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Posts Tagged ‘Cloud’

The Rise of the Remote Workforce

remote-workforce-360x260We live in an emerging globalized mobile world of dispersed cloud workers. More than ever we see individuals and organizations trading in their traditional offices to work from home, coffee houses and just about anywhere in the world in which they can connect to the Internet. Leading the 21st century dispersed workforce brings its own challenges and requires new attitudes, approaches, and technologies. It requires leadership that is willing to step out of the comfort of the corner office and explore rich new possibilities of workforce engagement. It requires a higher degree of understanding communication, culture, collaboration, and empowerment.

“We live in a time of unprecedented globalism. Businesses, people, and economies are tied together in ways we could not have imagined 40 years ago. Organizations must now compete within a global landscape where clients and even the workforce are culturally diverse and geographically dispersed. Organizations are networked and interlaced around the globe through the Internet and mobile technologies. Crossing and operating within cultural boundaries must­­­ become a skill of the leaders and followers of the future. Organizations of the future must become culturally literate if they are to successfully compete under these emerging paradigms.” – Philip A Foster, The Open Organization, 2014

As we witness the emergence of a globalized mobile world of dispersed cloud workers, more than ever we see individuals and organizations trading in the traditional offices for the coffee house office or what I like to call the Coffice. A cloud based workforce is nothing more than a distributed or remote employee who is not bound by geography, time zone, or national boundaries. These employees are connected to colleagues via technology and therefore are able to work more flexibly via the internet.

Leader flexibility is the key to creating an atmosphere where each employee can become more excited about where they work and more importantly what they are working on. As the world becomes more globalized, the need for a flexible cloud optimized workforce is more evident. With a remote workforce comes the need to re-imagine and retool leadership for the remote worker. What is certain is that the way we approach and engage leaders and followers is quickly changing. There are challenges ahead as we assimilate into the new realities of a distributed cloud based workforce. Leading the charge for change is and will continue to be our Millennials. By the year 2025, it is estimated that nearly 75% of all work will be held by this generation. What is certain – change will happen whether we embrace it or not. As the 21st century organization continues to seek greater flexibility, organizational leadership must also evolve to the pressures and realities of a globalized economy.

While traditional leadership relies on formality, power, and proximity to followers; the Organization of the 21st century is emerging as a nontraditional structure in which authority is not vested in positions and human capital is dispersed geographically. Organizations will begin to abandon traditional leadership pedagogue for leaderless, self-led, and an empowered autonomous workforce. As hierarchies begin to collapse, leaders must learn to adapt to new realities and what it means to lead a more culturally diverse dispersed workforce from a distance.

As our reality shifts, leaders must learn how to communicate more effectively; engage human capital differently; embrace cultural nuances with diplomatic precision; and empower employees. The shift toward a dispersed workforce requires confidence and an abandonment of old models of employee engagement. The new way of working is not for everyone.  These changes will require discernment in the on-boarding process. Because Communication is so different in the dispersed setting, employees must leave ego behind and walk with assurance that they questions are important enough to ask.

Things are shifting – organizations are changing. Engagement of employees will change. We can either prepare for the inevitable or bury our heads in the depths of a 19th century hierarchical structure. In the end, you can change or you can become irrelevant. The choice is up to you.

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 Dr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, International Lecturer and Best Selling Author of “The Open Organization” – now available through Ashgate Publishing. Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He holds a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia.

Twitter: @maximumchange, E-mail: philip@maximumchange.com.

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Always On – The 24/7 world we live in.

fantasy-time-clock-1920x1200

Recently I traveled to the West Coast for a conference; passing through three airports in a matter of hours. People everywhere were focused on some form of technology. It is now common place to see these tech-zombies wandering hallways and sidewalks looking down and focused on their smart-devices. We live in an emerging globalized mobile world of dispersed cloud workers. More than ever we see individuals trading in the traditional offices for the coffee house office or what is now known as the Coffice. Even I have to admit my assimilation into this mobile 24/7 world as much of my work is on the go. In fact, this article was written from a coffee house. If you’ve read any of my work you already know that I am advocate for flat, agile, open organizational structures which require new attitudes toward work and the humans that produce it. When we think about the realities of a 21st century work environment, we begin to realize that the age of the time-clock is coming to a close. In the United States the idea of an 8-hour workday has been around for nearly 150 years. It has its roots in a labor fight for more equitable and fair work conditions, yet it wasn’t until the 1950s that workers finally obtained a true 8-hour work day. The 8-hour day was hard fought by labor unions to bring about more equitable work days. Now that we are emerging into a knowledge based economy, we are very much witnessing the decay of the 8-hour work day into an on-the-go, flexible work schedule. I would argue that the more creative and innovative a company must be, the less likely it is to have a set standard of hours required for its workforce. I believe the idea of a standard day is melting away before our very eyes. Emerging 21st century organizations are going to need their employees to be in their creative sweet space as much as possible. When we begin to mandate specific times of work and work hours, we begin to hurt the creativity of the new millennial workers. Flexibility is the key to creating an atmosphere where each employee can become more excited about where they work and more importantly what they are working on. My study of the tech industry has shown that the new knowledge economy outright rejects the idea of the time clock economics. They don’t operate within the context of a 9-to-5 time clock punching world. As the world becomes more globalized, the need for a flexible cloud optimized workforce is more evident. While I very much advocate the emergence of the flexible work day, it is not without its challenges. Work-life balance can be a challenge in a flex-optimized work day. Another question we should ponder sooner than later is related to ethics in the self-led era of the Open Organization. What is certain is that the way we approach and engage leaders and followers is quickly changing. There are challenges ahead as we assimilate into the new realities of a distributed cloud based workforce. Will traditional business schools catch on to the evolution of management into self-leadership? Will B-Schools be able to stay relevant in a rapidly changing ecosystem? Leading the charge for change is and will continue to be our Millennials. By the year 2025, it is estimated that nearly 75% of all work will be held by this generation. What is certain – change will happen whether we embrace it or not.

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Dr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic PIC3Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent book “The Open Organization” is now available through Ashgate Publishing.  Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at philip@maximumchange.com or (615) 216-5667.

Where have all the employees gone?

Empty office with boxes and one chairIn a recent Wall Street Journal Article “U.S. Could Face High Unemployment Through 2030” (Read Here), it argued in part that by the year 2030, unemployment could be as high as 11 percent. If you have followed any of my writing for the past couple of years, you would know that I had already sounded the alarm. In fact, with the current trends forecast out we are facing an unprecedented time in the availability of a skilled and qualified labor force. By one estimate, we can expect less than 35 percent of the workforce in full time positions by the year 2040. The numbers are staggering. With an estimated population in the United States in 2040 to be roughly 382.2 million, we are looking at 65% of the population without full time work. The chart below offers a rough estimate of what can be expected within the next 26 years:

Cohort (2040)

Number in Millions Percentage

0-19 (too young to work)

84.05 22%
Unemployed 42.04 11%
Employed Full time 133.8 35%
Other 94.02 25%
70+ (retired) 28.29 7%

 

You may be asking why this is important today? I can offer an analogy based on industries, government, communities and individuals that did not prepare for the future. If we consider the auto industry for a moment, specifically focused on areas in which large manufacturing facilities were located. Detroit is a good example of how the industry changed and within a short period of time, the regions that supported the factories fell into demise. While there are many reasons why this happened, the fact remains that there was little attention paid to the future much less scenarios asking the question “what if the factory closed tomorrow.”  If you are a business leader you might want to ask yourself what a reduction in your workforce would look like. Start to look at what it would take to run an international, multimillion dollar organization with 50 percent less staff. How will a small or midsize corporation survive if they cut their human capital in half?

There are many pressures creating this reality. Truth be told, this is not something that just started happening in the past few years. In fact, the workforce began shrinking in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We have been on a slow decline for over 20 years. Pressures include a decline in fertility in the United States, a growing unskilled labor force, and a dysfunctional immigration policy that inhibits the entry of skilled labor while freely accepting unskilled labor without question.

How will we respond to these changes over the next 20 years? We can already see the results of this coming crisis. Technology is beginning to embrace robotics. Not just machines, but also software. Technology companies are developing artificial intelligence at a staggering rate. New technologies are emerging such as self-building robots and 3D-Printing just to name a few. Deficits include retooling and educating a growing unskilled labor force.  Organizations will begin to embrace more egalitarian structures in an effort to create efficiencies while maintaining a smaller organizational footprint. We will begin to see the freelancing and consulting as a growth industry. Remote workers will complete their tasks through the “cloud” and via video conferencing. This could have an effect on business travel and how we engage clients face-to-face. Clients will expect quicker response at a lower cost threshold.

While these are all assumptions, the idea is to think strategically about the future. Asking tough “What IF” questions and developing responses to mission-critical threats in the not-so-far-off future.

 

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Dr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic PIC3Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent book “The Open Organization” is now available through Ashgate Publishing.  Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at philip@maximumchange.com or (615) 216-5667.