Steer your workforce through the stormy sea of disruption

| February 26, 2016

Digital disruption is happening to every company in every industry, and it won’t go away. How can you prepare for it? Nina Sochon has some answers.

Disruption is neither temporary nor minor. We might think of it as a strong wind gust that will pass but in reality digital disruption is a permanent storm of cyclonic proportions.

I agree with futurist Chris Riddell that digital disruption has a naming problem. When we call it ‘disruption’, we don’t take it seriously enough.

Automation is expected to consume between 23 and 47% of developed economies’ jobs, including highly skilled jobs, within the next two decades, according to various reports.

The impact of these changes will be felt sooner rather than later. The World Economic Forum held in January this year reported that there will be 5 million fewer jobs in the world in only five years.

Mary Barra, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of General Motors said at the forum: “I believe the auto industry will change more in the next five to 10 years than it has in the last 50.”

Digital disruption, enabled by massive computing power, is not only incredibly impactful but immensely widespread. Forrester Research predicted: “Digital disruption is headed for every team in every company in every industry.”

The question on everyone’s lips is “How can we prepare?”

One of our priorities needs to be to understand how the workforce is changing and what lies ahead, as far as we can tell.

Several trends are causing massive shifts in the way we work: mobile working, virtual teams and flexibility are challenging expectations about when, where and how work is done. Work is no longer ‘9-to-5-in-the-office’. Remote working requires the right management mindset, and developing this mindset can represent a deep personal challenge. Flexibility challenges traditional structures, processes, job design and team practices. Nonetheless it is in high demand, particularly for working parents, older workers, Gen Y and Millennials who comprise a huge proportion of the workforce.

Challenges and opportunities are presented by the on-demand workforce and non-standard work. On the whole, OECD countries including Australia and New Zealand are experiencing the rise of ‘non-standard work’ – temporary and part-time jobs and self-employment. Phil Ruthven at IBISWorld recently predicted that by the second half of this century the term ‘employee’ will be out of vogue.

New management models such as ‘Teal’ are gaining traction. Teal organisations are structured around self-organising teams, wholeness and evolutionary purpose. They look radically different to most of our corporations and businesses.

These changes have massive implications for us all. Leaders will need to find ways to build in, rather than tack on, innovation, productivity and resilience.

Innovation is the source of solutions to changing people needs. For example, an innovation approach is the best way to ensure successful flexibility and remote working.

A focus on productivity is necessary to keep maximising potential. Remote working offers productivity gains of between 10 and 22 per cent – a significant boost by any measure.

Resilience is the key to thriving in an environment of dynamic, transformative change. Strong team practices foster trust, accountability and commitment so that together teams can weather the storm.

Where do you stand as a leader and how prepared are you personally to make radical, potentially uncomfortable changes in order to thrive? Are you thinking about how to foster innovation, productivity and resilience in your workforce?