Year 2020: Don’t bet your company will be the same as now. And by the way, don’t bet your company will change beyond description. There will be change, but it won’t be disruptive.
Recent research conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit says companies will be larger and more globally integrated, with better information flow and collaboration across borders, less centralized, a flatter hierarchy and more empowered employees.
Employees will not just be knowledge workers of today, but active stakeholders in decision-making. They will double as data scientists, not because of a decree from the boss, but because of their ability to play multiple roles. For example, a LinkedIn employee uses analytics to come up with the popular “People You May Know” feature. A Facebook team creates a new coding language. And the boss cannot turn around and say, ‘I told you so’.
Size will not matter. It doesn’t really even today. Anecdotal stories of David vs Goliath will become more routine than rare, more fact than fiction. In fact, size could well be a disadvantage. Value creation will not depend on a company being a 800-pound gorilla, but on the ability of individuals to connect with one another.
Speed to market and speed to work will be the new dynamic on demand. To study it in contrast, consider the term “spinning the tape”, a fashionable jargon used by balance sheet accountants. Spinning the tape refers to the static way of analyzing accounting data for years. The new paradigm could be described as “speeding the tape”. Eg: You could be working on a deadline that is yesterday and expected to deliver just-in-time.
Employee loyalty will get virtually extinct. Blame it on global operations, emerging markets, and demographic pressure. 360-degree appraisals will be the norm. The boss will review your performance, and you will be reviewing his. It cuts both ways.
Management could be localized while company outlook will be globalized. Cross-cultural hires will be more frequent and people with poor soft skills will not be able to get a foot in. Perform or perish will be the universal credo of all organizations.
More organizations will invest in R&D and use data silos to test product launches. The metrics will vary from division to division. For instance, Google manages its various offices at Paris and New York in different ways, for there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all for organizations in the future.
But not everything will be hunky dory. Just like it always is in all enterprise history. Serving different kinds of customers in different countries through a workforce which is equally drawn from different lands, speaking different languages, create a whole new and different set of challenges for organizations. Consider working at odd hours. Outsourcing to call centers began as a great cost-cutting idea – and still is – but the intangible costs such as employee migration, employee retention, and the emotional costs on account of graveyard shifts will pose difficult and formidable challenges.
The future workplace calls for leaders with a holistic view of conducting business and managing people. Organizations will have to speed up to the science, step out of the fast lane and work on themselves. We shall be reminded often that Success, as Bill Gates famously said, is a lousy teacher…