Wake up to the new world of work

The post-recession economy has spawned a new world of work. The roots of this revolution go back several decades but it took the catalyst of a serious downturn to really accelerate the changes.

In the past fortnight I’ve seen a whole range of articles and white papers that have touched on the issues involved. What’s evolved from those is a sense that employers and employees alike haven’t yet woken up to the realities of this brave new world. It was finally an article published by the CIPD that prompted me to kick off what I hope will be a series of blogs.

As anyone who knows me will testify, I am a champion of flexible working. It is a cornerstone of Chiumento’s “virtually virtual” business model. In many ways I hope our competitors don’t embrace what is happening in the world of employment for as long as possible. It gives us such a powerful commercial advantage.

Just how big our advantage is has been demonstrated by our latest piece of recruitment. The challenge of hiring great marketing people has been a hot topic in my networks. Well, I am pleased to report, we’ve bucked the trend. How?

Our culture is centred on one word: trust. In such a culture you don’t need to look over people’s shoulders to know they are doing a great job. Get over the mental barrier of “presenteeism” and you suddenly realise that dragging people miles to an office to do stuff they could have done without stepping outside their front door isn’t such a great idea. Especially as you have to pay through the nose for anything like decent workspaces in City centres.

The biggest change you need to implement is a focus on outcomes not activities or inputs. Do I need to care if someone working at home takes their break at lunchtime or mid-afternoon so they can do the school run? Is the quality of a proposal judged by the hours taken to produce it or whether we win the business? Is it more important that we have a manned office or that clients can reach the people they need to quickly and easily?

Technology has fundamentally changed the way we can structure work. Yet far too few line managers have adapted to that reality. They are still locked into “supervision” when what is really needed is leadership. People aren’t engaged by power, rank, job title or authority. People choose leaders, they can’t be imposed.

Our secret hiring formula? This is what we said in our job advertisement:

“We’re looking for someone who can work the equivalent of three days per week. How that time is structured we are completely open-minded about. All we will ask is that you commit to 2-3 full days each month which will need to be flexible to travel to meet with your key stakeholders. The rest you can work from home”.

The result? Over 100 applications. Many from amazing people. Some of whom were willing to take significant drops in salary to get a flexible, home-based job. As one candidate commented: “I’ve been looking for a job like this for two years – they just never come up”. Which perfectly illustrates the point the CIPD are making.

However, like all advantages, this will be temporary. Sometime in the future all businesses will smell the same coffee that I do. My challenge is to make sure that by then we’ve moved on again. We had a fantastic debate on making work even more flexible at our latest Board meeting. Including moving from home working to fully mobile working.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for the new world of work. Watch out for more articles in the days and weeks ahead.

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