Technology is already starting to shiftthe shape of organisations, and the work that people do. We know that business inthe future will need to be infinitely more agile and fluid, in order to swiftlymeet the emergent needs of their customers. Work teams will need to beinfinitely outcome and performance focused - consumers are already rejectingmediocracy.
The future of work will require anentirely different approach to organisational design and staffing. ’Agile’ 21stCentury businesses will nurture ’talent ecosystems’, rather than run the traditionaloverhead of a permanent employee payroll. For those organisations willing and ableto maintain in-house talent, employees will need to be adaptive enough to addvalue to multiple fluid work teams in parallel.
What do we mean by 21st Century Talent Ecosystem?
One of our objectives within Workingthe Future is to build our own talent ecosystem. This way we can experiment,learn what works in practice, and share findings with our clients as we go.
Much of what we’ve applied so far isbased on my observations from the 1990s, when my job was to staff start-upmobile network operators. I helped build teams of contract telecoms engineers,who designed and deployed mobile phone networks across Europe, getting themready for commercial launch.
In every case, engineering teamsaligned around a specific goal (meeting an agreed launch date), underpinned by exemplaryreporting and feedback loops. Teams were spread the length and breadth of anygiven country, so clear communication and mutual respect were key. Many of theengineers that built these networks came from military backgrounds, and themost successful network roll-outs can absolutely be attributed to militarydeployment tactics.
Few of these engineers were employedon a permanent basis. The most effective deployment teams went on to replicatenetwork roll-outs in multiple territories across Europe, coming together anddisbanding on a ’just-in-time’ and ’on-demand’ basis. From this experience, Iknow first-hand that it’s possible to build high-performing impermanent teamsof people when there’s a commonly understood purpose and excellentcommunication.
I reflect on this when I think about ourown talent ecosystem. We specifically aren’t looking to hire permanent staffbeyond what’s absolutely essential. We are however, evolving a collective capabilityto help clients build and maintain high-performance teams. We do this byidentifying co-collaborators with complementary skill-sets, and alignmentaround a core set of shared values.
Our tribe aren’t permanent employees,nor do they work for us full-time. They’re free to pursue other commercialopportunities as and when, but we know they will prioritise working with us,because we deliberately focus on four things:
Trust sits at the heart of what we’rebuilding. It enables psychological safety and allows our creativity toflourish. We feel safe enough to throw all our ideas out there for discussion ANDchallenge. Trust doesn’t come easily to everyone - due to life circumstance, itcan take some people longer to build trust than it does others. We work on it,though. We respect it, and we talk about its importance in everything we do.Trust comes from transparency, as well as from the conscious nurturing of therelationships we have with one another.
Trust can’texist without mutual respect - they’re bedfellows. Because of our applied focuson these things in the daily running of our business, our internalrelationships are stronger. With strong supportive relationships in place, weexperiment, learn and adapt faster. Our approach is continuously evolving.
Being honest with one another makescollaboration and sharing so much easier. We recognise that market complexitymakes it impossible for one single person to possess all the facts needed tomake decisions. We therefore confer and seek feedback continuously. Collaboratingdeepens the trust and mutual respect we feel for one another. It strengthensour ability to evolve as learners - we’re continuously experimenting andlearning together. We wholeheartedly believe in the power of the tribe, thebenefits of diversity of thought, and the value of plurality of perspective.
Our commitment to clear continuous communication,without ambiguity, and without ego, underpins the other ingredients above.
These four essentials are, for us,deeply interconnected. Because we share a common value set, with these things inplace, we believe we perform together far more effectively. Don’t get me wrong, this approachtakes constant focus, but it enables us to consistently move forward. With eachcollaboration opportunity, our sense of connection deepens.
We’re always keeping an eye out forpeople with similar values, who might complement our skill sets at a point inthe future. This approach to talent allows us greater fluidity in our abilityto meet new project requirements; by keeping communication channels open, wecan quickly ramp up a team of like-minded individuals to deliver customerexcellence. Attitude trumps aptitude every time. Skills can be taught, but corevalues are intrinsic.
I don’t suggest we have our ecosystemapproach 100% right; there’s always room for improvement. What we haveidentified however, is that fluid and adaptive talent ecosystems are far easierto build when a strong and supportive psychological contract is in place.
If you’d be interested in a chat tosee if your attitude and skills might fit with us at some stage, please do getin touch.