Leadership, Organizational Change, Technology & Capabilities

People, work cultures and leadership are out of synch

The point of this short article is to show data over past years that provide a context for understanding the emergence of the gig mindset: High people capabilities in stifling work cultures  with rigid management practices have led to new behaviors for people who are self-motivated to make a difference in their organization.

The Gig Mindset is Growing in Organizations show us that people are becoming more assertive and autonomous in the workplace. They are finding ways to achieve their goals even when it means not following enterprise procedures. This is just the beginning!

People capabilities have risen high.

As of 2015, three capabilities came together in a turning point that set the stage for the emergence of a gig mindset orientation by freeing people from traditional hierarchical constraints and helping them bridge silos.These following capabilities existed in well over half the organizations by 2015

  1. Being able to find people and expertise through information generated by people and not official HR. This liberated people to interact with others they did not know personally but with whom they could build a relationship.
  2. Being able to comment on content from other people, including official information from management. This meant that feedback to management (and others) gained company-wide visibility.
  3. Being able to connect and interact to people throughout the organization via enterprise social networks. This became a platform for informal communication, creation of work groups, and “enterprise Q&A”, asking and answering questions across the organization to the crowd.

However all three capabilities initially triggered concern with management.

Finding people and expertise: People who were visibility active on the social network and who answered questions of others, who share a lot of information became known as “experts” in their domain. In other words, they were building a personal brand through their own actions. Management was concerned that the “real experts” were over shadowed by the informal experts. They gradually realized the value brought by informal experts as the workplace became more social.

Commenting: In early days, around 2011, management feared negative comments. They gradually learned that this did not happen and that auto or crowd regulation came into play when inappropriate comments were published by people.

Social networking: As with most social media inside organizations, management feared people would waste their time. This fear slowly dissipated as success stories began to emerge about how people had been able to achieve things, especially business-related, thanks to connecting with others on the social network.

Work cultures were and are stagnating, showing lack of trust.

However, placing these three capabilities in the context of work cultures we observe a slow evolution.  Although people in half the organizations self-manage and self-direct their work, there are two very important cultural limitations that hold organizations back:

  • People are encouraged to give input to business goals and to challenge business model and work practices in one out of three organizations
  • People are empowered to act, to reinvent work practices, and to shortcut processes in order to advance more rapidly in one out of four organizations.

These two work culture practices are vital for organizations that want to transform themselves and advance in our current age of fast-moving change, diversity and new competitive landscapes.

Management attitudes are lagging even further behind.

Management is still, in many cases, focused on maintaining status quo and hierarchy, and is far from working in an “open and participatory” way. This management style is one of the underlying reasons that decentralized decision-making is still rare. Unbelievably it has hardly changed since 2013, with only one out of five organizations saying their senior management is “open and participatory”.

Emergence of the gig mindset is a natural result!

Growing capabilities PLUS stifling work cultures PLUS rigid management practices is a potentially explosive combination. Most people will continue work as usual, heads down, do the hours then get out the door. We can see the effects of this in multiple studies about low levels of engagement.

A few people however will be motivated to find ways to work around the constraints and to achieve their goals. This may involve jeopardizing their reputation in the organization, or it might result in a successful initiative recognized as such. Or a combination of both. Whichever way it goes, it is part of a movement that I call the gig mindset, in large part manifested in the behaviors described here. The chart above show clearly why the gig mindset is emerging and, worse still, why it is taking so long.