Future of Work and Technology
The Complete Guide To The 5 Types Of Organizational Structures For The Future Of Work
Over the past few weeks I've been writing about various types of organizational structures that either already exist in today’s business landscape or are starting to emerge as viable options for the future of work. I explore each of these structures and concepts in my book The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization. However, I've been going through each one of these in detail and you can see the 5 part series with links below:
· The traditional hierarchy (click to read)
· Flatter organizations (click to read)
· Flat organizations (click to read)
· Flatarchies (click to read)
· Holacratic organizations (click to read)
Here's a brief overview of the five types of structures as well as a handy visual the shows you the actual structures of each.
There are many challenges with this model but to name a few. Communication typically flows from the top to the bottom which means innovation stagnates, engagement suffers, and collaboration is virtually non-existent. This type of environment is riddled with bureaucracy and is extremely sluggish. This is why the hierarchy is perhaps the biggest vulnerability for any organization still employing it. It opens up the doors for competitors and new incumbents to quickly take over. There is also no focus on the employee experience in this type of a structure and as organizations around the world are exploring alternative organizational models, those still stuck with the hierarchy are going to have one heck of a time trying to attract and retain top talent. This is the model I firmly believe is on its way out of the world of work and will be replaced by one of the models below.
Unlike the traditional hierarchy which typically sees one way communication and everyone at the top with all the information and power; a “flatter” structure seeks to open up the lines of communication and collaboration while removing layers within the organization. As you can see there are fewer layers and that arrows point both ways. Obviously a very simplified way to look at this type of a company but hopefully it gets the point across. For larger organizations this is the most practical, scalable, and logical approach to deploy across an entire company. This is the model that most large (and many mid-size) organizations around the world are moving towards. It’s true, some form of hierarchy still does exist within this model but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this case. In flatter companies there is still a strong focus on communication and collaboration, improving the employee experience, challenging the status quo around traditional management models, and the like. But instead of completely reinventing the entire company and introducing a radical new structure and approach to work, it achieves similar results in far shorter term and with much less effort and resource allocation.
Unlike any other corporate structure that exists, flat companies are exactly that…flat. Meaning there are usually no job titles, seniority, managers, or executives. Everyone is seen as equal. Flat organizations are also oftentimes called or referred to as self-managed organizations (there can be some differences but for our case we will put them together). The most famous example of this comes from Valve, the gaming company responsible for classics such as Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Portal, and many others. At Valve there are no job titles and nobody tells you what to work on. Instead all the employees at Valve can see what projects are being worked on and can join whichever project they want. If an employee wants to start their own project then they are responsible for securing funding and building their team. For some this sounds like a dream for others, their worst nightmare. I don’t see this as something that is practical or scalable for larger organizations when we think about the future of work. Smaller and some medium size companies might be able to operate in this type of an environment but when you get to organizations with thousands of employees then it becomes challenging.
Somewhere in between hierarchies and flat organizations lie flatarchies. These types of companies are a little bit of both structures. They can be more hierarchical and then have ad-hoc teams for flat structures or they can have flat structures and form ad-hoc teams that are more structured in nature. Organizations with this type of structure are very dynamic in nature and can be thought of a bit more like an amoeba without a constant structure. This type of a structure can work within any type of company large or small. However a flatarchy is to be thought of as a more temporary structure which creates isolated pockets of new structures when needed, such as in the case of developing a new product or service. This is starting to become more common as organizations around the world invest more time and money into creating innovation programs that look beyond a set R&D department. It’s not hard to imagine having a permanent structure as a “flatter organization” which then gives employees the opportunity to create special teams when needed. This model is quite powerful yet also more disruptive than the other structures explored. The main benefit here is the focus on innovation which is quite a strong competitive advantage in the future of work.
One of the things I've always said about holacracy is that I believe there are ways to achieve some of the desired effects without having to go through such a radical change. It's sort of like trying to improve the way your car runs by taking out the entire engine and rebuilding it instead of working on some of the core areas that might really drive performance. Sometimes ripping out the engine and starting from scratch isn't always as an option, especially as the car is moving, like most organizations always are. My opinion is that holacracy can be more viable for smaller or medium size organizations or perhaps larger organizations that have started off with holacracy as their base operating model. However, it's very hard for me to imagine a large organization with tens or hundreds of thousands of employees around the world implementing something like this. Holacracy is still very much an emerging structure with a lot of inserting concepts but we still need more case studies and examples over a longer period of time. Zappos will perhaps give us the best look at what a transformation to holacracy can look like, but I suspect we will need to wait another 2 years to really get a sense of the impact
Future of Work and Technology
Putting People First to Create the Future of Work
THE ‘PEOPLE FIRST PLATFORM’ BRINGS HR, FLOW TECHNOLOGY, INFUSED AI AND CHATBOT FUNCTIONS TOGETHER TO NURTURE A PRODUCTIVE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE EMPLOYEE AND EMPLOYER, AND BETWEEN THE EMPLOYEE AND THEIR WORK. MARGINALIA SPEAKS WITH HEAD OF MARKETING, JULIET HAILSTONE, TO EXPLORE HOW THE PLATFORM CONTRIBUTES TO THE FUTURE OF WORK. IN THIS INTERVIEW, HAILSTONE DISCUSSES THE IMPACT OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION ON HR, AND SUGGESTS ORGANISATIONS MUST PUT THEIR ‘PEOPLE FIRST’ IF THEY ARE TO BE SUCCESSFUL AND PRODUCTIVE IN THE YEARS AHEAD.
The benefits of a well-designed and well-managed digital workplace should be obvious, but it’s not enough to simply invest in the latest, greatest technology. The cultural shift required for embedding new ways of working demands a clear business change strategy, and most importantly, a deep understanding of employees’ needs.
A decent digital workplace enables real-time communication and synchronous, or asynchronous, collaboration that cuts down admin and improves productivity. Social communication tech enables the previously unheard majority to be directly involved with business and so improves agility. And emerging technologies, such as flow technology, pragmatic analytics, AI and chatbots, can analyse masses of data, free people from repetitive tasks, and offer a different interface to systems.
But it’s wise to be wary; all this tech, all these new interfaces and systems and apps can feel overwhelming or intrusive for some people, and may even make them feel disconnected from their colleagues.
While our tech is now ‘always on’ and we are ‘always connected’, we should remember that work belongs to humans. Business belongs to people. Technology must serve our needs, not the other way around. A simple ethos like this is something all organisations need, to be productive while still being focused on the meaning of work and the value of the end result.
The future of work is being created right now by our developing ways of working and by innovators in the field, and will be supported by the evolution of next gen enterprise infrastructure. Our supporting tech will need to interact with individuals in useful and convenient ways, it will need to prioritise people, putting them first. This is what Juliet Hailstone, Head of Marketing at people first, firmly believes.
MARGINALIA spoke with Hailstone to explore how the people first platform contributes to the future of work. Powered by artificial intelligence features, the platform promises to deliver improved productivity and engagement. In this interview, Hailstone shares her views on digital transformation’s impact on HR, the impact of AI on the employee experience, and offers her predictions for 2018.
Gloria Lombardi: Our workplaces have been transformed by technology. How do you see the evolution of HR as a consequence of this digital transformation?
Juliet Hailstone: Looking at the impact of digital transformation on people and how it impacts their expectations within the world of work, it seems that companies are spending more and more money on HR technology and engagement tools; this type of technology stack is growing. But employee engagement, productivity, and the overall satisfaction of employees are all decreasing. So right now, something isn’t working. We need to ask why this is?
One of the reasons is that technology is often applied to the world of work in ways that compromise people’s productivity rather than enhancing it. A recent study by Gallup found 52 percent of employees are going through the motions of being at work – doing what they’ve got to do – but are often not engaged, not happy and therefore not as productive as they could be if they brought their ‘full selves’ to the party.
One of the main impacts of digital transformation is that people practitioners and strategists have a bigger responsibility to try and fix all this. Primarily, it involves considering the world of work from the people aspect: What do people need? How do they work? How can the company help them to be the best they can be, to benefit of their own happiness and productivity levels?
So rather than it being about processes and systems, the responsibility now is to use the technology to put people first. We could continue to let tech dominate human relationships and prompting growing levels of disengagement, or we could put people at the heart of everything, and make digital transformation work for them.
GL: So, what should HR do to ensure they are putting people first when adopting digital tools?
JH: Businesses need to get on board with a new kind of relationship between the employer and the employee. Putting people first involves companies committing to a more open relationship with people. It’s respectful and balanced, and it’s about achieving the best for both parties. For business leaders and their HR teams, it’s about accepting the inevitable culture change, working to embed a new ethos, and considering the different ways employees and employers can work together to achieve the best possible results.
GL: Could you share a concrete example?
JH: I can use ourselves, people first, as an example. We live and breathe the ethos of ‘people first’. We have very respectful relationships with each other no matter where someone would sit in the traditional ‘business hierarchy’ (we have a psychologically flat structure). We know each other’s strengths, and we are decisive on how we want technology to be used. We obviously use the people first platform ourselves. The chatbot’s ‘Focus Mode’ is my personal favourite – it screens our emails and helps protect our moments of optimal productivity.
There’s a great deal of discussion around being in the flow at work at the moment, and that’s what the people first team lives. Our technology complements it and helps us to stay in the flow, and be productive and engaged. We’re strongly connected to our purpose.
GL: How does the people first platform work, exactly?
JH: The people first platform very much contributes to the future of work. It is built on Microsoft Azure technology (PaaS). The app includes the HR management tools you would expect to find in a well-established HR system, but that is only the start. people first applies AI and flow technology to keep people happy, engaged and at their most productive. The system proactively uses data to support managers and employees to do the best job they can – be that during an augmented check-in, through automatic job crafting, or through chatbot briefings, coaching and ‘Focus Mode’. It’s all about keeping people in the happy, productive, energised and engaged flow – where people are energised by their work to deliver the best outputs they possibly can.
So, the people first app is much more than just an HR system; it’s about people realisation.
And technology-wise, the open people platform within which the people first app sits is truly open technology, so our partners can easily link to people first, or build their own apps using the people first development tools and sell them on the people first marketplace.
GL: How does your use of AI impact the employee experience?
JH: people first is infused with artificial intelligence. It is everywhere – from employees’ ability to undertake transactional HR matters such as booking holiday through their chatbot, to automatic data insights fed to those that need them.
During check-ins, people first virtually coaches managers through the process using insights, almost acting as a third person in the room that is recording the process and making recommendations to ensure that both parties get the best outcomes.
The system learns when employees are at their most productive and helps them to protect their focus time, recommending ‘focus mode’ activation to protect them from interruptions.
There are many more examples – hopefully these examples show how infused and intelligent people first AI is, and how ready it is to help keep employees happy and in the productive flow right now. The entire people first platform is intelligent enough to help any employee to do their best work. But it’s not ‘big brother’; the platform isn’t watching people work – people are working with the platform to create a better work life.
GL: Looking at the year head, do you have any expectations around the future of work. What are your future of work predictions for 2018?
JH: We should assume that AI and automation will continue to impact work, but people will remain the most important focus. Our work systems and tools will take on aspects of our personal tech and our consumer tech, and people will bring their personal productivity tactics to the workplace.
The technology that fails to take on board the people aspect of work, that fails to genuinely help people when they’re new, when they’re busy, when they’re frustrated, or simply when they want to give more of themselves but don’t know how, will not be fit for the future of work.
The future of work is about people. The most innovative and most useful tools will help people find their flow – to be productive and enjoy their work. Such positive engagement benefits both parties, the individual and the organisation; it’s an alliance. Organisations will need to recognise the value of this alliance, building respectful relationships to support a happy and engaged workforce.
Future of Work and Technology
Can The Blockchain Fix The Recruiting Industry?
Anyone that works in business is aware of the unspoken layer of recruiting that is pervasive in every organization. Either recruiters are actively trying to place someone at an organization, or they’re actively trying to poach someone from a competitor. But recruiters seem to be a consistent participant in the hiring process for most companies.
But were you also aware that one of the biggest issues facing recruiters isn’t the sourcing of candidates, but rather their big headaches come from vetting and qualifying candidates for positions.
One big requirement for most companies is that their candidates provided by recruiters are able to check all of the requirements for the position and that their credentials are legitimate. Which can cause recruiters to have to become forensic detectives in ensuring that work history and education backgrounds are legitimate. Or, what usually is the case, they just take the resume at face value and place their stamp of approval on the candidate and move on. Which is not ideal.
This fast tracking of critical steps has led to many pie-in-the-face moments from companies who later discovered that their executives didn’t graduate with the degrees they claimed, or in some cases never graduated college at all. But when something is on your resume for a few decades and everyone else just assumes it’s correct, it’s easy to see how these situations can occur.
So, aside from quicky background checks or calls into college administration offices, what can HR and the recruiting industry do to streamline this process and avoid embarrassing situations in the future?
Blockchain Tech To The Rescue
You have probably heard about blockchain technology in the past few years. Its most famous use case comes in the form of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, but it’s also a technology that can do almost anything and makes systems infinitely more secure and efficient than our current platforms. It does this through smart contracts and distributed ledgers that make the system quick and almost unhackable.
And since you can store almost anything on the blockchain, one company is using it to fix the recruiting industry by ensuring that any information an employer or recruiter would need to know is available quickly and has been vetted by the proper sources. This group is called EchoLink and they’re looking to take on industry veterans like LinkedIn and Hoovers.
“It’s all but impossible to check the credentials of every user in a traditional web based application.” says Steve Chen, the Founder of EchoLink. “It is well understood that educational background and work history found on online sites are not verified. Most recruiters and employers spend time and resources on additional background checking processes.”
And Steve and his group think that the blockchain can change all of this by vetting work histories and school records on EchoLink and providing recruiters and HR professionals a real snapshot and background on their candidates with just a few clicks.
And while this may seem like a niche industry to target with the blockchain, the flexibility of the tech allows it to be customized for pretty much any use case you can think of. So why not go after a niche industry that is in desperate need of disruption?
EchoLink is launching their platform (which is already functional and in beta testing) with their TGE, or token generation event, later this month. And you can find out more information regarding that here.