Arturo de la Rosa
General Manager
Abbvie

Podcast

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Expert Contributor

The Transformation of Work Life

By Arturo de la Rosa | Mon, 09/19/2022 - 09:00

Work as we know it is changing. Driven by technology adoption and social change, a new way of working is emerging. This shift is probably going to be as transformative as that propelled by Henry Ford in the early 20th century, when his company established the eight-hour work schedule, the five-day workweek, and the weekend break, along with other benefits focused on the health of workers and their families.

In recent decades we have seen the rise of different positive trends in the workplace, such as sustainability, well-being, and equity, equality, diversity and inclusion. With the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, these trends became even more tangible due to the challenges faced in the work environment, highlighting the need to promote well-being and mental health, while maintaining productivity. During the pandemic, we also saw an increase in collaboration. Flexibility and adaptation to change have become key factors for organizations to successfully operate in our volatile, uncertain, changing, and ambiguous world.  

Working life after the pandemic is different, digital technologies that allow us to connect and work remotely have set a precedent in the way we will continue to work and collaborate. New paradigms accompany this change. We have a new way and conception of what a job brings to life. Today, we seek to work hard enough to achieve well-being, cover our needs, and use part of our time to enjoy experiences that allow us to transcend, such as taking care of our health and spirituality and spending time with our loved ones. We are not only scientists, technicians, experts, and business leaders, we are also partners, parents, caregivers, friends, and community members. To be effective at work, we must also meet our personal, family, and community goals. 

New generations of knowledge workers connect to different objectives. We seek companies and jobs that have a clear purpose and impact on humanity. We prefer collaborative environments to hierarchical structures. We want jobs that allow us to be independent and we find motivation in recognition, purpose, and teamwork. We see ourselves as collaborators, not as employees. We, the new generations, require a new type of leader, one who is strong on connecting with people and who focuses on equipping and facilitating teamwork. We no longer respond to hierarchical command chains, nor thrive under them. 

Future of work thought leader Heather McGowan says in her book, The Adaptation Advantage, that the days of the expert leader are over. We have moved to a collaboration model. Companies used to operate under a top-down leadership model. Now, most leaders lead people with skills and knowledge they don’t understand, so the paradigm needs to shift. Before, the leader was the top expert on the team and closely directed every bit of the work done. Today, most teams include multiple fields of expertise, and the role of the leader is to ensure that the team includes a diverse pool of individuals with the right expertise, sets a vision, provides resources and encouragement, and lets the team do their work by collaborating with one another. 

Today, associates are also different. Before, teams required top experts in their field: now, the best team members are those who work well with others, share information and communicate effectively, have multidisciplinary experiences, and are flexible to learn and acquire new skills and knowledge as their jobs transform. Being adaptable and having a growth mindset are the two key competencies that leaders and associates must develop today. 

Businesses need to be successful at solving the problems of the future. For this, they need to explore multiple pathways to find solutions. The more diverse its talent and expertise pool is, the more different and creative the solutions proposed will be.  Adopting the equity-equality-diversity-inclusion approach is a big opportunity for driving understanding and innovation, and for engaging talent. Treating everyone with equality, dignity, and respect allows organizations to build the right culture to achieve better business results. A culture of equity-equality-diversity-inclusion makes associates feel safe, motivated, and confident, allowing them to maximize their contributions. 

On this path of transformation and discovery, another trend that is here to stay is the implementation of flexible work policies and hybrid-schemes combining face-to-face and remote work. This opens the door to attract talent beyond territorial limits. Companies have discovered the possibility to hire associates from any location to fill positions that can be done remotely, which is of mutual benefit because organizations can access a more diverse talent pool and workers can live in the place that is best aligned with their needs. Also, hybrid-work modalities provide enough flexibility for associates to improve their work-life balance and job satisfaction.

The openness to work life transformation and the adoption of new policies aligned with these trends, which have become the standard measure for knowledge workers, will continue to impact the capacity of companies to attract and retain the best talent. So much so, that I am certain that soon we will see flexible-collaborative-purpose-driven-work as natural as an eight-hour workday.

Photo by:   Arturo de la Rosa