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On discovery path for the time ahead
Jeanne C. Meister (Partner, Future Workplace) feels that a collaborative approach at the workplace is must to build the future; from redefining teams to managing everyday business processes
Issue Date - 01/07/2012
Q. How will you define a future office? How different will it be from today’s workplace?
A. Organisations need to rethink their approach when it comes to redefining the ‘workspace’ of the future. Why? The desire for a more open and collaborative workspace is being driven by the Millennials, those born between 1977 and 2000.

Just consider these trends reported in the United States:
By 2020, the Millennials will be at least 50 per cent of the US workplace and will bring their digital expectations with them!
At the end of 2011, the number of smartphones sold exceeded the number of PCs sold globally (Business Insider).
By 2016, there will be 375 million tablets purchased globally — a 46 per cent Compound Annual Growth Rate (Forrester).
As of today, 29 per cent of all US households have either a tablet or an eReader (Morgan Stanley Research).
A total of 40 per cent of learning and development executives plan to incorporate tablets into their learning and development offerings by 2015 (Future Workplace as profiled in ASTD Magazine).
Added to these statistics is a global trend, ‘bring your own device’ or BYOD. According to a global survey by Accenture of more than 5,000 Millennials, one out of two is requesting to bring his own device to the workplace. They cite the following reasons:
Blurring of lines between work and personal lives.
The ability to work on an extended schedule, whenever and wherever they want to.
The desire to use their own device to increase personal productivity.
Interestingly, these statistics point to the need for highly collaborative workplaces, and the Millennials are actually making this a key requirement in selecting where to work.

Q. How prepared are the companies today for the future? What should be their steps towards entering the new era of business?
A. The changes needed by business are cross-function, meaning in the areas of real estate, human resources and culture. The reason: a collaborative workplace needs to rethink its core design from the ground up – including how we build teams, how we define roles, and how we manage our everyday business processes. And yet today, many organisations continue to operate from processes designed decades ago, before many of the Millennial workers were even born. 

Organisations will need to break free from the ways of the past and rethink their approach when it comes to redefining the workplace of the future. 

Q. How do you see HR’s role in the future organisations? What will be the key HR operations?
A. HR needs to re-evaluate and rethink much of what we take for granted today such as  flexibility and telecommuting policies: can we focus on an employee’s ability to deliver on time an on budget and not focus on where this employee works? New training: telecommuting and telework requires both employees and managers to assume new skills in communicating, managing virtual teams, training on latest workplace technologies, and recognition and reward policies; hence including everyone participating not just those in home office.

Q. On a connecting note, what are some of the HR practices that will perish? What according to you will be the reasons for that?
A. PTO (Personal Time Off) is one such HR policy that will perish, for this no longer makes sense as long as employees deliver on budget and on time. More companies will follow the lead of Best Buy and their ROWE (Results Oriented Work Environment).

Another policy that will come to an end is the concept of work hours. The idea of having fixed working hours from 9 pm to 5 pm is slowly dying out. As we work in global teams we may be working five hours a day for seven days a week.

Thirdly, the policy of Annual Performance Review will be replaced by immediate peer reviews delivered over real time social networks.

Q. The future organisations will be more about performance and output than office hours. So, how do you see HR’s role in retaining, motivating and engaging the human capital?
A. The HR needs to lead the physical redesign effort in the company. It has to work with a cross-functional team of real estate and design professionals to create a more open-floor plan, one that will stimulate productivity and innovation allowing for spontaneous interactions to happen across disciplines and teams.

It will have to pioneer for the company and lead the effort to develop an internal social network.

Companies like Jive Software are creating opportunities for companies to redesign how work gets done by allowing for greater collaboration, communications and networking inside the enterprise.

HR departments can lead this effort by identifying pilot cases to leverage an internal social network for (1) bringing on board new hires, (2) sharing expertise with widely distributed sales force, (3) creating an expert locator to easily identify subject matter experts and (4) using these networks to redesign learning and development into social learning. These efforts to integrate social media inside a company are beginning to show results in terms of increased employee productivity and engagement scores.

Q. What can HR do today to prepare for the future?
A. HR today needs to develop new skills for head of HR and for the team members around. Social media literacy needs to be fostered. Knowledge of the latest social technologies and tools to use inside the workplace as well as an understanding of the barriers to overcome such as culture, lack of senior management understanding of power of these tools and actual training of employees in how to use these tools in a responsible manner is imperative.

HR should also have knowledge of the policies and guidelines for managing a virtual team. And most importantly it needs to redo HR policies in areas of performance reviews, vacation time, flexibility in work space and hours, mentoring on demand and creating new employee resource groups to account for the changes in future workplaces.
Shishir Parasher           

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