Future In Focus, a new firm based in Washington, DC that we like a lot, provides access to one of the largest bodies of foresight research in the world. The research they offer provides valuable insight on issues and opportunities that may materially affect the way we live and work in the future.
Today’s excerpt from Future In Focus zeroes in on the future of organizational practices. If you’d like full access to this report and others like it, please visit the Future In Focus website at www.futureinfocus.com.
“The Future of Organizational Practices: Introduction
There are a wide variety of visions for how work and the workplace will change in coming decades. Some focus on technology—e.g., on how new devices or big data will change workers’ lives—while others analyze the way in which Millennials and other generations will mix to create the workforce of the future. One area often left out of the conversation is how changes underway in organizational culture will help transform work.
Edgar Schein, MIT professor and thought leader in the study of organizational culture, is quoted as saying, “The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture.” Organizational culture includes the collective values, norms, visions, language, beliefs, and habits that characterize an organization.
If an organization is to thrive in 2025, leaders will need to recognize and embrace organizational practices that are emerging today. They will need to create new cultures for the future, using the many new tools available now, such as data analysis, social media, and experimental trials of new HR practices and policies.”
The full brief from Future In Focus presents four forecasts designed to illuminate how organizational culture and practices could plausibly look in 2025. The remaining excerpt below focuses on one of those four forecasts.
“Motivation Will Be More Important and More Difficult
Organizations in every industry are becoming more aware that a skilled, motivated workforce is the distinguishing characteristic of success. In knowledge-based organizations, imagination and innovation are required to stay ahead. Service industries thrive or fail on individual client interactions, amplified quickly on social media, while manufacturing requires constant adjustments to optimize processes, materials, and “silicon co-workers.” And the data bears out that motivation matters. Organizations with motivated employees—i.e., with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every disengaged employee—reported 147% higher earnings than their competition (based on 2010–2011 numbers).
However, a 2013 Gallup Poll of the American workplace highlighted that just 30% of employees report being engaged at work, while 52% say they are present but not fully engaged, and 18% say they are actively disengaged. This suggests organizations still need to find novel ways to motivate and incentivize workers, partners, and other key stakeholders.
Motivation is a difficult topic because its sources are very individualized, but there are some general perspectives worth understanding. Going forward, organizations will need to rethink motivation and not default to what has worked in the past. This could develop in several directions:
- Different eras, different values. Each of the past three eras of production—the Machine Age, the Information Age, and now what is often called the Knowledge Age (or Conceptual Age)—has its own corresponding set of values. The Machine Age valued control, commitment, materialism, and consistency. For the Information Age (which is still the prevailing paradigm), it is access, connectivity, equity, equality, and analysis. The Knowledge Age, while still nascent, appears to value choice, co‑creation, flexibility, individuality, self-expression, honesty, and authenticity. Management needs to reevaluate all sorts of organizational practices, from employee selection to retirement, to ensure they are consistent with the emerging values of the Knowledge Age in order to move the organization forward.
– Baby boomers: “You’re important to our success.”
– Gen Xers: “We’ve got the latest technology.”
– Millennials: “You’ll be working with other bright creative people.”
- Positive messages need to dominate. Studies have shown that 80% of the messages that workers need to receive should be positive. They will listen to the other 20% if the ratio remains at 4:1.
In today’s competitive environment for top talent, it might be easy to consider salary or monetary rewards as the key to motivation. However, studies have shown that “the association between salary and job satisfaction is very weak,” and the same research found that intrinsic motivations are a better predictor of job performance than extrinsic motivations such as money. In light of these kinds of findings, leadership needs to find creative new approaches to motivation that are also in line with generational and “Knowledge Age” values.“
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