The only constant in today’s world is change. And as the pace of change grows exponentially faster, an organisation’s ability to adapt quickly becomes critical not only to its success, but to its very survival.
“Is there a management team in Australia not talking about making their business more nimble and adaptive? It makes sense doesn’t it? Volatile world, disruptive change and lots of uncertainty,” wrote Graham Winter, executive director of Think One Team International, in BRW in September.
Some traditional HR systems and processes work against frequent, immediate, accurate, high-value feedback, said Winter, author of First Be Nimble and three-time chief psychologist to the Australian Olympic Team. “For example, is there a business process that uses up more business resources and delivers less value than the performance review?”
Building business agility is the new HR imperative. Ensuring management has the skills and resources to provide predictable responses to unpredictable events. With systems and strategies able to ride the waves of upheaval and not only hold course, but seize on new opportunities that change inevitably creates.
The HR director of the future will be “a tech-savvy millennial, fluent in social media and touch screen mobile devices and ready to fill some big, Gen X shoes,” said Matt Straz, founder and CEO of Namely, in Entrepreneur magazine in September.
Embrace new workplace models
Some companies in Australia are taking a proactive approach to the impact that remote and more flexible working has had on employees’ lives. NAB, for example, has undergone a significant cultural change, letting go of antiquated ideas that an employee is working only if you can see them doing so. NAB has created ‘The Village’ in the Melbourne CBD, which allows staff, customers and local businesses to work on an as-needed basis in an informal and flexible environment.
Microsoft Australia has taken to encouraging work-from-home days to highlight how technology can enable employees to accomplish their tasks from pretty much anywhere. “Those organisations that have adopted new workplace models are starting to realise the benefits,” wrote Brad Howarth in his article titled ‘Future of work: how NAB and Microsoft are creating tomorrow’s workplaces today’ in BRW in April. “Microsoft Australia’s shift to flexible working has seen it win a slew of accolades, including Aon Hewitt’s Best of the Best award for the best workplace in 2012. Rose Clements (FCPHR), Microsoft’s HR director for customer service and support, Asia, was named HR Leader of the Year by AHRI in 2013.”
How do executives, leaders and managers strategise about how they are going to deal with the inevitable changes? “The way to win is through people and innovation,” says Brian McGowan, managing partner of Aquinas Search Partners (now merged with AI Partners Executive Search). “In order to innovate, organisations require agile thinkers, decision-makers and problem-solvers. Speed to market and continuous improvement is no longer aspirational, but a critical strategy towards achieving desired outcomes.”
In recent meetings of The CEO Institute, top CEOs noted that, if you’re the CEO of a small or medium enterprise, you’re well-placed to recognise market changes and quickly adapt. Once you’ve fostered a culture of change in your organisation, your employees and stakeholders will be eager to follow you in achieving the vision you’re after. The importance of being ahead of the curve in terms of anticipating business, social and technological transformations was also highlighted as an ability CEOs should try to develop for themselves and foster in their organisations.
They also said the future of the workplace will be agile and adaptable, connected and clever.
How to upgrade your workforce
- When hiring, look for candidates with a lifelong learning approach. They’ll be focused on finding solutions.
- Promote flexibility in work practises (such as allowing remote working) and the workplace (to accommodate individual preferences).
- Phase out traditional initiatives, such as the performance review, in favour of a more open environment that encourages continuous communication.
- Look for learning and development programs that include experiential aspects so that leaders can apply their learning directly to their role.