Future of Work – The power of Networks

What needs to be done to work successfully in the hybrid space? How can return to work be successfully executed?

In the context of the post-pandemic workplace, organizations are increasingly asking themselves what the working world of the future should look like – a question that is long overdue. One important factor of the future organization is the definition of the actual workforce. 87% of managers surveyed in a study by Deloitte and MITSloan Review count their workforce as much more than internal full-time employees (FTEs) (1). External employees such as gig workers or freelancers, but also external organizations and technology are part of the workforce today. Yet, most workforce-related practices such as organizational and governance structures, culture and systems still focus exclusively on FTEs. In addition, there is another important factor, namely the increasing shift from process to project work (3) (1), so that the workplace requires a rethink not only after the pandemic.

Pegasystems’ Trefler declares that “the right way to think about a workforce of the future is to think about the work. What is it you’re trying to achieve?” (1) The search for an integrated approach to strategically manage a diverse group of internal and external workers structured around tasks rather than processes has led some forward-thinking executives to the idea of a workforce ecosystem. A workforce ecosystem goes beyond the boundaries of the organizations. It creates connections to other workforces in the market and tries to create synergy effects and win-win situations. The ecosystem is a structured focus on value creation for an organization through networking. Internal and external actors pursuing both individual and collective goals interact with each other (1).

The power of networks

In the question of the redesign of the post-pandemic workplace (onsite, remote, hybrid) and the return-to-work strategy of companies, the topic of networks is a key success factor. On the one hand, we have seen a potential negative impact of remote work on our productivity. (4). The innovation power of companies has suffered and will dramatize if we don´t find ways to foster networks even in the hybrid space of globally operating companies (6). So why are networks and ecosystems important for hybrid spaces? Examples such as the UNDP Accelerator Labs network, show the massive influence efficient network ramp ups have on sustainable development (2). They are active, ready to work immediately and have impact.

When networks are maturely developed, they promote innovation and strategically efficient workforce management by:

  • Distributed innovation (reduced innovation investment)
  • Local problem-solving while limiting the need for larger-scale investments
  • “Satellite connectors”, places such as offices that serve as network connection points to orchestrate local departments/teams, initiate and accelerate projects
  • The use of local lessons and apply or tailor elsewhere
  • Cost, time and opportunity benefits for workers and organizations
  • Knowledge about collaboration requirements for innovation, execution, and business performance
  • Within- and between-unit collaborations instead of silos
  • Employee engagement and motivation

Get aware of working relationships

An essential component for Return-to-Work approaches is therefore the analysis of internal networks. The Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) is a methodology that maps employees’ working relationships. Organizations need to better understand these internal networks in order to unleash their full potential, at both the individual and team level. ONA addresses the following, critical questions in a return-to-office strategy (5):

  1. Who should be brought back together in a weekly cadence of in-person and virtual interactions?
  2. What work should be prioritized in the now scarcer in-person time?
  3. How do leaders manage the transition to a hybrid model with the least resistance?

(If you want to learn more, read source 5)

We believe in the power of strong, self-organized networks. They bundle innovation potential, foster strong relationships and progressive, constant development in an ever-changing world. We help companies build mature networks that act in a self-organized way and grow into internal activists for global transformations.

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(1) Workforce Ecosystems – A New Strategic Approach to the Future of Work; Jeff Schwartz and ff, April 13th 20
(2) Accelerating Innovation Through a Network of Ecosystems; Elizabeth J. Altman and Frank Nagle; June 9th 2020
(3) Are You Ready to Lead Work Without Jobs?¸ John Boudreau and Jonathan Donner; April 8th 2021
(4) Figuring Out Social Capital Is Critical for the Future of Hybrid Work; Jennifer J. Deal and Alec Levenson; July 01 2021
(5) Optimizing Return-to-Office Strategies With Organizational Network Analysis; Rob Cross and Peter Gray; June 9th 2021
(6) Redesigning the Post-Pandemic Workplace; Gerald C. Kane, Rich Nanda, Anh Phillips, and Jonathan Copulsky; February 10th 2021

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