The Future of the Workplace

As part of my MBA Strategic Leadership class, we were asked to consider what the workplace will look like in the future, with organizations and job roles overall having evolved significantly in the past decade or so and continue to evolve to become more digital and efficient.   The more we researched, the more we have found that upper management and leadership paradigms in general have truly been turned on their ears in facing this new workplace – workplace 2.0. 

The old workplace was really one of structure and formalities with much of the control given to upper level management.  9-5 work days were commonplace as was inefficient models of reporting and oversight on employees.  There was a sense that employees were cogs, part of a large machine and the only names and ideas that truly mattered or manifested were from those who sat at the top.  Collaboration, innovation and a sense of responsibility for company results were almost nonexistent. 

As we approach 2010, the new workplace looks vastly different from the one we’ve seen throughout the 90s and into the early part of the new millennium.  With technological advances in communication and the proliferation of laptops, PDAs, wireless internet and email as a main form of communications, it is now possible for individuals to have a greater role in the marketplace than ever before.  Not only are individuals less likely to work one a singular project for a singular company throughout their career, they are also less likely to stay in a job that does not afford them flexibility with their time and the opportunity to truly own their work.  The internet in general has placed more responsibility and freedom into the hands of individuals and de-emphasized the importance of the largeness of a company or group to accomplish great things.  This is well translated into the modern workplace – examples like the ROWE program at Best Buy and corporate cultures that exist at places like Google and Whole Foods provide ways to look at leadership and management roles in a completely different perspective. 

If individuals within a company are driving innovation and progress forward as much as top level executives, how does this change the role of managers company-wide?  Managers must become more nimble, adapting to changing teams and projects as teams become more project based and can quickly change based on company needs.  Virtual workplaces are being created, allowing companies to grab top talent from across the globe without being restricted by the work force only in their physical location – for managers, this means looking at how to effectively manage a virtual team and understanding how to maintain accountability and high standards of performance.

The future will only see continued growth in freedom from traditional workplace rules, structured work days and tedious and ineffective reporting.  Programs like ROWE will become more commonplace in companies both large and small as employers see the benefits of happy employees who are in control of their own schedule and responsible not for the time they put on the clock but on the quality of work they turn in.  The economic recession we are currently facing has already forced many companies to work and think smarter – getting rid of inefficient procedures and policies and replacing them with a more attractive and effective vision.

Posted by: Ashley / ashleyatcaster on Twitter

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2 Responses to The Future of the Workplace

  1. James Gafney says:

    Interesting post. I am in the military and over the last 20 years, we have seen a similar shift. Today, many of our projects arrive via email, as an order to complete a given task. We may forward the same email to recruit other assets to assist in the task. There have even been times where I have worked with someone via email for over a year before actually meeting them, yet we still manage to meet the common goal.
    But what is lost is the actual networking and personal interaction between leader, follower, and coworker. Is leadership by email a good thing? Often email doesn’t include tone within the words so something that may just be short and to the point, may be seen as rude.
    However, the good thing about emails is that there is a recorded line of events that a leader can follow to identify who has done what in which department.

  2. castercomm says:

    James – great points. I agree that nothing will ultimately replace face to face interaction and networking. But gone are the days of daily or weekly briefings that can be a big waste of time and ultimately only serve to check up on employees.

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