Return to business as unusual: how to lead differently in the workplace of the future

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Is the future of work a bionic organization? This is the suggestion of Verizon Business’ CEO, Tami Erwin, and President of Verizon Global Enterprise, Sampath Sowmyanarayan, in a new white paper published this week. The paper, written in conjunction with Boston Consulting Group, is the third in a series looking at tactics for success in a post-COVID ‘business as unusual’ environment. The key recommendation is that organizations will need to intertwine the possibilities offered by technology with human capabilities to be successful in the future.

The start point is that organizations need to think about remote working in the context of broader business trends. BCG research shows that pre-COVID, there were already two key trends changing the workplace: pervasive technology and data, deeply embedded in the business; and a dramatic shift in the talent pool, in terms of both candidate expectations, and required skill sets. Business leaders, therefore, need to be considering how they can leverage technology as an enabler to support remote working but also acknowledge that their future organizational state will of necessity need to be more organic and flexible than in recent years.

Tami and Sampath’s recommendation is that organizations will have to intertwine the possibilities offered by technology with human capabilities in a ‘bionic’ organization. This will combine:

  • An Agile way of working, focused on collaboration and rapid decision making

  • Organizing for change through new talent and skills

  • Considering location changes, whether flexible, remote or onsite working models

But the most important challenge in the future workplace is how to keep people, and the human touch, at the core of the business. Technology is important - but people must come first, and people need to be able to control variables and thresholds, overrule any automated interventions, and most importantly, preside over ethical and moral quandaries based on human experiences and logical thinking. For business leaders, making their people feel engaged and involved will define their future business success.

This means leading from the front, with strong and authentic leadership that balances forward-looking optimism with a realistic outlook on what employees can expect from any new working model. Tami and Sampath suggest that three key human-centric, and interlocking pillars for leadership - “The Head, Heart and Hands” - must work well together - each supports the others in a cohesive organization:

  • Head is about envisioning the future and focusing on the big rocks

  • Heart is about inspiring and empowering people

  • Hands is about executing and innovating with agility.

It goes without saying that many organizations have already experienced a big shift in how they work. As we move forward, this shift will continue. But Tami and Sampath believe that the COVID-19 pandemic gives leaders the opportunity to deliberately reflect on, and if necessary, reset their organization’s pillars - and the time to act is now. Those who make this transformation with consideration, keeping their people front and center, will be best placed for future success.

You can read the full whitepaper here, and revisit the previous two here. The first article discusses the 6 imperatives for technical leaders; the second article builds on that by going deep into transformation must-dos.

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What will the future workplace look like? A Verizon Business and Boston Consulting Group white paper series discusses how to return to business as unusual.
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