Updated: May 17
Work as we knew it has been turned upside down. The tides of change were already in motion before the pandemic.
People were asking for more involvement in how they worked and when they worked. They were asking for their ideas and their needs to be seen and heard. They were asking to matter. Now, people are insisting on this type of meaningful connection to their work. Their expectations of organizations, of leaders, and of their own careers are forever changed. The question is, are you ready?
The new world of work will be built on the following principles. These principles are the building blocks of your organization’s future thriving.
1) Individuality. This is a move away from humans as resources, as widgets, or as variables that need to be controlled. It is a move toward employees being recognized as whole people, as individuals with tremendous capability, insight, wisdom, creativity, and a desire to contribute and thrive. By seeing team members as individuals, we show them they matter. When they feel that they matter, they contribute all their amazing gifts to our organizations. They feel safe to learn and grow, and we create an upward spiral of human potential.
2) Flexibility. Flexibility refers to when and where people work, yes, but it is so much more. Flexibility has a lot to do with trust. What flexibility really means is that we trust employees to do their jobs. We trust them to use their knowledge, capabilities, and judgment to get the work done and deliver the expected results. And we trust them to come and ask for help when they don’t know how to do something, because they feel safe and welcomed to do so.
3) Abundance. Historically, our work lives have been a competition, and not the good kind. This is due to a flawed and dangerous organizational design principal: scarcity. When there is not enough for everyone, employees have to compete for money, power, and prestige. But why was there not enough? Because organizations weren’t thriving. They weren’t thriving because they weren’t unlocking their human potential. By shifting to a mindset of abundance and allowing people to operate on that principle together, organizations would indeed have become more abundant. More is more. Remember, people are individuals with different desires. If abundance is about having what you truly desire, there is enough for us all.
4) Connection. We are, by nature, social creatures. We desire and are hardwired to be in community. What people are rejecting is conformity and control. What they are seeking is to feel a part of a team, a community of people who see them, hear them, and want to create something meaningful together. People, all of us, want healthy, uplifting relationships and collaboration. We want people to learn with, create with, and succeed with.
5) Joy. We can’t talk about connection without joy. But is joy really allowed at work? For decades, we’ve been unable to make up our minds about that. At times there has been advocacy for happiness at work. Other times, we reject and mock the happiness at work ideals. We insist, “It is called work for a reason!” It is time for us to put this debate to bed. Here’s how: If you were told you could be happy at work and produce amazing results, would you want that? Of course you would! Anyone who made you think otherwise is stuck in their own suffering, and goodness knows we have enough of that.
Underpinning these principles is a belief in human potential. To design an organization based on these principles, we need to believe fundamentally that people are wildly capable of expansiveness, growth, and success. If we don’t believe this, we cannot change. Organizations who have designed themselves from a place of fear and scarcity, to curb risks and to accommodate the dysfunctional few: get ready to turn yourselves and your leadership upside down. But know it will be worth it. When we believe in people, incredible things happen.