The future of work: move from transaction to co-creation

dentsu international's Victoria Livingstone argues that the psychological contract between employers and employees is changing

There is a shifting power dynamic in the workplace which is driving the urgency for change. When considering how you evolve workplace culture, never more true are the words, “If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even more”.

I have been in the world of HR and organisational effectiveness for more than two decades and the ‘great resignation’ is arguably the most important revolution that is shaping the future of work. How people view work as part of their lives and their expectations from employers have permanently changed because of COVID-19. Organisations must have their people’s needs at the core of their business and tailor policies and process to fit their people, not the other way around.

A fundamental shift in the psychological contract at work

Over the last few years through this period of expedited change, we have seen people reimagine their relationship with work, family, technology and society to move forward in a healthier, happier, and more sustainable way. And this has resulted in a fundamental shift in the psychological contract between employees and employers. The traditional transaction-based relationship where employees work within the parameters set by their employers in exchange for a salary is no longer enough. People are looking for more flexibility so they can better integrate work and life. That means companies must tailor their policies, process and operations that fit their people’s needs and motivations, or else they will take their talent elsewhere.

It is also important for companies to understand that people have different circumstances, so a one-size-fits-all work model is now obsolete. Being empathetic and actively listening to employees’ feedback is key to becoming a more agile and adaptable workplace.

However, simply offering employees flexibility isn’t enough to keep them in an organisation, more and more people are motivated by purpose in their professions and choosing employers based on their social impact commitment, especially amongst a younger cohort. Almost all companies in the marketplace have an ESG plan, that is their license to operate and a key band differentiator. Social impact at a macro level attracts new talent but it doesn’t retain them. Companies must align their HR policies, rewards and operations with their social purpose to keep their employees while empowering them to use their capabilities as a force for good.

A company that is paving the way of aligning their business and social impact strategies is global technology firm Cisco Systems. When I was part of their HR team, I experienced first-hand significant investment dedicated to creating a conscious culture that is permeated across their entire operations around the world. From Cisco’s people strategy to product development to community building, the conscious culture is used as a guiding principle that translates their purpose into actions and accountabilities. Vodafone, another company I had the privilege to work with, is also committed to delivering tangible actions to their people based on their ESG strategy. Learning is embedded in Vodafone’s ESG plan. This pillar ensures their employee career development and digital upskilling is part of Vodafone’s business. Their belief of what’s good for their people is good for their customers has always been a longstanding principle.

From transaction to co-creation

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is what the role of offices is moving forward. It’s safe to say that people don’t want to come into the office to just answer emails, they want to be in a physical space where they can collaborate with their peers and create new ideas and solutions that they wouldn’t have been able to achieve elsewhere. Therefore, companies must be more intentional with how their office spaces are constructed and used.

Our team in France created a partnership with WeWork to enable a truly hybrid model of working based on employee feedback as they expressed the desire for both flexibility and collaboration to do their best work. The key to a successful hybrid work model is to balance your employees’ needs and your organisational mission. Establishing a co-creation work culture where employees are equipped and empowered to operationalise their personal and organisational purpose through autonomy and co-creation is key to building a happy and high-performing hybrid workforce.

For marketing professionals reading this article, why not transfer your brand and customer experience design thinking for your employees and weave purpose, agility and personalisation into your organisational culture. Bring your employees into a co-creation process and iterate over time based on their feedback and deliver a tailored work experience. You will see that when you integrate your employees’ voices and individualities into your operating model, magic can happen.

Featured image: Mike Kononov / Unsplash

Victoria Livingstone

Victoria Livingstone is the Chief People Officer of EMEA at dentsu international. Victoria has more than two decades of experience as an HR leader across multiple industry sectors including Ford, Cisco, Vodafone, Liberty Global, HSBC and ASOS. She specialises in partnering with the business on critical change and transformation to support commercial outcomes, bringing expertise in organisation design, effectiveness and development, with a strong focus on culture, inclusion and values. As the Chief People Officer, Victoria is part of the regional Executive Team and accelerate dentsu’ integration and growth through talent, culture and organisation effectiveness.

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