What is the future of work?

As individuals, and as organizations, we are facing social, demographic, and technological changes that are happening at a pace faster than ever before, altering the way we work and think about workplace. To help us better understand the future of work, including trends that are shaping it, Insightly CMO Tony Kavanagh recently interviewed Harriet Molyneaux from London-based Hot Spots Movement, on Insightly Gamechangers Podcast.

Hot Spots Movement is a research consultancy that helps organizations create diverse and engaging workplaces and set up their teams and businesses for success. Hot Spots Movement has been an Insightly customer since 2015.

Tony and Harriet, who is the Head of Digital Engagement at Hot Spots Movement, spoke about the evolution of work in larger versus smaller companies, dual career couples, and creating diverse and collaborative workspaces worldwide. They also talked about how Hot Spots Movement uses Insightly CRM to manage customer relationships and how Insightly, as a company, is part of a bigger trend affecting the future of work. Below is a summary of their conversation.

Listen to the full podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Hot Spots Movement & the future of work

Founded in 2008, Hot Spots Movement was born out of Professor Lynda Gratton’s research on building more collaborative, diverse, and engaging workspaces. Gratton, who taught at London Business School for more than 15 years, created Hot Spots Movement to apply her research in real life and help organizations prepare for the “future of work,” a now-famous phrase she coined.

Working with both small and large companies, Hot Spots Movement looks at high performance across different industries through their advisory practice and the Future of Work Research Consortium, a group of around 35 multinational organizations, like Accenture, Fujitsu, and Shell. The consortium provides space for members to reflect on the actions they need to take to prepare for the future of work.

“We [Hot Spots Movement] run massive virtual crowdsourced conversations: over 72 hours with hundreds or thousands, or in some cases tens of thousands of employees, across an organization globally to uncover roadblocks, surface good practices, and co-create solutions,” says Harriet.

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At the moment, Hot Spots Movement works in the following areas: shifting cultures, collaboration and innovation, employee experience, and inclusion and diversity.

When working with organizations in different countries, Hot Spots Movement often comes across unique cultural and social dynamics that they need to consider in order to help design a solution. For example, while helping companies create work-life balance for their employees, the Hot Spots Movement team realized that even though the issue looked different for people in different countries, the solution was the same — add more flexibility. In Spain more flexibility meant a shorter lunch break for employees who wanted to leave earlier in the evening. At a UK law firm that meant still long working hours, but flexibility on how and when the hours were delivered. To achieve a work-life balance at a company in Indonesia, they allowed employees to work remotely with access to internal systems, so they’d stay connected with their teams.

“The work-life challenge looked very different in different countries, and also for individuals within that country, but there was a global solution,” says Harriet. “And, at the end of the day, it’s all about people. How can we make that connection, that interface between people and organization, work both for the organization and the people in it?”

How does Hot Spots Movement use Insightly CRM?

With so many clients, both big and small, across different continents, Hot Spots Movement needs a robust internal system for customer relationship management as well as project management. Enter Insightly CRM. According to Harriet, the most obvious benefit of using Insightly has been the automation of manual, repetitive tasks that has freed up time for more valuable and creative work. For example, instead of recording every single lead outreach and notes in a spreadsheet, she blind copies (Bcc) her Insightly email into every email to a lead, which automatically syncs up all the information. Hot Spots Movement also uses Insightly for sales forecasting.

“For me that’s a real value-add that Insightly gives us and it’s a way of creating a footprint of every single interaction that we’ve ever had with our clients. And also just a really good way of projecting where we think we’ll be in six months’ time, how we think our revenue will have grown,” says Harriet.

In Harriet’s opinion, Insightly is also part of the bigger trend that’s going to define the future of work — workflow automation and its positive impact on the future of work.

“I think Insightly fits in very neatly with one of the big trends that we hear about the future of work. We hear big headlines in the media around the number of jobs that are going to be automated, but actually for the majority of jobs, there’s only certain tasks that are going to be automated, freeing up time for more valued and creative work,” says Harriet.

For Harriet personally, this means that she can spend more time on developing new areas of their advisory practice.

How is workspace evolution taking place in larger companies versus smaller ones?

According to Harriet, companies of all sizes and across different industries share similar emerging workplace trends. In recent years, Harriet and her team have seen a huge focus on people, “the absolute lifeblood of an organization,” and fostering inclusion and diversity.

“On my team, two years ago I would have said that 100% of our work was on inclusion and diversity…This year we are working 70% on inclusion and diversity. That’s a massive change,” says Harriet. “We see how organizations can translate values into behaviors.”

One of the obvious differences is a career progression, which is much more flexible at a small company than it is at a large one. For example, a Hot Spots Movement client based in Edinburgh is a tech startup that doesn’t even have role descriptions and crowdsources career progression for many of their roles. According to Harriet, such approach “gives people so much more agency and ability to do the work that’s meaningful to them.” In larger companies, a career progression is much more rigid. For example, big consultancies and accounting companies are structured around the notion that everyone is aiming towards becoming a partner, even if that may not be the case.

“I know from my work with a number of the big four that definitely a significant proportion [of employees] don’t want to make partner, and that’s very difficult for a ship that size to change course and create new career progressions. So, I think a lot of positive things that we see come out from small organizations and I think there’s a lot of hope and experimentation in those areas,” says Harriet.

What is a dual career couple? How does it challenge the status quo?

One particularly prevalent trend in workspace is the rise of a dual career couple. In sociological terms, it’s called “assortative mating” or partnering of two high performers. This presents a big challenge for organizations. Using her own family as an example, Harriet describes how a societal change can have a huge effect on organizational structure.

“My grandfather had a career, while my gran stayed at home and looked after her kids. My dad had a career, while my mom had a job. And that meant that mom worked, sure, but every time dad’s career moved us to a different country, we moved with him, and mom found a new job,” says Harriet. “[Today] if my partner suddenly got offered a job in Hong Kong, we’d have to sit down and have a conversation about that, because I value my job and career as strongly as he does his.”

In larger organizations, where in order to reach and/or keep a position of a general manager of a country, or progress in your career, you need to have moved around, this presents a significant challenge.

What are other social and demographic changes that are shaping the future work? Remote work is another trend that is forcing companies to innovate by introducing practices and processes to better manage the new physical reality of work. Sometimes these solutions work as intended, sometimes they lead to unintended outcomes.

Harriet uses an example of a Hot Spot Movement’s client — Tata Consultancy Services, a large IT consultancy headquartered in India — to describe how companies are innovating in the face of this growing trend. About five years ago, the Tata leadership realized that as their workforce increasingly spread out around the world, their people were missing out on serendipitous connections, like bumping into each other and starting conversations, that spark new ideas. More than that, the company was disappointed by the kind of products they were putting into the market and the kind of workspace and experiences they were creating for their people.

After some thought, they decided to recreate those serendipitous connections, only virtually. They came up with an internal social network, a platform called Knome, and moved all internal communications to the platform. They carried it out in a very structured manner, getting support from the CEO who was online consistently, encouraging others to adopt it. Over time they found that these virtual conversations generated ideas that led to innovative solutions both for the company and their customers around the world.

But not all innovative workplace solutions work as intended. For example, a few organizations in the United Kingdom had introduced flexibility in remote work policies as a way to support more women in workplace. The solution backfired: they noticed that in most places people who were in the office and were seen, were the ones whose careers progressed more rapidly. So, while the remote work policies aimed at providing more opportunities for women, they ended up negatively affecting women’s chances of career growth. Even though the solution didn’t work as intended, it became a learning moment both for the organizations who tried it and all others looking to solve a similar challenge.

What’s next for Hot Spots Movement?

For ten years Hot Spots Movement has been helping their clients and organizations understand what people do at work and how they do it. Harriet points out that at-work behavior is heavily influenced by what’s happening in people’s lives outside of work, at a macro level — globalization and changes in social structures, demographics, and technology.

“I think we really see our role to continue being that guidance between organizations and people, with a real focus on ensuring that what people experience is optimized as much as possible.”

Listen to the full podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

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