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Building Future Fit Teams: People Management

Okay so this one sounds relatively easy doesn’t it? After all isn’t this what leadership has always involved?

Well yes, and then a very big no!

Firstly we will be managing a highly skilled group of knowledge and insight workers, secondly the majority of our workforce will be contingent, and finally just to add a layer of complexity we will and already in many areas do have to manage across hybrid teams composed of both people and bots.

We have previously looked at this skilled workforce in terms of building teams with complex problem solving skills, Creativity, and sound Critical Thinking. Now we need to turn our attention to our rising agile workforce and the management of hybrid teams.

With the advent of the digital age we have ushered in the era of mobile resources.  This requires us to change our problem statement from scarcity of resources or knowledge, i.e. war for talent, to one that rather asks how we get the right resources in the right role with the right knowledge framework in the right team, at the right time. With the abundance of projects, resources and knowledge globally, the key challenge here is to match these in a more cost effective, dynamic and effective manner.

To truly embrace this shift, we need to start thinking exponentially around the way in which our organisations are structured and how they function. This will enable us to match the scale and growth we see in technology and to embrace the increasingly rapid pace change. According to Deloitte “the rate of change has accelerated. Fifty years of operating under Moore’s Law— the axiom that computing power doubles every two years—have not only propelled technology innovation forward but also significantly increased the pace of change in business as a whole, requiring organizations to be more agile.” Deloitte – Global Human Capital Trends 2016.

This view is consistent with the view Salim Ismail expressed in Exponential Organisations, “We’ve learned how to scale technology (mainly cloud computing since 2006). Now it’s time to scale the Organisation: strategy, structure, process, culture, KPI’s, people, and systems.” – Exponential Organisations.

One of the ways for organisations to reinvent themselves and to enable exponential growth is to embrace what the Deloitte study terms digital HR, “while digital disruption and social networking have changed the way organizations hire, manage, and support people. Innovative companies are figuring out how to simplify and improve the work experience by applying the disciplines of design thinking and behavioural economics, embracing a new approach that we call “digital HR.” Deloitte – Global Human Capital Trends 2016.

What is key here is for organisations to welcome the new breed of agile worker. This Agile worker is not concerned with permanent employment. They do not want to be “owned.” Instead what they want is to offer the use of their talents to organisations for fixed and flexible periods of time. They offer increased organisational agility. A solution to the talent crises – a flexible workforce able to bridge the talent gap at a competitive price. But this needs us to make a fundamental shift in HR and people management strategies.

What is becoming increasingly evident is that although the work force may have changed, our organisations are struggling to transform themselves to accommodate this new breed of worker.

Organisations, if they are to survive, need to find a way to harness the power inherent in the on-demand economy. “Disruptive changes in digital technology, business models and workforce demographics are radically reshaping the world of work. To meet the demands of this rapidly-evolving business ecosystem, business leaders see a need to redesign the organisation.” – Deloitte – Global Human Capital Trends 2016.

We are typically inhibited by fears related to the following key questions:

  • How do we engage this extended pool of on demand talent?
  • How do we manage this talent?
  • How do we drive performance through a workforce we essentially have no control over?
  • How do we help ensure we have the best talent working on the right things at the right time at the right cost?
  • How do we leverage the flexibility of this workforce, but still make sure we have the best suitable resource for the role?
  • How do we structure different unrelated resources into an effective project structure?
  • How do we ensure quality outcomes and standardized deliverables in such a flexible environment?

In seeking answers to these questions a host of creative and innovative technologies will spring forth offering to provide a solution to these challenges. My concern as always will be in keeping the human element alive and kicking as we increase our reliance on intelligent machines.

This coupling of human and machine gives rise to another people management challenge we need to address in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, namely how will we manage hybrid teams?

We have no idea what will work best in the management of a hybrid bot human team.  Those of us asking this question understand that robots will not simply be displacing humans in a bid to develop a utopian robotic workforce that only requires programming and not performance management. Instead we will be co-teaming with robotics in a bid enhance overall team performance and productivity.

I completely agree with the view put forward by Barry Johnson in an opinion piece for People Management in which he states that “Those industries early into the revolution will need all the humans they can get who accept and understand the changing world coming down the track. The change in the human social environment and the recognition of what robots and technologies need to be effective won’t just happen on its own – it needs smart people, at every level of organisations, from the shop floor right the way up to the boardroom.”

Our role then as leaders in managing people needs to shift to one in which we ready our people to embrace not only the hybrid workforce but also the contingent nature thereof. My question to you then is simply… are you yourself ready for this?

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