The top six challenges dominating the ‘world of work’ in the year 2005 and beyond: Part I

Jan 1, 05

This Month

2004 ended on a solemn note with the Tsunami taking a heavy toll in this part of the world. While Singapore, the country where I reside has been spared, Tamil Nadu my home state in India has been ravaged.

At times like these I am reminded to be grateful for what I have and be thankful that there are a number of things that I don’t want and I don’t get!

I hope the New Year brings peace, harmony and joy to you and your families.

G.K. Chesterton said that “The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul.” Should I add, perhaps just rekindle and recharge our souls!

I am thankful to you, dear readers for your encouragement. Thank you for making this newsletter possible.

This newsletter discusses the first of the three challenges that will dominate the ‘world of work’. Next month’s issue will contain the last three of the challenges.

As always, I look forward to your feedback and comments.

Warm wishes,

Jigyasa (

The top six challenges dominating the ‘world of work’ in the year 2005 and beyond: Part I

Here are the top six challenges for organizations in the year 2005 and beyond:

1. Innovation
2. Ethics and Integrity
3. Outsourcing
4. Multi-cultural and Multi-location groups
5. Work-place demographics and lifestyle expectations: free agents, tech generation, baby boomers
6. Networking tools: Impact on learning and collaboration

1. Innovation

“The biggest Innovation of all is Management Innovation and the challenge to HR is to help bring the same kind of management processes to innovation that other departments have brought to processes. HR’s most fundamental strategic responsibility is to build new human based capabilities that create a competitive advantage. This is essential because within the next decade, no company is going to be able to opt out of innovation.” Gary Hamel on “The Future of Innovation”

In the recent report on innovation the US council of innovation declares that innovation will be the single most important factor in determining America’s success through the 21st century. This holds true for organizations too! According to the report, the past 25 years, organizations have optimized for efficiency and quality. Over the next quarter century, not just organizations, but the entire society must optimise for innovation.

In fact, in Whirlpool, innovation is a core competency requirement for all its employees. It has created three levels of innovation-skilled employees. Innovation Consultants, who are full time employees who enable departments to practise and implement innovation techniques. Innovation mentors who foster and lead innovation initiatives and Innovation Ambassadors, who understand the value of innovation and the concepts.

According to G. Gilbert Cloyd, Proctor and Gamble’s chief technology officer, “We have a broad program we call ‘connect and develop’. We want to connect internally – move technologies and ideas across our business units internally – but we also want to connect externally. This has been a real source of innovation for us.” According to Business Week, when P&G entered the home car-care business, researchers did not have to start from scratch. “The company’s PuR unit’s water-filter experts knew how to deionize water to get rid of minerals, and its Cascade unit already had a compound in its dishwasher detergent that reduced water spots. They used both technologies in what became Mr. Clean AutoDry, a $24.99 handheld sprayer system.”

For both these companies, the focus on innovation has rewarded them with innovative products and a healthy increase in their bottom-line.

Further Reading:

A recent report on Innovation has been brought out by the US Council of innovation tilted “Innovate America” is worth a read for anyone who is interested in finding out how Innovation is going to shape the future. (PDF File)
A great issue dedicated to innovation.
An interview with HBS associate professor Lee Fleming whose work looks specifically at how ideas and innovation flow across company boundaries through small (and getting smaller) communities and collaborations of inventors. Fleming and his colleagues found, for example, that at the end of the last decade, half of the patented inventors in Silicon Valley could trace an indirect collaborative path to one another.

2. Ethics and Integrity

“Great Leaders ask not to be spared. They want to know everything, not just the good news; because they understand that the more they know the better their decisions will be. Decision making rises and falls on the quality of information at hand.” Warren Bennis

Ethics and Integrity will continue playing a critical role in the year ahead. Employee training will have to ensure that all levels of employees including senior leadership practise and promote high code of ethics and governance.

Glaxo Smithkline, has introduced a certification process for all managers at the vice-president level and above, among many other safeguards. This certification requires these managers to sign a statement confirming their awareness of their obligations to implement the company Code of Conduct and policies. Leaders not only have to comply themselves but also have to ensure that people under their supervision also comply and understand their responsibilities.

The challenge for organizations will be to ensure that leaders walk the talk and encourage a culture that allows people to raise questions and voice their disagreement or unhappiness. This challenge will be enormous as outsourcing and rapids changes because of technology will continue to impact businesses.

Further Reading

Warren Bennis on “Building a Culture of Candour-A Crucial Key to Leadership”.
Glaxo SmithKline’s certification process

3. Outsourcing

“So where is all this going? I think it goes like this: 20 years ago the jobs currently being outsourced didn’t exist. They rapidly came into being as part of the IT revolution but are still at a juvenile stage (or infancy) in their development cycle. Like all jobs they went through a honeymoon period and now have levelled as they become subject to market forces. Just as IT created these new jobs we have to look to new industries to create the next wave. And this is the hard bit.” Peter Cochrane

Outsourcing of jobs to lower wage nations or for that matter to automation will continue despite the emotional response and outcry against it. The increase in Mergers and Acquisitions will add to the outsourcing and or elimination of jobs.

A Hewitt survey done last year, the percentage of jobs being outsourced will roughly double in the next three years, with an average of 13 percent of jobs at each company currently relocated and an additional 12 percent being considered for relocation within the next three years.

Today the Human Resources team is involved after the decision is made. Yet, according to the survey, finance executives indicated that managing change/transition to be their biggest global sourcing challenge (64 percent) followed by maintaining corporate culture and values (58 percent) and talent/people management (55 percent). If this is the case, the challenge for HR professionals becomes even greater and the need for HR professionals to play a greater strategic role in this area is immense.

The others concerns while outsourcing are the very nature of jobs that are being outsourced. Design once considered integral to manufacturing companies is today being outsourced. General Motors in Shanghai has outsourced a large part of its design work to Visteon. Companies like Honeywell, Boeing and Medtronic too are doing the same.

Does this mean the rise in the number of contractual jobs? Does it mean jobs will get more specialized? Will careers follow narrow paths?

Further Reading:

Highlights from the Hewitt survey


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