Humanizing the future of work: Connecting the dots.

This is the second installment in a series of four write-ups that takes a closer look at what it means to humanize the future of work. It is co-written by Hala Beisha, a transformation strategist with a focus on the human factor, who is based in Toronto and Natalija de Jesus, a strategic designer based in Munich.

As mentioned in the previous write-up, North American employees are experiencing lower levels of engagement and motivation. According to the Gallup State of American Workplace Study 2016, USD 480–600 billion a year is lost due to these decreased levels of motivation. This is a large wasted resource.

Deloitte’s Work Environment Redesign report points out that shrinking natural resources, growing global competition and the demands of globalization are having a significant negative impact on companies’ bottom lines and forcing them to rethink the way they operate. There is one key strategic resource that remains untapped — human capital. Professionals within organizations have the capacity to energize the workplace and re imagine new solutions when there is direction and employees are challenged and connected.

We believe there are practices and structures that can be introduced both at the organizational and individual levels to amplify employee engagement, build connection and grow trust.

The Changing Role of Managers

Today’s creative economy is driven by innovation and competition. According to a Harvard Business Review Article What Value Creation Will Look Like in the Future, organizations need structures that support innovation at increasing scale. Fluid structures are required to help professionals develop networks of problem-solvers to adapt to changing customers’ needs and shifting trends. The author of the article points to a shift in the role of managers, notably “to oversee creative economies, ecosystems, and communities.” Managers need to manage innovation and continuously and solve problems quickly.

Why Trust Matters

Trust surfaced during our research as one of the key elements of a well-functioning workplace. It manifested itself through phrases like ‘my team has my back’ and ‘respect for my decisions’. Presence of trust, it can be argued, makes a difference between a great workplace and one with a revolving door. Our entire working lives are connected to the people we work with and for — our colleagues, clients, suppliers and contractors.

The Trust Index

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines trust as “a firm belief in the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something”. The countries that rank highest on the dimension of trust are all in Scandinavia, with the Danes being the most trusting in the world. In a 2011 survey by the OECD, 88.3% of Danes expressed a high level of trust in others, more than any other nationality, followed by Norway, Finland, and Sweden. To compare, USA is in 21st place out of 30 countries surveyed.

The Nordic Style of Management

Scandinavian countries consistently ranked as one of the top countries as it relates to quality of life, education, workplace training, language skills and remuneration according to the 2017 World Talent Ranking by IMD. The Nordic management style is quite different from the North American one. It was found that Scandinavians value collectivism, power sharing and participation. The Swedes, for example, have been called ‘The Japanese of the North’, as both nations seek harmony and mutual understanding, and try to avoid direct conflict. Overall, the Scandinavian Model is characterized by the desire for consensus, and the need to make decisions through a democratic process.

The Scandinavian style of management is driven by values, with the two main being care and trust. The primary focus is on developing, maintaining, and ensuring that team members have healthy and productive work lives. In other words, the pivotal strategy is to ensure that the culture or employee engagement is strong.

We believe that the level of trust in a society influences the workplace and contributes to the high performance across industries. Perhaps this lack of trust in the North American context partially explains the Gallup’s survey finding that USD 480–600 billion a year is lost due to employee de-motivation and loss of productivity.

So how you do you grow trust?