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Empowering people: Reinventing a work ecosystem that works

In Part 4 of our new blog series, we look at how a work ecosystem that focuses on people and outcomes, rather than policies and control, empowers employees, improves resilience and reinforces mutual trust.

min read

Over the past 18 months, we’ve gone from helping our clients adapt and respond to disruptive forces, to being thrust head-on into that disruption ourselves. Navigating change and uncertainty is always challenging, but this period of intense, accelerated learning revealed some key success factors to driving innovation in fast-paced times.

You’ve no doubt noticed that the world of work looks a lot different than it used to. In fact, our work ecosystems have had their biggest collective upheaval for a generation. Once considered an exception to the rule, ‘work from home’ has asserted itself as a legitimate alternative to ‘going to the office’ – at least for roles where on-site presence is not always needed. Hybrid work is happening, and many believe it’s here to stay. 

But how can companies engage with the new ‘work from home’ mindset, while at the same time protect the physical interactions that have traditionally underpinned collaboration, connection and culture? And how can they grab this opportunity to innovate towards a way of working that aligns a company’s needs with the needs and expectations of both employees and clients?

No ‘one size fits all’

For companies across the world, the challenge of whether, and if yes, how to reinvent their work ecosystems to meet new employee expectations is real. Goldman Sachs made the headlines with their hard-hitting decree that employees belong in the office; Twitter and Shopify went the other direction and declared ‘work from home forever’; while companies like Google and Microsoft, and many others, are adopting hybrid models.

But even among the latter group, positions vary considerably, from more prescriptive regimes with a fixed number of days in the office, to approaches that offer near-full flexibility with few to no guidelines:

While it’s interesting to see different strategies, it’s clear that there is no ‘one size fits all’  – neither in terms of the approach a company decides to take, nor when it comes to individual employees, who often perform a diverse range of tasks and activities as part of their role.

And with far-reaching implications on employee sentiment, productivity, recruitment and retention, compensation and benefits, office space and infrastructure, client interaction, and so much more, it’s crucial that companies find an approach that works. 

People and outcomes first

One way to avoid blanket rules that stifle autonomy, creativity and innovation, rather than encourage them, is to put people and outcomes first when establishing new frameworks. 

Across most companies, not only is there a huge variety of tasks and activities performed by different employees, but even within roles, employees find themselves doing various kinds of work. Some of those tasks are perfectly suited to remote working, while for others, being together in the same physical space will undoubtedly lead to the best outcome, e.g. creative brainstorming, project kick-offs with a new client, performance reviews etc. 

Personal productivity needs also differ between employees – what is a conducive environment for one employee for a particular activity might not be conducive for another. Add to this the simple fact that people perform at their best when they feel at their best, and having the flexibility to balance home and/or family needs with work is an important contributor to overall well-being.

Rather than insisting on employees being in a certain place, at a certain time, companies can instill a team-first mindset, grounded in mutual trust. With this approach, employees are empowered to choose the most appropriate location and tools for the task at hand, keeping in mind the outcome and type of interaction or collaboration needed.

Key take-away

One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has triggered innovative thinking into how to support employees in balancing performance and well-being. 

Reinventing the work ecosystem in a way that empowers employees to take a holistic view of their own needs as well as those of their colleagues and clients, creates a powerful new dynamic. Instead of strict policies and control that can create a ‘clock in, clock out’ culture, companies can cultivate a pool of engaged, committed and self-aware employees who seek the best possible outcome for everyone: themselves, their team, their end clients and the company as a whole.

How can our teams help you achieve your goals?
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About Fast Company’s ‘Best Workplace for Innovators’

Every year, Fast Company joins forces with consulting firm Accenture to compose a list of the 100 Best Workplaces for Innovators out of thousands of companies from around the globe. It’s a recognition that celebrates company cultures that empower employees at all levels to improve processes, create new products, or invent new ways of doing business. In other words, it recognises workplace cultures that foster innovation.

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Written by

Brecht Spileers


Director Strategy & Growth