In this session:
The evolution of work is accelerating faster than organizations are adapting. Transformative technological change, shifting personal priorities, troubling economic trends, and fluid approaches to career growth have put many leaders on the defensive as they attempt to reinforce a more traditional employee value proposition.
As with any disruption, this uncertainty presents unique opportunities for organizations to create competitive advantage through creativity and innovation. From full-time remote work to unlimited time off, we are witnessing a series of far-reaching experiments that have yet to play out.
For this episode hosted by Bryan Benjamin, Executive Director of the Ivey Academy, we're joined by Ivey faculty members: Martha Maznevski, Professor, Organizational Behaviour; Janice Byrne, Assistant Professor, Entrepreneurship; and Romel Mostafa, Assistant Professor, Business, Economics, and Public Policy. Together, our panelists explore how organizations can reinvent their approach to work. What can we infer from case examples, historical precedent, and our knowledge of the human condition? How can leaders predict success and place informed bets? How do you attract, motivate, and retain the workforce of tomorrow?
From the audience...
This episode is a recording from a livestream we held on Global Ivey Day 2023 that involved audience participation in the form of two separate multiple-choice polls.
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MARTHA MAZNEVSKI: I'm often asked, how do we motivate people in this environment? Well, it's the same basic underlying motivations. How we get there is different.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Ivey Academy presents Leadership in Practice, where we discuss critical issues in business, unpack new research, and hear from industry experts about the latest trends. In a corporate environment that's evolving faster than ever, we find ourselves at the crossroads of technological advancement, economic shifts, and the redefinition of what it means to work. Leaders of today are figuring out how to adapt to change and engage their teams for an uncertain future. But there's also opportunity to find a competitive edge through innovation and creativity.
From full-time remote workplaces to generative AI, many of these experiments have yet to play out. In this special edition of Leadership in Practice for Global Ivey Day 2023, we're inviting three leading Ivey Business School faculty members to explore how organizations can reinvent their approaches to work. Joining us are Martha Maznevski, Professor of Organizational Behavior. Janice Byrne, Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship. And Romel Mostafa, Director of Ivey's Lawrence National Center for Policy and Management.
Listen in as we explore the secrets of attracting, motivating, and retaining the workforce of tomorrow. This episode is hosted by Brian Benjamin, Executive Director of the Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: Hello and welcome. Today is an extra special day in that we are celebrating Global Ivey Day. And so while we always have global representation, we know that today is going to have an even broader representation of Ivy alumni, as well as other guests that we're going to have across the world. Our topic today is a topic that is so important, and it's a topic that you cannot go a day without having a discussion or hearing conversations going back and forth.
So we are going to be talking about empowering people in the New World of Work. We've got three amazing panelists here, individuals that I am happy to call colleagues, and they're going to be supporting us as we move forward. So I'm going to give some quick introductions. Martha Maznevski. Martha is a professor within the organizational behavior group here at Ivey. She joined in 2016.
After returning-- after two decades of being overseas where she did a lot of fantastic work with global organizations, she's also leading our work on lifelong learning initiative. Super important for us here at Ivey
We're also joined by Janice Byrne. So Janice, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship. Janice's research primarily addresses gender in entrepreneurship and family business. So it's terrific to have her perspective on this conversation as we move forward. And third up is Romel Mostafa, Assistant Professor within business economics and public policy. Romel's research interests are in the areas of strategy and capability development in new firms, innovation, and competitive dynamics.
Romel also is a director of Ivey's Lawrence National Center for Policy and Management. So we couldn't have brought together a better collection of experts for our discussion here today. I'm also going to introduce you to our colleague, Sean Acklin Grant, who leads the marketing function here at the Ivey Academy. And he's going to give a couple of opening remarks and really help set us up for some success here as we dive into our conversation. So over to you, Sean.
SEAN ACKLIN GRANT: Thanks, Brian. And happy Global Ivey Day to everyone joining us. The best way that you can help us shape the conversation today is by asking questions. So we encourage you to participate as early and as often as you like by clicking the Q&A icon in the bottom of your window. You can also send comments through the chat. As Brian mentioned, it's Global Ivey Day, and I know we have alums and guests joining us from all over the world. So to try out that chat feature, let us know where you're tuned in from by typing in the chat window now.
We'll also be asking for your input on a couple of poll questions related to the evolution of work. If you're on mobile, you may not see the option to answer, but we'll describe the results for everyone and share them as part of our follow up email. Your votes are anonymous and there are no wrong answers. This is just to help us get a sense of your perspectives as we start the session. So I'm going to launch the first poll now. We're asking, what is driving the evolution of work? It's a big question, so you can choose multiple options, but we encourage you to pick your top three at most.
Is it a renewed focus on work life balance, more dynamic career paths, economic challenges, technology, changing social values, globalization, demographic shifts? Let us know what you think. And while you answer, I'll turn it back to Brian and our panel to get things started.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: A terrific thanks for getting us going, Sean. And we'll take a peek at the results in a little bit as they start to come in. I'm so excited, I'm seeing where people are dialed in from. So I can actually say, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, good late night. We've got people from coast to coast to coast here in Canada, but we've also got all other continents represented. Big towns, small towns, and some people might be somewhere really exciting in the outdoors. Some people are seated at their desk as part of their office day.
So great to see such representation because this truly is a global challenge, and it's a global opportunity for us to sort of come together. So I'm going to dive in, and we're going to get going here with our first question. And Romel, I'm going to put you on the hot seat first. And I'll give you fair warning here, we talk about the evolution of work, and we hear that term so much. What does the evolution of work actually mean?
ROMEL MOSTAFA: Yeah, well, thanks for having me, Brian. And to everyone, Happy Global Ivey Day. It is an interesting question and challenging to explain. As you said, we throw around phrases like evolution of work, future of work, quite a lot. Often not realizing what that really capture, right? I'll take a stab at it. In a nutshell, I think evolution of work, you can think of it as the way in which work has adapted-- has been adapted and changed over time in response to say social shifts, technological advancements, economic trends.
Where things get complicated of course, is that work itself is multidimensional, right? You can think of-- within any occupation for example, there are dimensions such as task variety, tasks significance, skill variety, skills significance, on the job learning, feedback, level of autonomy, compensation, work environment, rights? And so and so. And within an organization, all these dimensions are shaped by-- you can think of organizational structure, culture, leadership, and so on, right?
And these dimensions are also influenced by external forces. Namely, again, the technological societal and economic changes, which interact with organizational features often creating new tasks and displacing some others as well. Now you could think that, looking back to your own career for example, for the last 10, 20, years, how your work has changed along some of these dimensions. And you might even think that the work continuously evolves.
But I think what is important to recognize is that there are some moments in history when the evolutionary path of work is at an inflection point. What I mean by that is that there are multiple forces within significant intensity. All are in play all at once. So much so that there are fundamental changes in the work dimensions leading to important changes in how we work, and even where we work. My sense is that we are at the cusp of such an inflection point that demands urgency and tension to ensure how we effectively navigate through this punctuated change, or shall we say, revolution in work.
I'll be a little provocative and stop there, essentially.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: All right. Well, thanks for getting us going. So no one simple 10 word definition. That's for sure. An incredibly complex topic with multiple forces. So Janice, you are going to be up next. And I would love to hear a little bit about what's driving this. And so Romel touched on that a little bit in sort of helping us sort of scope a definition. But tell us your thoughts on what are some of the drivers behind this evolution.
JANICE BYRNE: For me, one thing that I hear an awful lot when I'm interacting with entrepreneurs or people who've got their own businesses, change also that's happening within the people that are working. So and actual the individuals like Gen-Z who we have today. The demand, people wanting flexible work, people caring more about wellness, people caring more about equity, diversity, and inclusion. We're seeing basically, a change in the generation of workers that we have in terms of what people want and what people value.
I think that's definitely one thing that's driving us, at an individual level, anyway.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: That's great. Martha, what would you add? Janice sort of set you up there.
MARTHA MAZNEVSKI: So Romel and Janice have covered a lot of the drivers, what's driving this. I think the flip side is the enablers. We talk a lot about what's driving the evolution of work. Some of those same things are enabling the evolution of work. So the technology that's actually letting us do things in new ways, both doing the jobs differently, as Rommel said, but also acting on the different values that we have, which Janice talked about. And so in some ways, the technologies in that are drivers. But in other ways, they're real enablers.
And shifts in those values, and shifts in what people are thinking, are also enabling us to rethink. So I think the drivers and enablers, sometimes two sides of the same coin. But they act differently both as drivers and enablers.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: I love the way you position it there. And it's so important for something as complex as this. We need to look at it from multiple angles because, yes, there's risks, and, yes, there's concerns. And equally, there's infinite opportunities that get created from this as well. So Sean, how are we doing with the poll? Are we ready to close it off?
SEAN ACKLIN GRANT: Sure. So I'm going to share some results now.
MAN: For our audio listeners, the results of our first poll, what is driving the evolution of work? Are that 88% believe that individual values and priorities are shifting. 60% see technology disrupting the way we work. 39% credit changing social values. 26% noticed demographic shifts in organizations. Another 26% think fluid career paths are more normalized. 24% believe economic challenges are introducing external pressures, and 12% see globalization having an impact.
SEAN ACKLIN GRANT: We can see actually that 88% of people who responded felt that individuals values and priorities are shifting. So already, I'm seeing a theme with some of our answers, and clearly with what our audience is feeling as well.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: Well, that was a perfect segue into what Janice was sort of talking to you around what people value and expect as they interact with the world of work. So nice to see that validated, and some other hot areas as well. So we're going to keep that in the back of our mind. Just a reminder, do feel free to put questions into the Q&A. I see a few are already coming up. Our brave panelists are going to attempt to answer some of them when they can in the Q&A, and I will work some of them into our conversation.
I see the first one was on AI, and there's absolutely no way I'm going to let anyone off of this live stream without touching on AI at some point, given we're talking about the evolution of work. Let's turn it back to the panelists. When you looked at the results that just came in from the poll, I was going to say, any surprises that-- I'm just going to open it up a little bit more in terms what were your reactions to the poll?
MARTHA MAZNEVSKI: So if I can jump in. First of all, I didn't expect 88% of people to talk about individual's values and priorities are shifting. I did expect that would be up there, but that's almost everyone. And the number two is technology, but number 3, and the only other one that's kind of-- it's about 40%, so it's almost a majority, not quite, is about changing social values. So the fact that two of the top three are about people shifting, that tells me a lot about how people are feeling and what they are experiencing right now.
That the social and personal shifts that people are experiencing and feeling are even bigger than some of these other things.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: Janice or Romel any reactions to the poll?
ROMEL MOSTAFA: No, no. I agree with Martha as well. And one area where I might weigh in a little bit about the demographic shifts, right? And so if we think about the baby boomers retiring, and that is leading to also displacement of workers with certain skills, right? That is leading to changes in the workforce in our economy, and that also has implications about bargaining powers of existing workers in terms of the way they see-- how they envision the future of work for example.
So I would put that up in there as well as an important driver.
I also think it's funny that if we had this conversation about a decade ago or 15 years ago, like, globalization, outsourcing, and offshoring, would have been just like off the chart. And now that's no longer an issue. It's no longer a burning issue for a lot of people.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: It's interesting, and thanks for teeing that up. I saw a couple of themes in the Q&A so far around sort of going through evolutions. This is not the first nor will it be the last time. How does this differ from sort of past evolutions as it relates to work, or where does it differ, and where is it maybe the same?
ROMEL MOSTAFA: Maybe I can jump in here. And I think, I mean, in many ways, if we go back-- and I'm looking at Paul's question here on the Q&A essentially, that if we go back to the agrarian based economy, 250 years prior to the Industrial revolutions 1 and 2, your work was predominantly where you lived, right? So that was the predominant means of economic activity. But what fundamentally changed during the first and second Industrial Revolution, I think, is a tremendous change in the way we produce industrial goods.
There has been substantial division of labor, effective coordination with labor aided by what then was considered the state of the art machine tools. And organizing under one roof often enables you to economize in a coordination cost monitoring on the job training, right? And that enabled scaling of mass production. Now, all of that also led to, clearly, social tensions. Many books are written about that. And one of my favorite is by Charles Dickens, Hard Times.
Over the years, you know, obviously, we've seen even services being also essentially organized in a similar fashion where there's teamwork, right? Economizing coordination costs leading to in a co-location of this type. But I think fundamentally, now what we're seeing is that technology, and some people already captured it, has really reduced coordination costs to the point now that you can effectively do various tasks which are highly-- recourse highly division of labor especially in the service sector.
Potentially, anywhere, and that is from your home as well, right? There is this big push towards this hybrid work model, if you will, right? Which is somewhat different from the Industrial Revolution, which actually brought in workers in co-locating in one area. Now activities are much-- a little more dispersed, if you will.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: So this is actually, I think, a perfect time to take our conversation down the path of what does this mean for organizations, and how are we going to set organizations up for success in this sort of evolution of work? So Sean, I'm going to put you back to work because we've got a second poll here, and we want to get our audience participation numbers up. And our question is really around what are the most impactful ways organizations can support new ways of working? A couple of different options here. Purpose driven goals, support well-being.
So everything from mental health to financial planning, and the elusive work-life, life-work balance. Offering more competitive compensation. Allowing for flexibility in terms of where and how, and when work happens. Nurture positive culture, provide growth opportunities. So I think we're going to go with the same rules in terms of try to pick your top three. I'm excited about all of them to some extent. And there's probably some others as well.
MARTHA MAZNEVSKI: While people are doing that, Brian, can I just jump in with what has not changed?
BRIAN BENJAMIN: Absolutely. Go ahead.
MARTHA MAZNEVSKI: So lots of change-- and I agree that we're kind of ripe for a change in the environment. A lot of what's not changed is the basics of human motivation. People are still people, and we're still really motivated. The social psychology research, at least in the Western social psychology research, suggests we're motivated by three things, our relationships with people, so people influence and personal growth. And that's always been true.
I think what has changed is our expectation of being able to get those needs met in a variety of ways. Having choices around that, or at least perceived choices not choices the environment for it, and the tools for it. That has changed. But the basics, you know, I'm often asked, how do we motivate people in this environment? Well, it's the same basic underlying motivations, how we get there is different.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: Thank you for sharing. And I do think it's important. Sometimes when we're going through such change at such a massive scale, we often only focus on what is changing or what is different. But there are certain things that are not, right? And some things that we can also leverage and kind of learn from and hang on to. So Sean, how are we doing with our poll here?
SEAN ACKLIN GRANT: We've got a ton of responses, and I'll share the results now.
SEAN ACKLIN GRANT: The results of our second poll asking, what are the most impactful ways organizations can support new ways of working, are 82% think organizations should prioritize flexibility in how and where work is done. 61% suggests that organizations should support well-being. 51% want organizations to provide growth opportunities and learning. 40% believe in nurturing a positive culture.
30% want their organization to set purpose driven goals. And 25% would prioritize more competitive compensation.
SEAN ACKLIN GRANT: Interestingly, 82% you did allow for flexibility.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: Allow for flexibility. Yeah, that is the where, how, when. Which is interesting, right? And it's probably one of the biggest shifts that we've seen in terms of where we were in past evolutions and where we are now. So a very simple question in terms of how I'm going to state it, but a very tough one to answer.
Organizations are grappling to stay ahead, it is a hyper competitive market for talent right now and we're in very unique times. What's at stake for organizations? Let's look through the lens. So how are we as organizations going to succeed in this sort of new reality? What's at stake?
MARTHA MAZNEVSKI: I mean, clearly, what's at stake is keeping people, reducing turnover, attracting talent, retaining talent, which is a huge issue right now. And I would also up the ambition on that. And that's kind of table stakes, you want to attract good people, retain good people. What's also at stake is being able to solve complex problems for your value proposition.
If employees are engaged and were using the opportunities of new tools and new ways of working, we have the opportunity to solve some really sticky problems, or at least to try and start solving them both for customers in companies and also for society. So I think the stakes are enormous. They go way beyond retaining and attracting people. But that for sure is an important part of what's at stake.
ROMEL MOSTAFA: Yeah, I'm happy to chime in here, and I think I'll just connect that to the fact that I think the whole competitive advantage of a company and its performance and long-term success will depend substantially based on this effective transition to what we call the future of work. There was a question before about implications of AI, with AI and digital technologies, and some of the use cases that you're seeing is that from personalized recommendations to fraud detection, automation, data entry, these can potentially generate substantial efficiencies, right?
And so corporations will look towards potentially adopting some of these technologies. But at the same time, efficiency, as Michael Porter would tell you, that it's not all operational efficiencies will contribute to competitive advantage. You need to formulate strategy. And here you'll need a creative set of activities that are hard to imitate and data insights that you might get from AI are going to be useful. But you'll also need, probably, human critical thinking, good judgment, common sense reasoning, right?
And other areas, where at least for the foreseeable future, I'm not seeing it that AI has any particular-- are particularly capable, right? So in a sense, these skills will be key at retaining and attaining people, and developing those talents would be important within organizations.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: Janice, what would you say? You've got a terrific entrepreneur background. Anything through the entrepreneur lens as it relates to organizations?
JANICE BYRNE: Yeah, I suppose what I think is just immense importance of autonomy and letting people control what they do, right? And so when I hear this conversation, I'm-- I come back to Martha's point about what people need in work, and they need to feel confident, they need relatedness, but they need autonomy, they need to feel like they're actually doing-- they control over what they're doing, but also that they're seeing themselves and what they do.
And for me, that's linked to how do we engage people? And keeping people engaged, and this notion of really valuing individuals, and just really centering individuals and what they want to do. And lots of the time what we're hearing right now at the moment is that young workers or when we're trying to attract people, that they really want flexible work, and they want to have control. So I think we, in organizations, we really need to think about, well, how can we do that? How can we get people feeling like they're autonomous and in control of their work and feeling like they've got a flexible workplace?
A feeling, really, that they can put their own thumbprint, I suppose, on what they do. The challenge, I guess, really, is how do you do that at the same time as keeping everybody pulling in the same direction?
BRIAN BENJAMIN: Yeah, that's a great comment around fulfillment and having a meaningful impact. And everyone's going to have a different definition of what's meaningful. For me, it could be very different than what's meaningful for someone else, and connecting it with what the organization is looking to achieve. It'd be really helpful, I think, for our audience to hear any sort of examples of organizations that are doing some really interesting work in this space, and doing things well.
Can any of our panelists sort of share, this organization is sort of a great example of this element that is going to set them up for success in this sort of New World of Work, if you will.
MARTHA MAZNEVSKI: So three organizations that we work with-- but I like to focus on organizations who have a mix of-- you have some office workers, but also a lot of people who have to do their job in person. Because it's a lot of when we're talking about evolution of work, we often forget that we've kind of got two very different dynamics going on right now. One is people who can work remotely, flexibly, live their values and that. But we also need a lot of work done that people have to come to work for.
And so I like to look at companies that are managing both of those kinds of workforces to look at creative solutions. And the three that we've talked about and talked with a lot here, EllisDon, McCain, and Lafarge. So EllisDon Construction Industry and trying to do a lot of things for people who are working in construction to have, "this is your career." And all three of these, McCain is food industry. Maple Leaf Foods is another example. Lafarge in a different part of the building materials industry.
So what I've noticed is all of those places-- actually, Dofasco now comes to mind as well. --really focused on building careers for everybody. And the kinds of programs that we used to only see for white collar professional management kinds of tracks attracting a lot of people through a, "your career is here, have your whole career here." So really, really focusing on engagement throughout the organization.
And the other thing I think makes a big difference is having the conversation that, it's not fair that some people get to choose where they work and other people don't. If you don't have that conversation, it becomes really the elephant in the room. People who see their colleagues saving money because they don't have to travel into work every day and not seeing that reflected in their own, like even basics like that, it feels very inequitable at a basic level not to have the choice. Like Janice talked about, the autonomy.
But then to have that lack of choice, punished in other ways, feels very inequitable. So the companies that I've seen have a better response to this are companies that have openly talked about those kinds of things as well as developing career paths and career alternatives for everybody in the whole company.
JANICE BYRNE: If I could just jump in there. I think another thing that we're seeing happening is companies-- and again, I'm coming at this from an entrepreneurship perspective, but companies, like, more and more-- so there's these lessons that we've learned from kind of entrepreneurs, like when we see design thinking, or agile methods, or the lean startup, we see the thing being popularized more and more. And now we also see organizations getting in and trying to capture some of that knowledge, and actually use it in their organizations.
And so we've heard-- we see the emergence of hybrid startups, where they're actually companies. And I can cite two, which they are car companies, but like Volkswagen and Mercedes, both who've actually started these-- who really captured this notion of a hybrid startup. Where you basically share people, processes, and resources. You get the best of both, and you've got your corporate entity, and you've got your entrepreneurial entity and you're bringing both of them together, and you're actually really trying to start. It's this hybrid startup, so it's like a corporate startup where you're really trying to take advantage of individuals and their need for autonomy and control.
But all these individuals often lack maybe is legitimacy. But they've got the legitimacy of the big corporation, and the corporation gets the benefit of their agility and their energy, and it's not held back by bureaucracy. And so both Volkswagen with heycar and Mercedes starting a repair smith. Both of these are examples of hybrid startups, where companies have really tried to use the entrepreneurial energy and talent that's out there and blended together with some of their internal know how and resources too to really dynamize what they're doing.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: I think it's fascinating as the examples that were shared both right now, Janice and Martha, these are organizations by and large that have been around for decades and decades and decades. So it's not just if I'm starting a brand new company for the first time, and I've got the ability to plan things out and build it sort of fit for purpose for this new reality. It's organizations that are reinventing themselves and looking for opportunities for how do we make work meaningful in an environment that may have been different than making work meaningful 10, 20, 30 years ago?
I want to talk a little bit about the other elements that factor in here. So if we think about this almost like a triangle, we've got the organization here, we've got the individual here, and we've got the leader here. And sometimes, people play multiple roles. So we've talked about some organizational expectations and things that companies can do. What can leaders do? We know that individuals are highly influenced, not just where they work, it's who they work for and who they work with. I will touch on what can individuals do on their own as well too, but that's a bit of a foreshadow.
Let's spend a bit of time here on, how has the role of leader changed, and how does it need to change through the evolution of work to support the organizations that they're leading in and the teams that they're leading? You know what? I'm going to go to you, on Romel, so some quick remarks on this one, and then I know Janice and Martha are going to have some points to give here is well.
ROMEL MOSTAFA: Right. No, clearly, what we're seeing is there's also a lot of experimentation that is happening, right? In terms of how do you really create organizational or just organizational structures and culture in ways that it's going to potentially work for the transition in the future of work, right? And in some cases, there's also insights to be had from leadership strategies that probably did not even work, right?
So there were certain decrees by organizations that tried to call back all employees back to the organization. And one of the companies, it turns out, Goldman Sachs, right? And even as of today, there are reports suggesting that workers haven't really moved in, right? So organizations are struggling through this process substantially.
And I think part of the challenge is of course, is to move away from the perspective that we had before to the new reality of a work environment. Where again, autonomy is-- some level of autonomy that's going to be important for workers. Workers do recognize also that learning is a shared kind of activity, right? And so there are surveys that suggest that workers are willing to say, on average, there are two to three days that they would want to come to the office, it's not just remote only.
So creating a framework that potentially allows you to establish some kind of policy, and maybe even instead of focusing on mandating what the policy should be from top down, is to go back bottom up, if you will, and understand, and define goals and objectives of hybrid working policy given the industry, the department that there are, because the ability to do remote tasks varies even within departments, right?
Identify roles and responsibilities of both employees and managers, including expectations that are around communication, collaboration, et cetera, right? And we can go on and on, but there needs to be certain pillars that leaders can essentially create in terms of designing that policy that requires consultation, if you will.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: Thanks for getting us kicked off from now. I'm actually-- I want to turn to you next on this one, Martha, because you've spent the better part of your career with leaders all around the world. And I'd love to hear how the expectations are changing, and maybe where they haven't changed as well. What are you seeing?
MARTHA MAZNEVSKI: So much. I think-- first of all, can I suggest, Janice, if you'll take this revision. Autonomy, that we use the word influence instead of autonomy. I find leaders get-- so one of the problems, and this is one of the things I talk about, is leaders get in their own way. And one of the things leaders do to get in their own way is when they hear people say, "I want autonomy, I want flexibility." They kind of go, [YELLS], I can't give you autonomy or flexibility because we have a job that needs to be done, and I'm paying you for that.
And that defensiveness creates this dynamic that ends up in micromanagement. Not always, but it can, right? So whereas, if we use the word influence, I want to have some influence over how my work gets done. That doesn't create the same thing. So it's just language. So I found it really curious, I was asking my accelerated MBA students over the last few weeks to describe the teams that they're in, especially the virtual teams, and what works, what doesn't work.
And these are students who are kind of generally late 20s, high achieving, highly ambitious, very motivated. And they love the influence that they have on their virtual teams, and that's when it works well. But almost every one of them also commented on, "this would be better face-to-face." it would be better if we could have some face-to-face time. And I was actually surprised how much that comment came up, "it would be better if we had at least some face-to-face."
So I think, even that generation, it would be open to a little bit more. So the role for leaders here is to be clear on what's not negotiable, but to be really clear about why it's not negotiable. So I'm just looking at it comment, "time at your desk. Serving the customer appropriately is not negotiable. Doing it while sitting at your desk might be negotiable." What I find is the hardest thing for leaders is to figure out that few things, the short list of what actually needs to be done.
The value proposition for the external stakeholders or the internal stakeholders. What's that really short list that is not negotiable, that needs to be achieved no matter what? And then for everything else, is to have conversations. And Romel, you said, experiment. I totally agree, lots of experimentation. I like, Ask, Listen, Try. A-L-T. Ask Listen Try. So ask the question, and when you ask the question you're giving people both an opportunity for influence and an opportunity to grow.
And by listening, you're also showing relationships. So you're meeting those basic needs. So Ask, Listen, and then Try, right? You don't need to have a policy today that's going to last for three years, you can try something for a few weeks or a few months, and keep revisiting it with the Ask, Listen, Try. So ALT.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: Yeah, I got a new acronym now that I'm going to imprint on. Interesting that we're sort of talking about the pendulum, right? And the pendulum swung all the way from predominantly in office to 100% remote, and then essential workers were in a very different situation for a period of time. And then now, we're sort of finding like, what is that next sort of spot, and where does it ultimately settle?
And it's going to settle somewhere different for different organizations. We're seeing differences in different parts of the world as well in terms of how and where work gets done. But I really like that comment on, we don't have to put it in stone for the next 20 years, right? We're going to put this policy in place for now. And we're not going to change it every month, but it's probably not going to have as long of a shelf life as maybe things have had in the past.
I want to go to that third sort of leg on the stool, if you will. We've talked about organizations, we've talked about leaders, let's put ourselves in the role of the employee. We've heard about where expectations are shifting and what we're seeing. But what can employees do to set themselves up for success in the New World of Work, and find and continue to kind of keep engagement and fulfillment? What's the role of the employee in all of this?
JANICE BYRNE: I'm going to jump in here just because I think that we need also to think in terms of different generations. And so, I'm just going to-- and are different needs related to that. And so one thing I'm thinking about, and because we've talked a little bit about the hybrid and working from home or working in the office, I think that one thing that we really need to realize is that the younger Gen or people who are just first entering the organization, we need to learn, right? And need to be in contact with others, and need to be around others to make for that tacit knowledge to flow, right?
And so it's serendipitous kind of occasional meetings that we see and culture, it's so important, right? That's what gels us together. And how do we find out about cultural? Well, it's in all those things that are floating around, right? In the corridors. It's in those meetings, just bumping into somebody in the hall. And so, I think for me, one thing is to be mindful as an individual of what stage you're at in the company, and what stage others are at.
And to think about your needs and to think about their needs. So if you're someone younger, maybe you like and appreciate the working from home aspect, it's great, it's so flexible, you can do all this. But be mindful of what you-- if you can kind of occasionally interact or have those physical interactions, or when there are those efforts at workplace to kind of have everybody come together. Rather than think of it as kind of a chore or-- think about the opportunity and see it as an opportunity to learn.
Because I really feel like those kind of happenstance, those meetings where we interact with others and people who've got more experience in the workplace is where we can learn. And we can kind of sometimes underestimate that, I guess, if we're coming at it from a younger person's perspective.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: Thanks for sharing that. And I think that's where one of the three you shared the comment around sort of share the why, right? Like, have those conversations, don't just say return to the office because we need you to return to the office. Create meaningful reasons that work. But equally important is as an employee, think about, what can I benefit from that in-person interaction?
And Janice, your comment or answer that the tacit learnings that just sort of happen when you're bumping into people. I'm in our downtown Toronto campus here today, and I got a bunch of things ticked off my list because I bumped into people that I probably wouldn't have got ticked off quite as quickly. Martha, Romel, other comments as it relates to the responsibility for employees, and what can we do as individuals engaging in work to set ourselves up for success?
ROMEL MOSTAFA: Yeah, and I'll chime in with Janice as well. I mean, the old adage, invest in yourself and in skills that potentially would be complementary to the new technological evolution. No matter what particular occupation you get drawn into, I think there will be certain skills. We're already seeing potential skills that AI at least for the next foreseeable 20 years may not necessarily be capable of.
And that would be, of course, improving on in a critical thinking, improving on good judgment, and as well as, of course, reasoning. Which are all going to be important, I think, going forward because you might get insights from AI data driven applications, but then making those actions-- business decisions and actions are going to be important where then much of that, of course, is tacit knowledge itself, right? Whereby you develop over your career. So I think finding those opportunities to learn, and upgrade into those skills that are going to be meaningful going forward.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: I want to shift a little bit here. And I'm going to start with you on this one, Martha. When we're thinking about organizations, there are ecosystems that are completely different and sometimes completely similar in some ways. So we've got frontline workers right up to executive leaders. Some organizations have to have workers physically present to perform their job. Others have full flexibility to work when, where, how, makes sense for each individual.
From a policy standpoint, where do organizations start? Is it an all encompassing policy? Is it a series of policies? I know so many organizations are asking for support and trying to learn from others. Any tips as it relates to that? It's
MARTHA MAZNEVSKI: Not easy. There's no magic wand or anything, unfortunately. And that's-- it was actually working with organizations who were facing that I observed the value of Ask, Listen, Try. Because a couple of years ago, I would be asked for advice and I would kind of go, pfft, well, what did your employees say when you asked them? And I would get this kind of blank look, "well, ask them what?" Well, ask them what their needs are, and ask them how they think they can fulfill the work. Oh, well we haven't done that yet, we thought we should have a policy to take first.
And I think we're in such uncharted territory that we actually-- there is an individual situation. So where I've seen it work best is ask people what they need with the parameters that, this is the work that needs to be done. Right? And then also, again, don't be afraid to ask people, what do you think is fair looking at the whole organization? And it's not going to be the same policy for everybody, so being transparent and open about that, but making sure there's equity.
And we're used to equity in the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I just mean equity in terms of people feeling like they're psychological as well as formal contract with the organization is fair compared with other peoples.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: It's such an important word, and I'm glad you introduced that. It doesn't have to be the same. In fact, often, it's impossible for it to be the same based on the work I'm doing versus maybe a colleague in a different department or a different division. But can we feel that it's fair across? Can we feel that different factors have been considered?
MARTHA MAZNEVSKI: And let me just add on to that that if you're going to have an ecosystem, an organization, where different people have different kinds of policies according to them. And people believe that it's equitable, it's fair, it has to be underpinned by trust. Because everybody knows that things are going to change. And so, it's only when employees trust their leaders that they will trust that if things change, equity will be restored.
So we can have lots of policies, but I think way more important than that is trust that comes with transparency. And then demonstration that I want to help you, I want to make it work for you. There's a job to be done, that doesn't go away. We have to get resources to do that job. So we have to make profits to be able to do that. But within that, how can we work this out? And there has to be trust that leaders will do that.
JANICE BYRNE: If I could just jumping quickly just to say building on that trust aspect, it's really this notion of-- and this is like really old management theory, like Douglas McGregor talking about theory X and theory Y. But for me, this notion of think about yourself as a manager, and what do you think about your employees, or what assumptions are you making? Do you think that they are people who can be trusted and will do their job well? Are they reliable, or are they people who needed to be prodded and punched and kind of told how to do things, right? And I really think if we come back to this idea of believing in people, and that people want to be a success, people want to do jobs well.
But is there systems out there, things that are impeding them? And I really think we need to, in today's World of Work, we really need to come back to those basics of really having good faith in individuals, that people want to succeed, people want to do their best. And what way are we thinking about them as managers? And if we're in that-- if we've shifted into theory X, well, maybe we should kind of reevaluate and go back to theory Y, that people do want to do a good job and be reliable, and be successful.
ROMEL MOSTAFA: And if I can tag on to it that there are actually live examples, which is the pandemic, right? I mean, if you think about it, I don't think a lot of organizations have policies set up for how work will get done and all that. But we went through it, and for many organizations, for the different degrees, we pulled through. And part, of course, I think, has been that trust, transparency, and the things that my colleagues have articulated.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: I want to actually wrap us on final thoughts, and give 60 seconds, ticking clock 60 seconds to each of our panelists. If you could sum it up, what are one or two critical takeaways here? Whoever goes first gets the first sort of dip, but you have to keep it within 60 seconds. So that it's a double edged sword on this one. Who's going first? Set the tone.
ROMEL MOSTAFA: You want to-- do you want me to take a stab at it? Maybe I'll do it even in less than 60 seconds. Let's give it a try.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: All right, we're counting on you, Romel. What do you got?
ROMEL MOSTAFA: The old adage, the only constant is change. And that applies to, I think, the future of work. I mean, this-- the way that would change over the years, the technology, social shifts, as well as economic forces, it's to be seen, right? And so the only constant in the foreseeable future is, of course, change. And there is an urgency to act essentially, right? But you know, fortune also favors, I think, the bold.
And I'm going to add to that the astute and flexible. Why bold? You know, willing to experiment, take the calculated risk, right? And I like what Martha said about-- what is it, ALT? Right? Why astute? You need to guide experiments to increase the art of success, you need not only data, right? Insights, but also exercise good judgment and critical thinking, and in a rapidly changing industry the stakes are high because, I think, the competitive landscape will only become more competitive, both for employees and organizations, right?
And flexible because despite all the astuteness, some experiments will go sideways. So be quick to pivot, and don't get hung up.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: All right. Thank you. And those apply to organizations, leaders, employees, all the above. So 4 minutes and counting, and we've got to give two to Sean, so Janice, final takeaways?
JANICE BYRNE: Martha, I could be stealing some from you here because I used to be an organizational behavior prof and more of the time I was in between the two. But for me, it's really just-- so yes, change is still happening, but the three debate, the belief and the potential of people, that comes out for me. And to really come back to understanding faith in people to want to do their best, but also an understanding of people and what they want and what they need to be able to be at their best.
So if they want freedom or autonomy, or as we say, influence, rather than autonomy, if they want that, and to see that it's not about a give and take, we can go in the same-- right direction, but it's about understanding the ways that you can enable them to exert that influence on their daily work lives, and to have those shared conversations about how these things can be managed in terms of the time that they are in or out of the office, or the way they're doing things.
So I think for me, that's this notion of experimenting also and believing in the potential of people is what comes out very strongly there for me.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: Amazing. Thank you. Martha, final word.
MARTHA MAZNEVSKI: I believe we are at an inflection point, like Romel said. We collectively have an opportunity to shape the evolution of work. We collectively have a responsibility to shape the evolution of work. And given the pace of change and what's going on in the environment, we need to do it together. So Ask, Listen, Try, is about us doing it together.
BRIAN BENJAMIN: Couldn't have wrapped it better. A huge thank you to Martha, to Romel, to Janice for giving us your time and your expertise, and your authentic answers and challenges to our group. And thank you to everyone who joined us from across the world. Happy Global Ivey Day. It's great to see so many alumni and guests and friends as part of this terrific community.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you for tuning in to Leadership in Practice. We'd like to thank our guests, Martha Maznevski, Janice Byrne and Romel Mostafa. Leadership in Practice is produced by Melissa Welsh, Joanna Shepherd, and me, Sean Acklin Grant. Editing and audio mix by Carol Eugene Park. If you like this episode, make sure to subscribe.
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