In today’s work world, change is constant and uncertainty is the new certainty. There have been fundamental shifts in workforce wants, beliefs and approaches, as millennials have now taken over Boomers as the largest generation among the four in the workplace today. The pandemic has also brought to the forefront those desires (and benefits) of thinking and doing differently to the masses.
With that, there’s been a transition from a rigid, linear, sequential career growth and development model rooted in conformity to one that is more fluid, collaborative and multidimensional in nature.
We see this dynamic context-switching between different states particularly in light of COVID with respect to…
- the role we may play at any given time (e.g. parent, manager, educator, tech support, business owner),
- when we are able to accomplish our specific responsibilities or even,
- how we go about doing it and the location and time at which we are able to do so.
With millennials poised to take over the dominant helm of management positions over the next 10 years, organizations must realize we are now at this critical inflection point of change. Workforce dynamics at their core are going through their own transformation because PEOPLE have evolved in the way they want to operate. This shift is about continually trying, adjusting, adapting and improving the way we live AND work.
Convergence is Happening
We no longer live in a world where things are siloed and limited. In fact we live in a world of breadth not just depth, optionality and possibility. The advent of technology and the new products, services and experiences that emanated from it has resulted in an ability for this next generation of leaders to continuously explore other interests or businesses. They can learn, grow and ultimately monetize these new opportunities – and they can do it from anywhere in parallel with an existing job.
Because of this move to fluidity, the real shift is that everything becomes an AND not an OR. Further, career goals that individuals have are no longer singular and narrow but broad and equal in nature. That in turn affects their career pursuits and the companies they choose to work for. It’s this desire to continually acquire new skills, experiences and even build new revenue streams that this new workforce wants to achieve. And no one singular job can deliver the multiplicative goals they have.
What the Workforce Wants
What individuals are striving for in their personal AND professional lives is simply this: Being better, doing better and finding balance in their lives. And that is reflected by the following:
- Having a Growth Mindset – Always testing, learning, iterating
- Focusing on Purpose – What’s MY why?
- Parallel Pathing – I had to during the recessions, now how do I parallel path to fulfill my many interests, talents and goals?
- Delivering Social Impact – How can I do good in the world?
There is this yearning by individuals to not only deep dive into their own personal why, but also parallel path multiple interests to combine their passion with how they can best deliver real impact in the world.
And that constant calibration to find the right fit so that they can bring their whole selves is so critical for organizations to understand. They are no longer willing to conform to an environment that doesn’t align to who they are, what they can do, and what value they believe they bring now or in the future.
The Implications. A Fluid Worker → The Fluid Organization
People are now in a constant beta state to be their best selves knowing that unforeseen circumstances are no longer limited to what may happen in a work dynamic but rather have bled into their personal lives as evidenced by the pandemic experience.
As such they are going with the flow not only as a matter of necessity, but as a way to gain traction to adapt to the uncontrollable and unpredictable situations in the world, at work, and at home.
So if today’s modern worker has to be fluid to survive and thrive, what does that mean for organizations? It inevitably leads to an approach towards iteration and evolution where continuous improvement is a focus. It necessitates a culture that makes it safe to fail and learn from failure to find the right balance. To achieve mutual goals, business agility has to operate at all levels and fundamentally at a human level.
Transitioning to a fluid organization implies being flexible, adaptive and iterative to determine where there is organization-people fit – that is for any specific initiative your company may have. And that starts with bridging the gap between beliefs, motivations, approaches, and fundamental goals across the natural divides. Having that shared purpose is key.
As a leader, you can get to that point of alignment by understanding the context from which both parties are coming from.
Just as a company, department, or even a team has strategic plans, so do individuals. With a growing shift towards individual agency with today’s modern worker, finding fit implies alignment of the strategic plans of your organization to the strategic plans of those individuals on your team.
And that strategic planning process needs to transition from a sequential and fixed approach to one that is dynamic and evolving.
Strategically Planning Together
To find that alignment, it requires testing, learning and iterating together with your team and colleagues based on getting grounded in these areas:
- Understand the value of everyone that works for you. If you don’t understand the contribution that each individual makes, then you aren’t realizing the underlying potential that may exist.
- Spot the trends with your own people to know their strengths, challenges, opportunities and threats so you can determine where you can best help them.
- Create a clear and compelling vision that gets alignment and commitment because without it, chaos and confusion ensues.
- Proactively and consistently communicate with your team on activities and actions to keep them in sync with where you are headed.
- Work to manage the fear that comes with change that can often happen in organizations. By not doing so, you risk your team or others you work with operating off of emotions vs. rational behavior further inhibiting your forward progress.
- Build your team’s network, not only your own. The more you can foster those connections within your organization, the more effective they will be in their job.
- Model and teach the necessary soft skills critical to build valuable working relationships with others which will create a cascading effort of ‘good’ behavior throughout the rest of the organization.
In order to do great things, it requires an investment in your people and that doesn’t directly mean compensation, perks and general work benefits.
Take the time to understand their plans, their purpose and values so you know what makes your employees tick. That will help lead you to achieving that necessary alignment. When you as a leader can find ways to spot the trends, connect the dots and then bridge the gap to drive towards common ground everyone will be moving forward together and reaching their growth potential.
Learn more about how to be a fluid organization in Building the Business of You.