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Reinventing a work ecosystem that puts impact first

In Part 4 of our new insights 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 to the benefit of innovation.

24/11/2021
November 22, 2021
-
4
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 the five qualities we believe are essential when establishing any digital innovation partnership. In this insights series, we look at those qualities one by one.

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’. Hybrid work is happening, and 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, culture and innovation? 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, in a fast-paced world?


Companies need to find their own unique approach


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 client experience, 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. 


Rather than policies and control, people and outcomes come first in innovation


Shaping the vision for a new, revolutionary way of working is not something that can be done in a vacuum. Especially not in a consulting company where people are empowered to speak up and drive innovation in everything they do. One way to avoid blanket rules that stifle autonomy, creativity and innovation, rather than encourage them, is to put trust, clients, people and outcomes first when establishing new frameworks. 


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. A lack of blanket top-down rules is a tangible proof of trust in one another that creates the psychological safety that can make people feel at their best. Add to this the simple fact that people perform at their best when they feel at their best, and all this becomes an evident choice for nimble digital innovation partners.

At November Five, the answer to these insights is an ‘Activity-Based Work framework’, which hands people individual decision power about their work location. At its core, Activity-Based Working is an outcome-centred approach; it acknowledges that we all have different productivity needs, and that the various activities we perform may be better suited to a particular setting depending on the type of activity. It puts the focus on the holistic outcome, rather than ‘having to be somewhere’. It was built using the same methods we employ in innovation, focussing on trust, outcomes, learning and iteration to make us better innovators through increased wellbeing, productivity and increased levels of mutual trust.


Ensuring flexibility without jeopardising joint outcomes

One of the biggest challenges when implementing a model that offers such individual freedom and choice, is by far managing expectations (and ruling out assumptions) towards each other. To November Five, unlocking the full value and potential of a flexible hybrid operating model builds upon three success drivers:

  • A balanced client-team-people mindset - as we perform our best work when we pull together
  • Moments to connect - as these are key to build trust, and how we interact with each other, our clients and our company 
  • Mutual trust - as this remains the foundation for any type of relationship, including work relationships. We count on each other, and hold each other accountable with rigorous candor.

So yes - rather than insisting on employees being in a certain place, at a certain time, companies can instill a client & 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.

Tom Vroemans

Co-founder & CEO

24/11/2021
November 22, 2021
-
4
min read

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About Fast Company’s ‘Best Workplace for Innovators’

November Five was named one of Fast Company’s global 100 Best Workplaces for Innovators in both 2020 and 2021. This annual list, developed in collaboration with Accenture, recognises and honors the top 100 businesses from different industries that inspire, support and promote innovation at all levels. For the consecutive year, November Five was the single Belgian workplace listed.

Fast Company is the world's leading progressive business media brand, with a unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, ethical economics, leadership, and design. Written for, by, and about the most progressive business leaders, Fast Company and FastCompany.com inspire readers and users to think beyond traditional boundaries, lead conversations and create the future of business.

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