Most of us are creatures of habit: We start our day the same way each morning, take the same route to work and arrive at work with the same methodology of “getting our day underway.” If we operate our lives in the same manner each day, how do we get out of the “rut” that many of us find ourselves in? How do we discover and then implement new creative ways of working that still enable us to meet the vision of our organizations?
One of the major reasons I am passionate about the HR profession, and have been for many years, is because each day is different and filled with surprises and unknowns. Sure, I keep a to-do list like most of us do, but let’s be honest, this isn’t what takes us into the future, it isn’t what excites our team and certainly isn’t what makes our employer “the employer of choice” or our workplace “a great place to work.” It is actually quite the opposite.
Keeping our organizations, and ourselves, innovative, cutting edge and ahead of the curve requires a “no fear” attitude. While I believe in proper planning, it can sometimes get in the way of creativity. After all, how do we create what doesn’t actually exist, all while mapping out a detailed journey of what comes next? The truth is that we don’t really know what comes next, and that is what is so exciting and terrifying at the same time. Sure, we need to forecast for our companies’ future growth to stay ahead of the recruitment game as well as keep current and future employees interested and engaged. The question then becomes, “how do we do all of that?”
First and foremost, it is people. At the end of the day, whether you believe it’s your employee or your customers, the reality is people know if you truly care about them or not. So, it’s imperative to always focus on your people. If you don’t know what your people want, simply ask! If they won’t tell you then you must find someone they will tell. The truth is, in the beginning, it’s not really about how you get the information, only that you do get it.
Second, and what I personally believe is ultimately tied with people first, is collaboration with our teams and customers. It’s hard for success to occur without this factor. Collaboration brings people together to share ideas and concepts, and is often the key to sparking innovation, garnering relationships, fostering creativity and future growth for all parties involved. In order to collaborate effectively in the workplace, you must be willing to let go of control. Remember when I mentioned the “no fear” attitude? There is no room for control here – it’s about risk. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about careless risk, it’s a calculated risk, but risk none the less. The most cutting-edge companies that we’re all trying to catch up with have all experienced risk along their journey, and continue to do so every single day. That separates the companies we wish to emulate from those we do not.
We can’t mention risk without also acknowledging adaptability. The organization, its people and, in some cases, its customers must all be adaptable. The adaptability trait doesn’t mean it will be easy, it only means that we have the ability to change, accept the change, or in some cases, maneuver through a plan B if plan A doesn’t work out.
Lastly, to think ahead to the future of our work would be impossible without mentioning technology. Advances in technology occur faster than the blink of an eye. It seems that people may at times have a love/hate relationship with it. There is chatter about technology taking over jobs (remember the day of paper benefit enrollments?). Today, there is interactive technology to enroll employees in their benefits who may be based on the other side of world. It has made our job easier in that respect, hasn’t it? Perhaps this is why, when we speak about HR leadership, it is no longer about the way we enroll employees in benefits, but more strategic than that. It’s about what benefits will help us stand out from the crowd when battling for top talent. Is it free trips to anywhere in the world to be included with an employee’s paid six-week sabbatical? Is it maternity or paternity leave for up to 12 months? Is it an executive chef cooking up meals to employees each day in what is more like a five star restaurant than a cafeteria? These benefits may sound crazy, as they are uncommon now, but the answer is yes! Sure, there are organizations out there that have the financial bandwidth to offer such perks and benefits while many others cannot; however, it isn’t all about the money. These are also the organizations that have highly engaged and passionate employees who are excited about coming to work (these are the organizations who have to implement a policy surrounding the requirement to take time off because truly everyone loves coming to work so they don’t feel the need to take a break from it!). Providing employees with an opportunity to learn, including them in where the organization is headed in the future and making their role in it known, and authentically caring about employees and the community in which they all live and work are intangible employer qualities that can make all the difference.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: employees will want to work, and work smarter (not necessarily harder), for an employer who values them and makes it known. It’s imperative for employers to think about this when setting new company policies, establishing a positive work environment that ignites collaboration and creativity. In the end, it comes full circle. A happy employee results in a happy employer and vice versa. How can you think ahead in an effort to create a better work environment and get out of your rut, and encourage those around you to do the same? I challenge everyone to think about this in the coming weeks.