In the book, I talk about how different the #FutureofWork will be. With more work to be done than professionals, it is within the realm of possibility that we will become free agents and freelancers, working on projects that best suit our talents and ambitions, across different companies, industries and even countries. In Free Agent Nation, Daniel Pink referred to this as the “Hollywood model”. I found inspiration from this as I forged into my portfolio career almost two years ago, choosing to do what I love 100% of the time: research, writing, consulting, public speaking, and creative pursuits.
Companies of the future who need knowledge workers and experts will have to figure out how to meet business demands with transient talent. For high turnover workforces such as in the retail and restaurant industries, it is today’s reality. Other industries have their own revolving door jobs, mostly in their hourly staff as well. Not enough is done to manage these work experiences, so companies live with higher volumes of employee relations issues, labor disputes, and constant recruitment/termination cycles. It doesn’t have to be this way. A January 2012 article from Harvard Business Review talks about choosing the virtuous cycle (good results) over the vicious cycle (poor outcomes), and how making these jobs “good” will decrease turnover, increase efficiency, and positively impact customer perceptions. (Source: Why Good Jobs are Good for Retailers) Some exemplary retail shops and restaurants have proven this to be true, though any organization can create their own way of doing this, regardless of industry. Here are a few suggestions on where to start from a Design of Work Experience (DOWE) perspective:
1. Make It a Great Place to COME FROM. Similar to other parts of the organization, collaborate with your employees to design a culture and environment that exemplifies your company’s values and ties work (at all levels) to the achievement of the business strategy. Create an environment where people feel valued, find meaning in their work, and collaborate well with others. Tap into the natural human desire to make a difference and learn new things. Establish ways to track achievement even in the most repetitive jobs. Enable employees to have great relationships at work. In other words, set the conditions for success.
You can also use this workforce to provide key insights on customer experiences, perceptions, and interactions that will improve your business. Word will get out as employees brag about their workplaces to their friends and family, knowing that it is a privilege to be a part of something so cool. The good ones will want to stay or stay longer. Those that move on to their next employers will remain loyal customers for life. Who knows? They might advance their careers and return one day to lead in greater capacities. Ultimately, the good reputation of your company will ensure you will always have enough applicants, plus a strong brand to boot.
2. Invest Efforts in Finding the Right People. No matter what degree of skill is required for the job, you want good people who are aligned with your values, take pride in their work, and are honest and ethical. Design your recruitment experience to weed out those that ultimately won’t work out and select for those that will. The standard interview questions won’t do. Create a recruitment experience unique to your company that engages people, digs beyond the surface, and gives you a chance to observe behavior and capabilities.
3. Be Consistent. Treat standards of performance and conduct for what they are—standards. This takes the guess work out for people because they will know what to expect and where the boundaries are. Don’t settle for “ok” or “good enough”, and don’t let things slide. Doing so would give you a workplace with middle performance at best and a tendency to decline. Too often frustrated employees have complained about those that “get away with” things, raising fairness concerns. Address issues through to resolution quickly, whether it means coaching, providing feedback, or even termination. Your stronger workers will appreciate this, and it minimizes stress for everyone.
These principles will help you determine what works best according to the unique context and complexity of your organization. While these are not easy to do and will require some work, the benefits far outweigh the cost in the long-term. Begin your “virtuous cycle” today, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.