ImagineeringTomorrow: Critical re-thinking about the future of work is necessary. Here's why

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A seemingly healthy, well-performing company can be vulnerable than you might think because of a build-up of corporate cholesterol; natural human dynamics that limit communication, creativity and collaboration. Like how your physician will tell you, rather than waiting for the heart attack to strike, executives should consider changing firms structure, rewards and processes while performance is still good.

New business models, machines replacing humans, millennials shaping the new models of engagement, will tell you how urgent is the need for change and what kind of changes to contemplate. Formalization and commodification of work is seen to be increasingly taking place with an open world economy. It is almost like change for the sake of change. It is not restricted to technology as the disruptor alone, but employees and their approach to work. The organization structure needs to emphasize on healthy disrespect for hierarchy and make jobs more dynamic. The essence of the shift is a simple but a big idea: the idea of a "job," with all its protected artifacts like job title, level, and job description, is starting to go away. What is its replacement - people being hired "for a purpose". You see employees change jobs every two years; they are not looking to increase their pay, they are looking for a stronger connect with the purpose, they are not leaving for better managers that they don't know as yet, but for the disenchantment with the current one. Cross-selling is a failed concept after repeated effort and incentive programs have rarely got people to collaborate, but in most extraordinary and difficult situations, we have seen unified purpose bring people together; how the bank employees worked unremittingly to fight the unintended consequences of demonetization is a recent example of it.

It calls for reinvention for employees and employers. Unlearning agility is the newest competency individuals and businesses are trying to build. Most organizations and their leadership are in a state of conflict. The first stage of approaching the midshift is articulating it and simplifying it for people to appreciate the "why" and "how" of it. Accelerated innovation requires accelerated adoption, and this needs most focus for the more experienced generation, who has the task of leading the way and setting the direction. Today we need idea entrepreneurs, a new type of cultural player and create an environment that encourages their abstract thinking. Organizations need to shift their focus from managing people to managing culture and that needs clarity in direction. Your likelihood of failing will be low if you start by keeping customer in the center of it. The mindset needs to make it simpler, convenient, efficient and differentiated for customers. Organizations need to replicate the same experience for their own employees. It needs to be defined in the context of your business and delivered consistently.

We have seen companies fail and lose their relevance, but the same people in those companies have adopted, unlearned and continue to stay the course. Our current performance management does not focus on the unique strengths of people and that is the first place where we miss appreciating diversity and hence have agreed to the fact that only few will succeed. Mindset change is about success for everyone and not for a handful.

Some critical re-thinking about the future of work is necessary. Future is anything but in our hands but it is clear that it will not follow a universal linear trajectory and the objective of our Imagineering workshop and this paper is to help stimulate discussion about how to open up the future more for the unknown and unexplored.

(The article is authored by Sandeep Chaudhary, CEO, Aon Hewitt India Consulting. This article is part of the six-article series, 'Aon #ImagineeringTomorrow: A Co-creation Journey', with Aon Hewitt) )
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