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 (top left chart) in stifling work cultures (bottom right) with rigid management practices (top right) 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.  Two are especially relevant to the gig mindset:

  • The freedom to experiment and take initiatives
  • Decentralized approach to decision-making

The data show that decentralized decision-making is far from common in organizations.

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.

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, and as mentioned here, have seen it coming for several years.