One of the greatest sources of organisational tension is the friction caused by rapidly changing technology, especially when it collides with shifting social and demographic patterns in the workplace.
And according to Deloitte’s Human Capital Partner, David Brown, these changes require a thoughtful refocus on the part of business leaders and HR teams.
Why is this occurring? David says to look at the pace of the consumer experience – we are in the age of instant gratification. If organisations fall behind in adopting innovative technologies, dissatisfaction rises (especially for the younger generation) and you might push valuable young leaders to move on to a more innovative workplace.
‘If they can book an Uber or use Slack in their daily life, yet their organisation requires them to use email and old clunky processes, they get frustrated,’ says David. ‘That causes individuals to say, “I don’t want to work within these constraints” and you see the growth of the gig economy, of small businesses and start-ups where there’s more flexibility.’
Experiment, embrace and place
If traditional organisations are to combat this, David suggests that business leaders need to embrace technological change and play with it. Or rather, experiment, embrace and then place.
‘A number of years ago you had organisations barring the use of social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube” says David. ‘Wasn’t that a retrograde set of decisions! The organisations that embraced social media and found a way to use it for good are the ones that moved ahead.’
Another step is to move towards working within a broader ecosystem and forming partnerships and collaborations.
‘Organisations need to remove the mindset of being the “only one” and start making different partnering arrangements,’ says David. ‘I think being more creative about what you put on your balance sheet and what’s off it – that’s important.’
According to David, the average lifespan of a business currently sits at less than 15 years and he says organisations designed for success in the 20th century need to innovate to remain relevant in the 21st century.
‘They need to become nimble, agile and realign their purpose so they don’t become extinct,’ says David.
A recent Access Economics report
found that ‘businesses with more skilled staff have higher rates of innovation and productivity.’ This is why the Human Capital team at Deloitte are putting more of an emphasis on candidates’ soft skills that underpin their technical knowledge – or as David puts it, STEMpathy.
Why are they doing this? ‘The nature of the type of work in a professional service area is more project-oriented,’ says David. ‘The whole sense of having people come together as teams then break up and re-form is something that is prevalent in most professional services organisations.’
A focus of the Deloitte recruitment team is coordinating complementary personalities to maximise the effective output of a team.
‘We’re also putting a lot more weight and emphasis on a leader’s soft skills and the way in which they can influence a followership,’ says David.
Previously, leaders had the power of title or position. This hierarchical structure is less effective for the current workforce of millennials, who place a higher value on human relationships. David says that leaders need to step up and get social.
'Previously they didn't have to have those soft skills or know how to network – it was all about their position,' says David. 'Now we see that leaders with the greatest power of influence are the ones with the largest social and professional networks.'
To hear more from David Brown about leadership listen to the AGSM Future of Work panel podcast here.