Instant Communication. Independent Contractors. Online Collaboration Tools. How does KnowledgeWorkx stack up?
An article in Entrepreneur that looked at 10 Workplace Trends to Watch in 2012 made me wonder how those trends pan out at KnowledgeWorkx, and what that might mean for your organization. Michelle Rafter starts out her article with the claim that 9-to-5 schedules and standard-issue office computers are on their way out, and more flexible hours and employee-owned devices are on their way in. Well, KnowledgeWorkx does have flexible hours, and workers use their own laptops and smartphones for work. We even go a couple of steps further: we offer people a stipend towards their personal computer each year, and we require that people working on laptops use a mouse, which shaves seconds off of each action they take.
1. Mobile Devices: Bring your own device. Bring your own plan.
When we did a cost/benefits analysis of consolidating our phones onto a business plan, we found that the wireless contract space moved too fast for a monolithic strategy to be cost effective. The same went for smartphones and tablets. In a larger organization you might glean some economies of scale, but know that people will increasingly see that as a constraining liability, not an asset.
2. Telecommuting: Crucial. But office time helps our team gel.
For meetings with a broad group of international stakeholders, telecommuting cuts our costs significantly. But for our staff that live in the same city, we find that shared office time improves our teamwork.
3. Open Office Spaces: We haven't remodeled yet.
But when we do, we will need to balance ease of collaboration with the ability to wall ourselves off from distractions.
4. Instant communication: Email still rules, but the future looks like a combination of LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
Email is not going the way of the fax machine at our office: too many people worldwide use it as the base standard for communication. However, we are moving some stakeholder communication away from email to platforms like LinkedIn. Skype is an office staple, and has been for years.
5. & 6. Online collaboration tools: Google Apps rules the roost but we aren't leveraging the technology like we could.
I am fond of relating that Google Apps was the first computer program I ever used that came close to approaching the vision of personal-computing that Douglas Engelbart presented in 1968. So far at KnowledgeWorkx we are too trained by years of using personal computers by ourselves to take full advantage of video conferencing, hypertext, hypermedia, dynamic file linking, and collaborative real-time editing. All we've mastered out of the long list of things that Engelbart introduced to the world 44 years ago are the computer mouse and word processing.
What is exciting about this is that some of the least tech-savvy members in our organization were the first to start using programs like Google Docs – that says something about the elegance and simplicity of its offering, and I hope that means Engelbart's vision will become a reality in the mainstream workplace sooner rather than later.
7. Reverse mentoring: Not yet. . .
Sure, younger members of the team often share expertise and technical skills when it comes to software and social media, but that has not been elevated to a “reverse mentoring role.” Part of the problem might be that our youngest workers aren’t young enough to be completely up on the latest social networking trends. Our youngest team mate joined Facebook back in the ancient days of 2006 when it was still limited to university students only, and he hasn't kept up with the whirlwind of changes that have happened since.
8. Independent contractors: Definitely
By creating virtual teams of independent contractors, organized via Skype and email and the odd Cohuman (recently rebranded to Mindjet Connect) we are able to leverage expertise that would be out of our price range for a full-time employee. I increasingly see our managers making up their teams out of part time independent contractors.
9. Co-working spaces: If we could give up our office, we would!
Co-working spaces offer part-time offices, replete with coffee machines, Internet access, and coworkers. While we found that meetings at the KnowledgeWorkx office help build our team, it often feels too formal for the fluid, shifting nature of our business. Senior management and consultants are often gone for days at a time with clients.
10. Corporate Culture Initiatives: Our corporate culture is so linked to our area of expertise that we don't really separate the two.
Ms. Rafter writes that "a decent salary and benefits are no longer enough to attract or keep valuable employees." Companies have to speak to the "passions and practices of workers of all ages." A lot of KnowledgeWorkx corporate culture might be considered forward thinking: half of our office workers use big orange balls for chairs because testing they turned out to be the best thing for our spines. There is a Nintendo Wii with a Wii Fit board plugged into the conference room projector that gets regular use for 15-minute Yoga sessions. But that actually matters little to the people who work here because we are all so passionate about inter-cultural intelligence that we would stick with the company even without the progressive culture, and a decent salary and benefits. No other company that I have found provides the missing links to solve problems that I have seen governments, companies, and NGOs come up against as they try to navigate a globalizing world.
KnowledgeWorkx is full of people with years of experience in navigating the inter-cultural workspace who found something that pulled everything together and continues to take them further. That is the energy that drives us forward. It's an intrinsic motivation rather than an extrinsic one, and it speaks to the passion of our workers.
What does all this mean for you?
You might work in an organization that runs the gamut of possible environments from stuffy industrial-era behemoth to tech-addled Silicon Valley startup. Workplace trends in our little office might not be much of an inspiration to you bar a few ideas here and there about what (or what not) to do, but as I look over the list two things jump out at me as trends that could be applicable in any company: embrace online collaborative editing tools, and inter-cultural intelligence into your corporate culture.
Josh Penman, as KnowledgeWorkx's youngest employee, is the one who thinks that joining Facebook in 2006 was "eon's ago". Needless to say, the opinions expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent those of KnowledgeWorkx.
To learn more about how KnowledgeWorkx can help you manage your workplace in a globalizing world, contact us.
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