We hope when you listen to our podcast with Ayelet Baron, you will take stock of the organisation you are working at, and recognise all the features that make it a 20th Century organisation. In other words: stuck in the past. Unless you are one of the lucky few, either owning, or working at one of those wonderful workplaces, where leaders have recognised where the world of work is going to in the future, and implemented significant changes. Or, as Ayelet puts it, you may be working for a 21st Century organisation.

So what are these trends, and what needs to be done?

Ayelet gives some great insight into some of the major changes that are happening, for instance 5 generations being all at once at the workplace. Nope, it is not only about Millennials, and even though they are driving some of this change, also people in their 40s and 50s are pausing, and taking stock: have they spent all this time working, without there being any time or room for much else? They are at their peak, and now what?

I am very curious about her role and her work as a futurist. She confirms, that once we can show where we are headed, we can really think strategically about what needs to change, not just putting on band-aids on wounds, but thinking about how to fix the multitude of broken or out-dated systems working in parallel, be it politics, education, business… Those looking for quick fixes, or quick solutions will be disappointed. This is no longer about best practice, but understanding who are you, what is your purpose in life, and how can you achieve that? CEOs and leaders have to have in-depth conversations with their staff to understand their needs, what drives them, what they love to do, as this is where the magic happens. From her great wealth of experience, working also in emerging markets, Ayelet testifies: people do adapt and accept change when it makes sense.

Currently the large corporations and political and policy organisations are run by people who are perhaps 10 years from retirement (while the younger generations won’t even retire in the future) a lot of resistance comes from there. Some of this is really well explained in this article Ayelet wrote for IT Business canada.

Jamie Anderson and her made a lot of research article in June: London School of business review, on life-working. Which is a big shift from the 20th century scarcity model of work-life balance.

What was accepted in the 20th century, was that we were told, that we are two people, we had our professional self and our private self. We were told, that we couldn’t bring our personal self to work, and we had to be very professional, so we created the myth of work-life balance where we had to balance the two. What is happening today, is that we are living in the 21st century, yet companies are still stuck in the 20th century scarcity/fear/competition model, where it is not OK to show up as who you are. What is happening with the younger generation, they are saying: enough of that, I am one person, and they are bringing in a whole bunch of new practices in the workplace. One of it is: knowing who you are, and what you bring in. Another big trend that is happening, by 2020 in the US, 50% of the working population will be contingent, free agents, or working for themselves. And if you’re looking at why people are opting out from working for companies, it’s about being able to be yourself. Managers could really benefit from all the research that is coming out about why people are leaving their jobs, and instead be able to offer this inside the companies.

The big shift that we’re seeing, is that we need to create more people-centred organisations, and to do that, lifeworking becomes more important.

Imagine a world, in which instead of asking children: what do you want to become when you grow up? We ask them: who are you? What do you love to do? And then figure out the work piece of it. Imagine a world, where more people could do what they are most passionate about.

It’s about a new kind of organisational design, in which you understand what people are passionate about, and get them to do work around that. And when that happens, people experience your culture, and the profits come. If we could figure out that model and find out how large corporations can cooperate more effectively. The new world of work means shifting from a role based work model to a project and collaboration based work to work on projects. Yet large organisations are not nimble enough, their legal and HR practices are too antiquated. Companies are so focused right now about attracting and retaining talent.

Based on her recent experience as Chief innovator in residence at a large pharmaceutical company, she understands these major changes. In that company, only 40% of the people were employed full time, and this way they could mobilise resources quicker, get the right people to the right jobs.

The projects are going to be about key business issues. These project teams won’t be anymore about special projects on the side, or “tiger-teams”, but about core business responses to key challenges and opportunities, and companies will need to mobilise, and designate key people to manage these projects. How are you going to solve that problem, or how are you going to address that opportunity?

What is happening currently? Organisations spend so much time and money hiring the best talents and people out there, and then they bring them in, and don’t communicate to them, don’t empower them. Everywhere the problems are the same, and the solutions are so simple, yet we don’t invest in them. We have the annual employee survey, which according to Ayelet in 5 years is going to go away, because people want to have conversations.

20th century way is having meetings and 1-way communication, and 21st century is where we have collaboration and co-creation, about having dialogue and 2-way conversations, and what people are seeking is the ability to be heard.

One of the biggest changes is that people care more about the world today and they are asking questions, they want to know where the companies sources supplies from, how they treat their workers, and they want to make a difference. Ayelet talks about one company, which rewards their staff when they do a good job on their project with points, which they can then use to do work in their community,

Ayelet confirms what we kind of know at the WorkLife HUB: women are far more successful entrepreneurs. So we also talk a bit about the gender issue, women entering more and more the workforce and also more senior management levels.

This can again be reconnected to the issue around Culture: it is not enough to have the vision, the mission on a powerpoint slide, people need to live and experience the culture. What is still missing in many companies is to have a simple, shared purpose and shared goals. Most of the companies don’t have team goals and the performance is assessed on an individual level. In addition there are an increased number of research findings looking at how the team performance improves with women, as women bring an additional dimension to the table.

Many women are opting out of the high-level jobs, and crafting their own jobs, and their own careers, because this is where they can have their own sense of purpose fulfilled (almost) uncompromisingly, and also manage their own “lifeworking”, or work-life integration.

Those companies, who figure out how to bring back women to the job after they took time out to raise their children will be more successful. By 2025 there will be a deficit of 40 million workers in the developed world, and a surplus of a billion workers in the developing world.

We discuss whether there is a difference between the approach and possibilities to adapt and change between small organisations, or new startups, or large organisations, corporates. According to Ayelet, it is all down to leadership, and the ability of the leader to grab opportunities. Often in large corporations there is competition between the units. We need leaders who really understand where we are going in the future.

What is an industry? Why are we looking at sectors? The opportunities are not in the bell-curve, the opportunities are on the edge. If you plan to do something for everyone, you will fail. To watch original content from a company like Netflix. There is no cookie-cutter solutions here – True true!

We discuss business schools and education, nobody teaches millennials the common sense of business.
We created so much complexity, it is even difficult from the inside to know what your company does.

What about the robots? Yes, they are coming, but if we create a people-centred organisation where we focus on life-working and shared purpose and conscious leadership, we will be in control of the robots.

I just really had to laugh, when Ayelet speaks about the current army of robots going to work each day, we already have a human-robot problem! People are paralysed, they are stuck in their listless jobs, no shared purpose, no sense of power or autonomy.

If you’re not loving what you’re doing, if you don’t jump out of bed every morning excited about your day ahead, you are in the wrong line of work. This is your life, and this is the chance you get.

And Ayelet’s advice to a leader? Build a 21st century organisation! Leave the mindset of scarcity, competition and fear behind. There is an abundance of possibilities and opportunities out there, and if we change the mindset to what is possible? What is abundant in our world, we can build strategies that were much more human-centred.
Companies who adapted, really went from purpose to culture to experience to profits!

To finish our great conversation, we have to agree: Life comes first!

To learn more about Ayelet's work please check out her book: Our Journey to Corporate Sanity: Transformational Stories from the Frontiers of 21st Century Leadership