Tips to Become a Manager of the “Futures”

Tips to Become a Manager of the “Futures”

I’ve kicked off 2015 thinking of the “futures of work.” Notice that I did not say the future, but rather the “futures.” No one clear future is on the horizon – artificial intelligence in the workplace? Further integration of global workforces? New technologies? I am certain 2015 will be a year of discovery in each of these areas and more. These five resolutions will help position you for the nimbleness and lighter touch that has become the hallmark of today’s manager. I welcome your suggestions for further tips in the comments field!

  1. Use light-weight experiments, rather than all-or-nothing approaches to change in your organization. Taking small steps in organizational change is more important than ever these days given the pace of the world. In 2015, go to the next level by finding fast, cheap ways to test the leap-of-faith assumptions underlying the adjustments you want to make. Use a crowdfunding campaign to test the market for a new product or have half your teams try one form of flexible work scheduling and the other half another -- learn from both. Steer clear of surveys; you don’t want to base your change on someone giving you an answer they think you want to hear. Instead, measure behaviors like prepayments, performance, or repeat business.
  2. Take advantage of the on-demand global workforce for addressing your temporary, cyclical, or even long-term needs. In March of 2014, two of the most visible online freelance job markets merged to become Elance-oDesk. They offer managers everything from on-demand software development to virtual receptionists and business card design. The combined company has grown to 9.3M freelancers worldwide -- a big move from the Kelly Girls of the 1940s.
  3. Combine the growing trend of “wearable computers” with personal responsibility for productivity (and perhaps light-weight experiments) to create a healthier, more productive workplace. Smart watches, fitness trackers, and the like can serve as more than just gizmos for your employees in their personal time. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control notes that workplace health programs can increase productivity. Consider a contest in which your employees conduct experiments showing the effects of walking meetings, or short walking breaks on performance. The most effective experiment can become a permanent fixture of the workplace. I hope to do this myself: I’d like to connect my fitness tracker data to number of quality articles written and my students’ engagement in class. If I walk more before class, do they learn more from our sessions together?
  4. Move away from once a year or once a quarter performance reviews and instead focus on feedback tied to projects and “check-in” style peer review. With the infusion of Millennials into the workplace, demand has grown for managers to shorten the distance between goal-setting, feedback, and coaching. Similar to a Facebook post, managers who use’s tool can post feedback when it’s most useful -- right after (or even during) a project.
  5. Consider making IBM’s Watson (the artificial intelligence that won Jeopardy!) your next employee. If your business is health care, finance, retail, or the public sector, subscribing to this AI technology could be a great addition to your team. Watson can play a role in customer interactions, the management of big data, or accelerating research. My colleague Christine Isakson and I are just starting to look into the issues of whether we should think of artificial intelligence as a full-on member of the team, a consultant, or a tool. No doubt Watson will be covering more industries soon and I hope he will soon help us with our research. Another technology that I predict you’ll be finding ways to integrate in the near future: drones. Unmanned vehicles (drones) in the air, on the land, or in the water have the potential to conduct mission-critical tasks including photography, surveying, environmental research, package delivery, security, and cell tower and road inspections. Perhaps a drone crew will loom large in your 2015 future! Check out videos of Santa Clara’s drone “SCUter.”

I would love to hear about your own futures of work. Share your ideas in the comments. 

*This article was originally posted on Terri Griffith’s Blog on 1/26/2015

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