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Goodbye old school hierarchies, hello team mates

Global consultants McKinsey say organisations are like living organisms. Their “trademarks include a network of teams within a people-centered culture that operates in rapid learning and fast decision cycles which are enabled by technology, and a common purpose that co-creates value for all stakeholders”.

This April, Deloitte released new findings in its 2019 Report on Human Capital Trends. Reaffirming “organizational strategies and cultures have been undergoing a dramatic shift from hierarchies and command and control mindsets to people practices that use empowered networks of teams to enable enterprise agility.” Organisations that don’t empower cross-functional networks of teams are in danger of being left behind competitors. 

The Deloitte research confirmed 65% of this year’s survey respondents viewed the shift from functional hierarchy to team-centric and network-based organizational models” as important or very important – but only 7% of respondents felt very ready to execute this shift.

Despite the theory (and evidence) that agile organisations are more productive, business leaders seem to lack confidence to make the move towards a team approach. Let’s take a closer look at ways to help teamwork to flourish.

Leadership: educating leaders to operate in cross-functional teams

When workers reach out of their silos to find colleagues with complementary expertise, everyone performs better. Harvard’s Heidi Gardner confirmed in the May-June 2019 Harvard Business Review “the demand for executives who can lead projects at interfaces keeps rising”. Gardner acknowledges that working in cross-functional teams can be challenging, but it’s all about developing new skills to cross the boundaries:

“People can be trained to see and connect with pools of expertise throughout their organisations and to work better with colleagues who think very differently from them. The core challenges of operating effectively at interfaces are simple: learning about people on the other side and relating to them.

Leading from the top, managers can start to connect better with their teams by asking good questions, communicating clearly, and finding out the different perspectives of other people. Working together, everyone achieves more.

A broader approach to rewards

We all get it – rewarding desired behaviours enhances performance. A recent Josh Bersin study that asked 2,400 professionals what inspired them most at work, found “the nature of the work itself” came in first, followed by “the ability to learn, grow, and progress.” 

Just as it’s paramount for today’s workforce is to find value and meaning in daily work, individuals also expect rewards to be specific meaningful and relevant. In the past, rewards have been benchmarked by industry or geography. This blanket approach is outmoded and out of sync with today’s increasingly diverse workforce. Rewards strategies must be grounded in an organisation’s unique culture. 

Employers should focus on cultivating relationships with workers – not just giving them rewards

This also means that a broader view of rewards is becoming more important as organisations are looking for effective ways to motivate their people. It’s up to leaders to find out what their people actually want. Do they want to upskill, revisit work options, or otherwise improve their workforce experience? By widening the view, and tailoring rewards, we will best motivate our people. Getting the rewards system right is also a powerful tool to retain great staff, or recruit internally. This applies to all workers, whether direct employees, part-timers, gig workers or consultants.

Grow with innovative tools and technologies

Today’s leaders must look to maximise the use of innovative tools and technologies to gather insightful data. The simple implementation of regular anonymous staff surveys, for example, becomes a fantastic source of feedback for leaders.

Equipped with a growth mindset, when we are prepared to listen, act on feedback, and improve operations, we can empower our teams of people to do their best work across our organisations. Hop to, let’s get the team moving.

Date: 21st May 2019
Category: Leadership
Chris O’Reilly
Chris O’Reilly
Chris co-founded AskYourTeam as a way to make it easier for leaders to ask their teams the most important (and the least-asked) question in business: “How can I help you do your job better?”
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