Managing New Ways to Work

Dateline: April 19, 2013

Welcome to our Friday WRAP – one thought-provoking idea to think about over the weekend.

A recent Harvard Business Review article by Tammy Johns and London Business School Professor Lynda Gratton suggests that there have been 3 waves of change in the way knowledge workers work in their article, The Third Wave of Virtual Work.

In three major waves of change over the past 30 years, employers and workers have converged on new arrangements for getting knowledge work done. First, home computers and e-mail spawned an army of freelancers, offering both workers and employers new flexibility. Next, mobile technology and global teamwork gave the same kind of work-anywhere, work-anytime flexibility to full-time employees, without asking them to forsake career progress and development within their companies. Now, in a third wave, new ways of providing community and shared space are curing a side effect of virtualization—worker isolation—and driving increased collaboration.

Managers must rethink the way they structure work for the newest wave of virtual coworkers.  The authors offer the following advice:

  • Focus on collaboration– Since collaboration is critical to an innovative culture and hence an important part of every company’s culture, work practices and governance processes must reflect this goal, and today many do not.
  • Rethink physical workspace– The focus of the space is around collaboration and building trust and teamwork, rather than just a place to come to use the computers.
  • Reconstruct workflows to tap remote talent- Organizations must rethink how work is broken up among employees and specialists (who may be remote) in order to build a competency around tapping the best talent it the world for it’s goals.
  • Invest in intuitive technology– Insure that IT is easy to use so employees see them not as just a new layer of administrative process but as a way to facilitate the work that must be done.
  • Recognize idiosyncrasy– A 0ne-size-fits-all set of HR practices make things easier for the HR department, but do not necessarily satisfy the increasingly diverse workplace.  Leaders who figure out how to  accomodate this diversity create a compelling value proposition for their current and future workers.

How do you manage this new wave of virtual workers?  How can you transform your organization’s work practices to become increasingly attractive to new employees, while maintaining the productivity and effectiveness necessary to meet the needs of your business partners?

That’s a WRAP.  Have a wonderful weekend.

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