Much has been said recently about the #newwaytowork as it relates to technology and work tools, especially in light of the highly-anticipated IBM Verse email service.
However, one thing that frequently gets lost in the excitement over new business developments like Verse, cloud computing, and BYOD policies, is the concept of the new way to work as it relates to management.
The truth is, new email platforms and stronger wireless signals are great and will help contribute to a more agile workplace, but they are only half of the equation. Companies also need to keep in mind that the new way to work has also brought about a new way to manage. Without embracing this new way to manage, you are severely limiting the benefits that the new way to work can provide for your business.
The Changing Definition of an Employee
In today’s world of work, employees are no longer the tie-wearing cubicle drones of the 1980s and 1990s. Modern employees are more empowered with information than ever before: they know what they deserve from their employers and aren’t ashamed to go after it.
In the old days, employee survival meant conforming to a company culture and making sure that you performed well in very specific areas. But now, employees need to be empowered. Their unique ideas and needs must be respected, and while they must still conform to company culture, they must be allowed to do so in their own way.
These are the rules that govern management for the new way to work. Managers and executives who want to get with the times and adapt this new style need to keep in mind two key ideas for managing employees: motivation and personalization.
The Dual-Pronged Approach to the New Way to Work
As technology becomes more sophisticated, motivation becomes even more important for employees. In an enterprise world that seems to be increasingly governed by metrics, impersonal data, and rigid company standards, motivation means finding the unique factors that will motivate each specific employee. You have to find the right motivators for different members of your team, instead of trying to force them into a style that may not be right for them.
Unfortunately, data frequently paints a grim picture of how successful companies have been with motivating their team members. Research shows that a whopping 88% of employees in the workforce today are not passionate about what they do. The silver lining in this depressing statistic is that companies who do position themselves ahead of the curve can benefit tremendously, since they will stand out: with employees at so many other companies unhappy, a business that effectively motivates their team will be a beacon of the progressive workforce that attracts the best and brightest talent.
The other part of management that goes hand-in-hand with motivation is personalization. Personalization is a concept that has been greatly emphasized in the education field: pioneers like John Dewey, Howard Gardner, and Richard Felder have all published lots of great works on teaching and learning styles.
Yet looking around today’s workforce, you would think that no one in the enterprise had ever heard of any of these proponents of different learning styles. Many companies simply expect their team members to learn what they need to learn the way that management wants them to, with little regard for what is best for their employees. One of the easiest ways to adopt personalization is through applying a concept that many companies already understand: mentoring. Most people know what the concept of mentoring is, but when you think about the basics of the idea, it is simple: training someone to reach success based on their needs and goals, not trying to force them into a work style that doesn’t work well for them. With the right mentoring tactics based on learning styles and the unique motivational catalysts of each employee, it is much easier to personalize your employee management to get better results.
The New Way to Work and Manage
The bottom line is that the new way to work isn’t just about more effective ways to read emails, or fancy “touchdown” conferencing equipment. The new way to work is a mindset, a philosophy: it must be present in both the physical work tools and the managerial attitudes that company leaders have. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter where employees work or what cutting edge business tool is developed next, because at the end of the day companies still won’t be able to engage their team members how they need to.