What leaders should know about achieving an agile work environment in a VUCA world
- VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) is the new norm
- Employees’ happiness at work provides a solid foundation to build a thriving agile workplace
- Happiness at work is a resource that drives engaged behaviours, creativity and resilience in tough times
Our VUCA World
We’ve lived in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world for a generation already. And we’re used to the fact that change is the norm: fads die out, innovative high tech products suddenly become our daily tag-along and certain industries don’t manage keep up with the times. International patent applications are continuing the trend of a 7.3% year-on-year increase (1) creating a speed of technological evolution and a frenzied need to stay ahead.
This kaleidoscope of moving parts projects itself into a country’s macro-economic policy as well as directly into our world of business, and even into the heart of family life.
The world of work isn’t what it used to be. Social and technological changes have radically transformed the way we work. Many jobs being filled today didn’t exist 20 years ago. And it’s expected that in a decade’s time, 60% of jobs will be completely new compared to today (2). By 2020, it’s estimated that 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancing.
Traditional hierarchical structures are changing to more flat/circular systems allowing for more openness from management and input from all employees. There’s a lot more diversity of all kinds in the workplace e.g. generational; Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers and Gen Y-ers are all working together. In addition to this, intrapreneurship is on the rise, meaning that individuals are asked to act like entrepreneurs within organizations.
The Agile Workplace
Agile work methods were devised by software analysts. But it has evolved to mean any workplace having to work towards unknown and undefined outcomes. Working in an agile way means embracing VUCA as our constant reality and acknowledging its place at the core of our modern commercial milieu.
Working in this way requires liberation of the mind. To be effective in an agile workplace, we need to:
- think and understand quickly
- work collaboratively
- be independent and yet be able to cross-pollinate ideas
- be content to continually disband and re-form teams
Those who thrive are creative, disruptive, non-conformist, resilient people who thrive on change. They question the way things are done around here. They’re fierce debaters and they are highly sought after by recruiters.
How Happiness at Work can help employees work with VUCA
When dealing with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, the power of the Science of Happiness at Work™ is that it creates a solid underpinning of positive business disciplines that encourage people to succeed even in turbulent times.
iOpener Institute has carried out 11 year of meticulous research into Happiness at Work. Its library of case studies consistently proves that happiness at work is linked to many aspects of high performance, such that it:
- unleashes creativity and the sharing of ideas
- encourages prosocial behaviour
- boosts resilience
- releases bursts of positive emotion which makes people more likely to expand their thinking and act on it
iOpener’s project at Bank Workers’ Charity over the past year shows that measuring and managing Happiness at Work enabled the Charity to alleviate pressure, increase resilience and improve relationships, whilst managing an ambitious change agenda, including a digitization program and considerable expansion plans.
The impact of their Happiness at Work program over the past four years means that their talented team:
- intend to stay 38.6% longer rather than quit
- say that their job fits their expectations of it 11.2% more
- feel able to raise issues 11.3% more
- experience 10.4% more positive emotions at work
iOpener advocates that employees can only be optimize their success at developing an agile mind-set and mastering other key business skills if they are also successful at managing their personal resources.
As iOpener’s Partner Dr. Jill Collett emphasized in her blog ‘How mindfulness helps us to lead in challenging times’, stress adversely affects the optimal functioning of the brain.
Work-related stress, anxiety, depression, and employees’ struggles to cope with work demands, are the second most commonly reported causes of occupational ill health in GB (after muscoskeletal disorders). This accounts for 37% of all work-related ill-health cases, and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health (3). It is the leading cause of long term absence and it has doubled in the U.K. in the past 10 years.
The ‘cost of misery’ to organizations is not only measured in sick leave of course but also in lack of focus on task and in an employee’s intention to quit his/her job. A U.K. study by Oxford Economics in 2014 found that, on average, each member of staff that leaves costs an employer £30,614 to replace (4). And work-related stress costs the U.K. economy almost £6.5 billion per annum.
Happy employees are more likely to remain loyal to an organization, even when they have moved on. They are proud of their organization and their contribution to it. If people are unhappy, they leave their brain parked at the door when they arrive at work. They tend to become closed and aren’t able to give their best. They don’t share knowledge with ease, aren’t inspired to learn or to be innovative. And they don’t give one another encouraging feedback.
An organization full of unhappy employees is an organization that will be challenged to keep going in a changing world. VUCA has become the norm. Employee word-on-the-street means that if an organization is not keeping ahead and looking out for their employees’ ability to cope, then it will not attract nor retain top talent. But when employees are happy they are resourced to succeed in an agile environment and thrive in our VUCA world.
(1) WIPO Patent Cooperation Treaty applications 2016 (World Intellectual Property Organization; Geneva March 15th 2017; PR/2017/804)
(2) Forbes; The Rise of the Freelancer Economy 23 Jan 2016
(3) Health & Safety Executive
(4) Oxford Economics, The Cost of Brain-Drain, February 2014
Interested in our work? Contact us here and check out our website.
Photo Credit: José Martín via Visual Hunt