4 keys to building a future-ready workplace


Here are a few tips on how to future-proof your organisation. 

When I speak to HR professionals, there is one common theme that comes up every time: the increased pressure at work and the need to act differently. There are many articles that highlight the people challenges that businesses face, whether it be the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the strategies for re-skilling employees for the future, how to use technology to your advantage, or how to adapt to the changes in behaviour around the workplace and the expectations of Generation Z. Those are a lot of priorities and it is understandable why HR professionals feel overwhelmed and not sure where to start.

The future of work demands a different approach. A different approach to what, you might ask? For starters, a different way of connecting with your teams and your customers but more importantly, a different way of connecting with yourself.

The key focus for any people team should be to keep their customer at the heart of everything they do. The employees, managers, leaders and the community in which you operate should experience exceptional service delivery. The lack of a personal touch is a growing concern, especially now that flexible/remote working arrangements start to become more acceptable.

In this world of work where change is happening faster and complexity is escalating, how can the people team up their game? A good starting point is to adopt an agile approach to work.

Do a quick assessment of your future readiness, start by answering “yes” or “no” to the following questions:

1.       Am I specific about the results / targets to be achieved and allow the team to find the best way to do it?

2.       Do I always involve managers and colleagues (outside HR) in designing new people practices?

3.       Do I believe that, in the right conditions, colleagues will seek and accept responsibility?

4.       Do I encourage my team to take it one step further and adjust their approach with the best practices in mind?

5.       Do I encourage my team to experiment more and own their lessons learnt rather than the mistakes made?

6.       Do I have regular informal performance discussions with my team?

If you have answered “no” to three or more of these, you can consider the following ways to adopt an agile approach. Keep in mind that the realities of work are that we don’t know what the future will hold, so despite your efforts and well-documented plans, the final solution might look very different.

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1 Develop leaders that are growth and solution-driven 

Our teams work hand-in-hand with the customer; understanding their needs better. People leaders need to trust their teams and give them the flexibility to work out the best possible solutions in executing the vision and challenges they face. The leader’s responsibility is to set clear expectations explaining the “why” and the applicable boundaries but to leave the “what” and “how” for the team to figure out. Lastly, the leader should always have an open door for extra support, or soundboard – when it is needed.

Employee experience is vital. We know loyal, happy and empowered employees provide better customer service. The People team need to embrace every opportunity to co-create workable solutions with the business. Cross-functional collaboration is an agile principle that adds value by involving the right people early on in creating solutions from a people perceptive.

Many leaders want to implement best practices. Instead of just following a “recipe”, use the best practice as a foundation but always design a signature practice taking the relevant aspects from your business into account. You should adjust and alter to fit the colleagues’ needs, culture and size of your business.

2 Keep in mind that “perfect” can be a big blind-spot

Do you also find that sometimes you’re tempted to wait for something to be “perfect” before sharing it with the business? Consider releasing a small workable part as soon as possible, get the input, adjust and share again. For example: Your team is asked to implement a new customer service training. Instead of working on all the modules and waiting for it to be finished, they can start with the pilot of the first workshop, get feedback, adjust and present to the new work while working on developing and completing the rest of the modules.

3 Create an experimental culture

In the digital era, knowledge workers require an environment where they can experiment and learn. Sometimes leaders interpret this as having “patience with incompetence”, which is not the case. Building a psychologically safe environment is about allowing colleagues to learn from experimenting but also create a culture where people speak up and freely share their opinions and concerns.

4 Make continuous improvement and learning a priority

Embrace a mindset of “is there an area which we can improve on”. Leaders must be deliberate in looking for opportunities to turn an interaction into a learning moment. Most companies have adjusted their performance review cycle to include monthly and quarterly discussions. However, if you take it one step further, leaders will embrace every engagement and turn it into a teachable interaction.

Many People teams are grabbing the opportunity to be front runners. Adopting an agile approach is not always easy as we must “unlearn” some things and “let go” of some tick box People practices we have proudly implemented in the past.

Now is the time to step-up, lead by example and showcase the benefits of adopting an agile approach. It will be the differentiating factor to thrive in the VUCA world.

Anja is an agile talent strategist, leadership consultant, mentor and coach with over 20 years of executive experience in the Africa, Middle East, Asia and Australia region. 

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