Planning for tomorrow’s workplace today

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

You’re a fan of flex time, but are you ready to commit to a job where the employer sets flexible arrival and departure times? A workplace where compensation is based on output rather than on a 40-hour workweek?

The business world is, at the very least, tilting toward a “results-only work environment” (ROWE). Since media introduction of the concept in 2008, credited to Jody Thompson (Best Buy), ROWE has been adopted by other large retailers such as the Gap. Many business gurus are heralding it as the next significant business evolution, though in reality it’s an extension of the pay-for-performance model many businesses have long adopted.

In a ROWE workplace, employees are paid for results, period. This business model demands that managers set clear goals so that individual contributions can be fairly assessed. In essence, we’re talking about assigning significant personal accountability and granting rewards commensurate with results.

Business futurists also suggest that in tomorrow’s workplace, work will likely be assigned regardless of a traditional 30- or 40-hour workweek. Companies will contract and expand to better meet market realities; employee head counts will become fluid, with people drafted into or out of production cycles based on skill sets. In this vision, employees resemble contracted consultants working on a project basis.

The leap to “real time employment levels” is, in part, possible due to emerging matrix software programs. In major hospitals, for example, nurse staffing schedules can now be formulated based on the specific diagnosis of each patient on the floor. Likewise, in the next decade retail workers may be scheduled to come to a brick-and-mortar store based on real-time customer counts. Meanwhile, video feeds will link business-to-business home-based managers with a changing number of direct reports (also working from home or remotely), depending on real-time production needs.

Enterprising people will have opportunities to work for more than one company at a time, and because of that, a ROWE workplace has high appeal for entrepreneurial people motivated by money or recognition. However, others are happiest when provided with security and stability, by a set salary with predictable bonuses. For people who value company longevity and loyalty, the idea of shopping their skills to more than one employer is dispiriting.

Opportunity for anyone is not without challenge. Here are some suggestions to prepare for real-time futures, regardless of your personal style or motivations:

  1. Develop the discipline to apply metrics to your performance.
  2. If you want to stay with one company at a set wage, set your sights on support professionals or positions that will always be needed, regardless of expansion. Then cross-train into a second (similar) position so that as a company’s needs change, you’re adaptable.
  3. If you want to work for more than one company, become a specialist. Focus. How might you benefit an industry rather than a single company? Increase your mastery in very specific, niche areas.
  4. Managers will be chosen for their ability to adopt a transcendental (versus transactional) viewpoint. Can you “see” invisible assembly lines at work? Practice looking at one project from many perspectives.
  5. Prioritize. Think about what you spend the most time doing … could you change some priorities to boost your own productivity?
  6. Commit to a lifelong learning mindset. What could you learn today to help you position yourself as a “must acquire and keep” employee tomorrow?

When we know of a pending weather disaster, we buy flashlights, weather radios and bottled water. When we schedule a vacation, we pick fun destinations and pack sunscreen. We’ve given you a glimpse of how business is evolving. What can you do today to better prepare for tomorrow’s workplace?

About Jody Glynn Patrick

Jody is President of Glynn Patrick & Associates, which provides management consulting, executive coaching and strategic planning services. She is Publisher Emeritus of In Business magazine, which she published for 17 years. Selected as the “U.S. Business Journalist of the Year” in 2007 in Washington, DC, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jody has been a business reporter, editor, radio talk show host , and has won other state and national journalism awards. At the same time, she has helped corporate clients grow their businesses -- the basis for her practical coaching advice here. She also was the 2005 Athena Award recipient for her leadership role in mentoring other professional women. Jody will be talking with you weekly on TDS’ blog to share her insights and tips from the C-Suite perspective. Follow on G+.

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