laptopOf all the factors influencing our changing expectations of work, probably the biggest influences are the behaviours and habits we develop  in our daily online lives when we interact with the so-called ‘consumer’ web.  We all spend a substantial amount of our lives connecting, sharing, banking, shopping and learning using our tablet or smartphone, any place and anytime.

We increasingly expect to replicate these online behaviours and habits in our working environment.

So what do I mean by online behaviours and habits? Well this is the stuff most of us do on the consumer web and take for granted.  It includes:

We share. A lot.  We share our thoughts and pictures on Facebook, our videos on You Tube and our CVs on LinkedIn.  And we expect others to share too and comment on what we see and read.  We value this sharing as it informs, entertains and educates us.  Sharing more within organisations gets information to those who can build with it (increasingly this can be anyone) and speeds up innovation and problem solving. Quite understandably, there is now a greater expectation to share more information at work and to have greater transparency.

Connect and do things anywhere and anytime – particularly on mobile.  On the consumer web, we pick up where we left off on any device whether a phone, tablet or laptop, because all the services we use are in the cloud and don’t care which device we are using. This is a growing expectation at work, with many organisations adopting ‘bring your own device’ policies based on cloud based services. This ability to connect anywhere allows more flexibility in time and location and if done right, can actually save organisations a lot of money on travel and offices.  And people value it so much, some are willing to be paid less too!

If we want to, we can learn about pretty much anything via searching for information on Google, watching ‘how to’ videos on YouTube or signing up for a MOOC.  This learning is self-directed and at a pace and time of our own choosing. Smart companies are embracing this as part of their learning and development mix. In a rapidly changing world, all employees should be encouraged and enabled to constantly learn.  For those who want to, it has never been easier.

We have our say – we expect to comment on pretty much anything. We comment on Facebook, review goods on Amazon, recommend venues on TripAdvisor and post our feedback on a video on YouTube.  And if we are not commenting we expect to simply be able to ‘like’ (or dislike) anything.  Organisations that embrace transparent and near real time feedback on ideas, policies and processes report greater continuous improvement and, importantly, greater buy-in from their employees.

If we want to, we can have a have a voice – whether via twitter or publishing our own blog, we can write and share our thoughts on whatever interest us.  This allows others to know what we care and are enthusiastic about. If you know what your employees are passionate about because they have a voice internally, it’s far easier to bring together ad-hoc teams of people who are playing to their strengths and doing what they love.  Using in-house collaborative networks such as Yammer or Chatter is one good way for employees to have a voice, so they can be ‘found’ when needed.

We can crowdsource ideas and information – many of us ask for tips or suggestions online, whether asking for suggestions for places to visit or asking if anyone has something to sell.  If we shared more at work, how much quicker might we get to solutions, or benefit from the greater trust more transparency brings? Again in-house collaborative networks enable crowdsourcing internally.

Organise things in a non-linear fashion – because we expect to communicate in near real time with anyone, we make plans on the go. I wrote about this and a trip to the cinema a while ago.   Sometimes you need a plan, and sometimes being completely flexible and being able and willing to adapt as circumstances dictate can be a real bonus.

While it’s true that these behaviours, expectations and habits are more deeply ingrained the younger you are, we all use the consumer web and we see many of these expectations show up in most age groups, not just Gen Y and Z.

I think smart organisations and leaders should do what they can to embrace many of these expectations.  As well as bringing  hard benefits like cost saving, improved innovation and buy in, the real prize in better meeting expectations is the increased employee engagement – along with the corresponding improvement in performance this always brings.

How well are your organisations and leaders set up to meet these expectations?

If you’d like to inspire and enable your leaders to better engage their teams by embracing the future of work, then call Simon on 020 3488 0464 or email simon@simonwalker.org