Melbourne Business School News People Matters: How organisations are approaching the new world of work

People Matters: How organisations are approaching the new world of work

A new report from Melbourne Business School interviewing leaders at more than 40 organisations has uncovered their top priorities and challenges for 2021.

People Matters: Unleashing the Future from Melbourne Business School

The new People Matters: Unleashing the Future report (PDF, 2.1MB) found that megatrends shaping society have accelerated workforce transformation, requiring organisations to change far more quickly than anticipated.

The conversations informing the report were conducted with executives at 42 different organisations around Australia from sectors including financial services, health and science, utilities, infrastructure, retail and professional services.

"We found that for change to stick, businesses need to adapt and amend existing ways of working, which requires new forms of leadership," says lead author Alexandra Lazarus-Priestley.

"Macrotrends shaping society, such as technological breakthroughs, rapid urbanisation, demographics, and social and climate change are highlighting the strategic risks and opportunities that face organisations and their leadership teams."

The report found that COVID-19 has accelerated pre-pandemic trends and organisations are unprepared for the challenges they now face.

"Nearly half of the organisations I have spoken to have used the momentum of C19 to accelerate workforce transformation efforts, both in terms of technology adoption and process and role automation," Alexandra says.

"Only a handful of organisations have advanced workforce transformation strategies and job corridors in place. The majority are relying on a combination of natural attrition, restructuring and talent acquisition to fulfill future skills needs.

"This is unlikely to be enough. As the push and pull between education, transition and work increases over the coming years, organisations will need to move from a model of acquisition to fill talent gaps, to reskilling of the existing workforce."

The report's respondents said change is easier when leadership direction about the organisation's needs is clear.

"People's capacity for change may be an opportunity to rethink models of organisational change and the sometimes paternalistic employer/employee relationship," Alexandra says.

"This means organisations will need to provide clear communication, empowerment and support to tap into greater levels of creativity and productivity."

The report also identified that many organisations are grappling with the move to hybrid working, with change needed in technology and leadership capability.

"Eight out of 10 chief people officers are considering the impact and effects of hybrid working on organisational culture and on-going staff engagement – asking themselves how the organisation can relocate culture from place to purpose," she says.

"This starts with the culture of an organisation. It's not enough to offer flexibility, the culture needs to adapt to ensure it supports and includes all employees, no matter where they choose to work.

"All organisations need to clearly define the processes, policies and behaviours that will ensure organisational culture does not inadvertently snap back to pre-pandemic ways of working."

Another key finding from the report shows that nine out of 10 organisations signalled that their top priority is to develop greater leadership capability.

"Most responses focused on leader attributes or behaviour, and the priority attributes across all sectors were deliberate inclusion, motivating and managing change, interpersonal connectivity, communication, and personal adaptability," Alexandra says.

"Existing models of leadership are not working, and a new model is required that amplifies human attributes, anchored by ethics and centred on soft skills.

“Further, there was also a noticeable shift, especially in the financial services sector, in the definition of leadership from a set of attributes to a function of getting results."

The People Matters: Unleashing the Future report was conducted to help organisations understand their shared top priorities in the new world of work. You can download the full report here (PDF, 2.1MB).

To find out how you can contribute to the conversation or learn how we can help your organisation overcome the challenges facing them in an uncertain future, please contact Alexandra Lazarus-Priestley at [email protected].

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