Moving toward a skills-based workplace? Start with human connection.
How we think about and organize work is evolving before our eyes. But as companies move away from static roles and toward more fluid, skills-based ways of work, we are abandoning some traditional ways of sharing culture and information. How will your company keep people connected to each other and your organization in a new world of work?
Consider the case of Peter, a new grad who just started his first corporate job. We recently asked him how it was going. “It’s great,” he told us. “I have three managers.”
Yep, you read that right. Three managers. Because of his in-demand skill set, Peter has been assigned to several matrixed teams in his company. He has no direct work supervisor but instead reports to project managers — who all have input into his performance evaluations. When the projects wrap up, he’ll move to new bosses. For Peter, a member of Gen Z, this kind of "internal gig” makes sense. He’s judged by his skills and the quality of his work, and he has the freedom to opt into the projects that most interest him.
This story is becoming common in today’s workplaces, as the combination of the pandemic, the gig economy, and the rise of automation has finally prompted what many futurists have been calling the “End of Jobs.” As research from Mercer has documented, skills are now becoming the currency of work.
Wait, is it really the end of jobs? 😨
That term — the “end of jobs” — might sound alarming, but the answer is, in many ways, yes. At the very least, jobs are transforming permanently. If you look around, you’ll see it is already here.
In days gone by, your work, boss, and even work location were solely dictated by your job description. The pandemic showed us how we could be more fluid — emphasizing skills and agility over pedigree or title. People were sent wherever they could help and it worked. Your “job” suddenly became much less important than what you could actually do. As McKinsey has observed, that has helped companies increase retention and also created better job opportunities for a broader, more diverse pool of workers.
Today, it is our skills that have the most impact on where and how we work. Many companies are leaning in to skills-based approaches where workers flow to projects as needed — forming into teams to tackle projects, or sharing skills across workgroups.
From there, it is not a big leap to having an internal skills marketplace — which large name-brand companies like Unilever, Schneider Electric, and Cisco have been using for years. The result, according to Deloitte’s research, has been greatly enhanced levels of agility, agency, and equity across companies big and small.
In this new way of work:
- People are flowing to work instead of work to people
- Traditional hierarchy has decentralized, with more employee enablement and engagement
- Non-traditional, flexible work — such as gig, offsite or contingent work— is thriving
- Bosses are now managing projects and teams more than people and roles
- Companies are able to attract and keep a broader pool of talent
- Organizations are seeing greater agility, resilience, and democratization of innovation
This shift to skills was already underway for years before it was fast-tracked by the pandemic. In 2019, the World Economic Forum was pointing the way toward a skills-based labor market. Automation and AI have been changing how humans and technology interact and forcing companies to reevaluate how they allocate work. Reskilling and upskilling were also a growing focus for companies who were feeling the talent crunch even pre-pandemic. Now, in the wake of the Great Resignation, companies are even more focused on developing people in place.
Technology tools are also helping organizations to build internal skills marketplaces and rethink what it means to connect people and create and curate culture.
This is important because no one wants work to turn into the Wild West and negatively impact employee experience. And here’s a big warning: as we remove the more outdated structures of work, we have to be careful to put new frameworks into place that protect healthy communication and company culture.
Avoiding a structural black hole 🕳️
Let’s return to the story of Peter. “It’s great!” he told us, about having three managers. But then he paused and added, “It’s a little confusing though. I’m not always sure who to go to for information.”
There are incredible new opportunities in a skills-based world of work — but there are also significant challenges in managing a jobless workforce. As they move toward a more decentralized model, companies must be sure that unmooring people from traditional reporting systems doesn’t also isolate them from the organization. Flexibility can be dangerous and destabilizing if it creates a vacuum of information, guidance, or human connections.
Here are a few of the challenges to be considered:
How do we share information without a hierarchy?
Since there have been jobs, it has been bosses who were the primary delivery system for information and culture continuity. With employees less tied to a specific manager, and now moving more fluidly across the organization, you will need to put new infrastructure in place to push out important, timely information.
How do we create community when teams are constantly shifting?
When employees have the ability to move across projects, they will be less likely to define themselves through membership in a team. You will need to find new ways to connect people and create consistent flows of communication, support, and feedback in an organization where people and teams are now fluid.
How do we establish guardrails, governance, and compliance without bosses?
Without traditional reporting structures, companies must find new ways of establishing oversight that help workers understand what is expected of them. To create these guardrails, employees will need to stay connected via online tools and resources. These tools can ensure that employees stay on track and compliant without overburdening HR — but it is critical that employees are encouraged to engage with them regularly.
How can we provide a consistent employee experience in a flexible workplace?
No matter which projects people are flowing to or who they are working with, you want employees to have a consistent and positive employee experience. Human connections — to the organization, to the information and competencies they need to do their jobs well, and to each other— are critical to employee experience. This means connecting people at a human level, facilitating strong relationships that transcend team assignments and form a broader organizational culture.
The essential role of human connection 🖇️
The answer to all four of the challenges above is through creating more and better connections.
Criss-crossing your culture with real human connection helps people to feel an affinity for the organization and one another in a way that transcends job titles or reporting structures. It connects people to information and answers, and it helps them to feel belonging and inclusion.
Human connections and feelings of belonging are critical to us as workers— no matter how an organization is structured. In a jobless organization, this takes on an even more critical dimension — because the traditional structures of “team,” “department,” “job,” “role,” and “boss” are no longer constant. You now need something to take their place, or you risk employees feeling disconnected or abandoned.
To feel like they belong and have a positive employee experience, employees need:
- To feel seen
- To feel connected
- To feel supported
- To feel proud
The best way to create this belonging is through a flow of connection — to people, to information, and to the company.
Three ways a human connection platform connects a jobless organization
Connects people with information — even without a boss
No matter where someone reports or how their workday changes — if employees have access to a Human Connection platform like Enboarder, they will have access to critical information and tools they need. This increases feelings of mastery, improves productivity, and makes them feel enabled. It also increases workers’ sense of connectedness and inclusion — because now they feel in the loop.
In many ways, this is much more effective than an organization where employees rely mainly on their manager for information — because there is no bias or potential for a manager to cause a bottleneck. Everyone gets the same access, nudges, and opportunities to connect.
Connects people with other people — even with fluid teams
A Human Connection platform like Enboarder connects people to one another and helps them to establish relationships that will facilitate smoother cross-organizational moves. Human connection helps workers in less structured organizations cultivate feelings of belonging, empathy, and emotional embeddedness — connections that in the past might have come from being on the same team or working in the same office.
In many ways, this is more effective than the mere proximity created in the old structure. By proactively encouraging employees to connect at a personal level you can facilitate helping behaviors, spark mentorship and skills-sharing, and help employees form personal friendships based on bringing their whole selves to the table.
Connects people with the organization — even without a static role
Human connections will help you to share culture and standardize experience across less structured or less traditional work environments. Because the technology isn’t subject to gatekeeping, it can create more equitable, organic, and consistent experiences across the entire workforce. This helps people connect with the purpose and mission of your organization, no matter what projects they work on.
A Human Connection platform like Enboarder can also provide important nudges and reminders to link people to the technologies they will rely on in a jobless work environment. This helps to alleviate the burden on HR and internal comms teams — reinforcing guardrails and providing stability across a less structured or hierarchical workplace.
To be sure, the kind of work evolution we describe isn’t going to take place overnight. Some kinds of “jobs” will always remain — at least nominally. But more and more workplaces are already adopting these more fluid arrangements — with excellent results. And chances are yours is, too, even without you realizing it.
As your organization moves forward on its own journey toward the future of work, just remember, it's critical to put into place the cultural and communication infrastructure that can support your transformation and growth. That will help ensure a fantastic — and more human — employee experience for every worker.
Talk to us at Enboarder if you want to learn more about how a Human Connection platform can help you create a connected culture that will support your journey toward a new world of work. We’d love to chat!