We recently took a moment to reflect – a gift given our recent pace, with a growing team, and amazing partners and customers. Sometimes, the work we do becomes well known (and our name goes with it) and other times we are quietly in behind leaders, teams, and individuals who are looking to drive momentum and growth. That momentum and growth is foundational to humans at work – whether you have a great starting point to build from, or are currently in a more challenging moment.
In this article, we reflect on four key themes from our work with leading organisations globally to translate where people and organisations must head through 2022 and beyond.
1. Move over Future of Work, it’s long been time for the Future of Organisations
To be frank, we’ve been (optimistically) a little tired of the never-ending badge of ‘the future of work’. The future never arrives (but is aspirational), the present is enough of a focus for most, and as humans we all like the odd reflective glance at the past.
The lustre the Future of Work once had has dimmed as we’ve moved way past any predictions given the immediate, real, and deeply human impacts on people and organisations of COVID-19 (temporary, ongoing and evolving, and the more long-lasting that are to be unearthed).
We know that the following have been seriously challenged for a while:
- Working from 9 to 5 (sorry, Dolly) and work patterns that don’t work (are you tired of hearing ‘hybrid’, ‘remote’, ‘flexible’ yet?)
- Singular workspaces for most organisations across their entire workforce
- Expectations of going back to pre-COVID ways of working – we’ve all experienced how work could be and now have stronger views on how it should be
- Presenteeism vs outcomes focussed ways of working
- Archaic, limiting employment contracts that aim simply to control
- Unstable, insecure, and often unfair approaches to work design that hurt the most vulnerable
2. Here is the New Economy, and it requires New Leadership
At mwah., we’re increasingly talking about organisations that are part of the ‘new economy’. This has come from our partnerships with organisations that are shapeshifting, disrupting and building new ways – across Superannuation and Investment Funds, Technology platforms, Governments, and more.
To us, new economy organisations are:
- Uniquely balancing social impact and financial success
- Climate forward, at least aspiring to ‘light green’
- Politically agnostic – caring about the best ideas to solve the problem at hand, whatever colour T-shirt you wear or card you carry
- Continuously testing the intersections (between industries, sectors, companies, organisations, and communities)
- Sized for impact, not for the sake of it
- Focused on the nuances and balance of the collective (team) and the individual
What does this really mean?
- Traditional power bases are being disrupted
- Leaders need to be FOR OTHERS – there is a rising need to be able to balance (over) democratising organisations and being the light to follow (especially when it’s dark or overwhelming)
- There is a profound need for (and appetite from) Boards to be highly engaged in People, Culture and Impact. If you have any doubt, open any Australian (actually, pick your country) newspaper this week and see the questioning of power bases, leadership, and culture – full stop
- There’s a higher expectation than ever that workplaces, leaders, and Boards care about the people in the organisation – not just superficial ‘wellness’ initiatives, ping pong tables, and free coffee, but genuinely caring about people
- There’s an understanding that a great team is a great customer care strategy, and the foundation of business success. No one has to justify looking after their team anymore.
3. Belonging and Connection are more fundamental than ever before.
Humans are social creatures, and belonging and connection are more fundamental than ever before. To belong and connect with their families, relationships, communities, societies, and workplaces – the way we create belonging and connection may have broadened, but our need for it is unwavering. In fact, we’ve added fuel to its importance. Belonging and connection are everything, and without them, we are lesser humans.
What we’ve learnt (or been reminded of):
- After food/water/shelter/air, Belonging and Connection are the most primary of human needs – which means they are a vital part of work
- Belonging and Connection go way beyond Diversity and Inclusion – it is the ultimate conflation of purpose, relationships, agency, and impactful contribution
- Building, enabling, and sustaining connection is critically important to the culture and wellness of organisations and individuals – it is employee experience
- We are at the precipice of the ability to have near ‘full’ inclusion and access of all people to work – those that couldn’t participate before are able to join.
- we are staring into the downside risk of creating new, broader exclusion, isolation, and loneliness if we stay with the idea that ‘alone is always best’, or it’s a natural and easier preference never to leave home.
4. The pinnacle is Impactful Contribution.
For a long time, the criticality of purpose and purposeful work to our lives – satisfaction, happiness, motivation, connection, relevance – has been explored in research and practice. Too often it has been scoffed at for being a ‘soft’ way of thinking.
We see Impactful Contribution as the way forward. We’re moving from ‘bringing whole self at work’ (which was largely permission-based), to ‘moments that matter’ (which linked to customer impact); to ‘meaningful contribution’ (which aligned purpose), out to ‘individual contribution’ and then ‘collective performance’.
To us, impactful contribution is about the opportunity to make a difference that matters to someone or your purpose. And the recipe behind that? It is about having individual and team accountability, supported by psychological safety that brings the confidence to innovate and create, and the right expectations (and space) to enable, empower and create meaningful impact.
That’s where the magic happens.
Bringing the concepts to life – the mwah. commitment
So, to land this all, mwah. Making Work Absolutely Human is our name and our purpose.
Work is a fundamental human right, and we must do more to make it work better for more of us.
We will be unwavering (and unapologetic) in our commitment and our own impact to understand, research, share, and work with the best (and most courageous) organisations to shift:
- The Future of Organisations
- New Leadership
- Belonging and Connection
- Impactful Contribution
It’s time for us to stop focussing on what might be in the future and focus on the now. There are so many opportunities to step in to make work better.
Make this your commitment too – to make work absolutely human.
When you’re ready, we’re here.