stage to any employee interaction, positive or negative.
However, most CEOs believe they have adequate controls already in place and, generally speaking, they do not see a growing need to control.
Instead, it is the trend toward openness that CEOs believe will offer tremendous upside potential - empowered employees, free-flowing ideas, more creativity and innovation, happier customers and better results.
THE FUTURE-PROOF EMPLOYEE
As CEOs ratchet up the level of openness within their organisations, they are developing collaborative environments where employees are encouraged to speak up, exercise personal initiative, connect with fellow collaborators and innovate.
Equally important, CEOs recognise the need for organisational values and a clear sense of purpose to guide decisions and actions as some formal controls loosen. For organisations to operate effectively in this environment, employees must internalise and embody the organisation’s values and mission.
Across industries and geographies, CEOs consistently highlight four personal characteristics most critical for employees’ future success: being collaborative, communicative, creative and flexible. Given their intent to create greater openness, CEOs are also looking for employees who will thrive in this kind of atmosphere.
Another possible driver behind the high ranking of this particular group of traits may be the war for talent. The challenge has historically been a shortage of particular skills. But today, it is virtually impossible for CEOs to find the future skills they will need — because they do not yet exist.
Bombarded by change, most organisations simply cannot envision the functional capabilities needed two or three years from now. Conventional training faces some of the same challenges. By the time courses are designed and delivered, the subject skills are already becoming outdated.
Instead, CEOs are increasingly focused on finding employees with the ability to constantly reinvent themselves. These employees are comfortable with change; they learn as they go, often from others’ experiences.
For CEOs, it is no longer a question of whether the organisation should become more open and collaborative. Rather, it is: how do I run an open organisation?
● Replace rulebooks with shared beliefs: As a practical matter, CEOs cannot manage openness through process alone.
In an open environment marked by constant change and increased complexity, organisations need a new way of enabling everyday decision-making. Employees must instinctively know how to handle unexpected situations. Their choices and actions are best guided by shared beliefs and values.
● Build future-proof employees: To build its next-generation workforce, organisations have to actively recruit and hire employees who excel at working in open, team-based environments.
While CEOs cannot teach employees to be “future-proof”, they can build and support practices that help employees develop the desired traits more naturally, such as encouraging the development of unconventional teams, promoting experiential learning techniques and empowering the use of high-value employee networks.
● Provide the means to collaborate at scale: As organisations globalise and the boundaries between functions blur, organisations need more extensive, sophisticated methods of collaborating.
These may include pursuing social collaboration technologies, devising incentives that foster collaboration, or simply re-imagining the employee “suggestion box” by using social media technologies to breathe new life into the age-old pursuit of good ideas.
Building a great workplace is not something that will happen overnight. However, this transformation can be achieved if an organisation makes a long-term investment in its people and puts the right tools and processes in place to help them succeed. — Today
* G. Venkatraghavan is the managing partner of IBM Global Business Services, Singapore.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.