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Disruption has become a common business term. It was introduced by Harvard Business School professor Clay Christensen in his book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. Disruption, as defined by Christensen, means to provide a product or service to a market that previously couldn’t be served OR to offer a simpler, cheaper more convenient option to an existing product. You’ll notice that disruption doesn’t mean better. Over time, people have started tossing around the word disruption for every new thing on the market.
Whether the company’s product or service is truly disruptive, I’ll leave that for you to decide. But one outcome I’ve noticed about disruption is that it requires us to think differently about work. That shift in mindset was a key theme at this year’s SilkRoad Connections 2019 conference. Opening keynote speaker Polly LaBarre, author of the New York Times best-seller “Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win”, challenged us to think about our workplaces in a different light.
One of the big takeaways for me was, instead of organizations creating rules for each different workplace situation, the goal should be to create rules that apply all the time. Let those rules drive company culture. LaBarre shared seven rules of work that she believes define how employees want to work today.
But before you scroll down and check out LaBarre’s new work rules, let me add that with each of these rules comes some training. I don’t know that employees are graduating from school with these skills. I don’t know that employers are making skill development in these areas a priority. Getting the future workforce ready for the new rules of work includes training.
1. Everyone has power. Fans of HR Bartender know that we have talked about workplace power for years. There are many different types of power, but they all do the same thing: influence. Organizations and individuals need to realize that power exists at every level of the organization and teach people how to identify and use their power responsibly.
Two programs where organizations can introduce the concept of power include leadership and management skills training. Power can also be discussed in manager orientation and onboarding. And if you really want to disrupt workplace thinking, consider having a “Leadership 101” session for all new hires where the company can talk about leadership, power, and influence – again, at all organizational levels.
2. Nobody is smarter than everyone. The amount of work being done through collaboration has dramatically increased over the past decade. This means that organizations need to focus on developing employee collaboration skills.
Developing collaboration skills can take place during team development sessions. Not team building, that’s something different. Team development focuses on those skills that we need to be a good team member, such as problem-solving, decision-making, etc. Training in these areas should be made available to all employees as part of their onboarding process.
3. All ideas are heard. Listening skills are vital in everyday business conversations. Employees need to listen to customers, co-workers, and their managers. In turn, managers need active listening to have effective one-on-one meetings with employees. Finally, senior management must listen for feedback from employees and customers. It’s a continuous cycle.
When we talk about listening, we’re not just referring to the spoken word. Listening includes all communications like video, email, phone calls, etc. What’s great about listening skills is that we can build short activities into everything we do versus one big training session.
4. Challenging ideas is acceptable and encouraged. This conversation needs to start during the interview process. Organizations might want to ask candidates, “Tell me about a time when you challenged a company decision.”
Being an organization that says challenging ideas is okay and one that does it are two different things. The way to show that this isn’t just an empty statement is with actions. It also takes some conflict management training, which is probably better at the front end of an employee’s career.
5. Passion is the most powerful currency. Right now, there’s a debate about the role of passion in career development. I believe it really comes down to how you define passion. It could be viewed as connection, which is very powerful.
I could also see how someone might say, “You can’t teach passion. It just needs to be there.” The part you can train is in the area of confidence. We like (or are passionate about) things we do well. In addition to the soft skills we’ve talked about so far, it’s important that employees feel confident they can do the technical aspects of their job.
6. People design their own jobs. This plays off of #5 above. When employees are confident in their abilities, they will want to drive how work gets done. We’re not talking about employees deciding that they don’t want to do a job task. This is about empowering employees to do the work their own way.
One way to think of empowerment is in the context of self-management. This ties in skills like problem-solving, decision-making, and technical skills into self-managed career development.
7. Values rule decision-making and accountability. The final rule ties all of the other rules of work together. Company values should already be the guiding principles of the organization.
Managers and human resources will want to ask questions about values during interviews. Orientation and onboarding programs need to be aligned with values. Performance management and career development programs should be aligned with values as well. Once expectations are set, now it’s time to hold people accountable for living the organization’s values.
These new rules of work could be shared with candidates during the interview process by hiring managers, highlighted in preboarding communications from senior management, touched upon during orientation by HR, and discussed at great length during onboarding around the entire organization. It’s how the new rules of work become engrained in culture.
If companies want to compete for talent in today’s business world, they have to change with the times. That doesn’t mean just offering new products and services or updating equipment. It means changing the rules of work so employees can deliver on the new ideas they are being asked to implement.
P.S. If you want to stay on top of trends about the future of work, check out SilkRoad’s Workforce 2030 podcast series hosted by Alexandra Levit. Organizations that want to disrupt the market have to disrupt their workplaces. The good news is you don’t have to get your ideas all alone. I’m honored that Alex asked me to join her for a conversation about the skills gap. Hope you’ll check it out.16