At AWA, we are always interested to know how different organizations and industry sectors are navigating changes to the way they work. On our Changing the World of Work podcast, we’ve talked to people from the energy, insurance, tech and life sciences sectors and it’s interesting to see that while many of the same challenges apply to all, the ways in which organizations are impacted varies widely – depending upon the nature of the business, their culture, the nature and direction of leadership, and how they respond to aspects such as recruitment, retention and hybrid working practices.

The key business challenges are also determining how organizations are responding with initiatives such as:

  • supporting the educational system to ensure school leavers have the right skills (energy)
  • upskilling within the organization and its suppliers as skill requirements change (energy)
  • adopting digital first approaches (insurance)
  • improving their image as a sector (insurance)
  • supporting vast numbers of new managers in managing virtually (tech)
  • winning the war for talent (tech)
  • collaborating with competitors (life sciences)
  • improving workplace experience for specific activities that must be on site (life sciences)
  • right sizing offices (all)

Working experiences are activity / workforce specific

In the life sciences episode, we consider the impact that Covid and carbon reduction targets are having on the scientific community. Scientific innovation relies heavily on collaboration, being able to explore ideas with others in the scientific community, learning about their research and findings. Conferences were a big part of this endeavor, where scientists would gather, network, exchange ideas, and hear about research and developments.

Now that we are encouraged to travel less to reduce carbon impact, this becomes more challenging, and we must take the opportunity to think more deeply about the technologies and working practices that best support remote collaboration and innovation. Thinking it through step by step, so that there’s no friction and people can simply work together seamlessly.

But isn’t innovation important in any sector? Yes – but there’s innovation which is a ‘nice to have’ and there’s innovation which is “mission critical” – a core part of the organization’s reason for existing. Where this is the case, it’s important to spend more time getting that part of the workplace and way of working right. If scientists must be on site because to supervise experiments, then it’s even more important that they have the right environments to support all the additional activities that can’t be carried out remotely.

What works for Google won’t necessarily work for your organization

As ever, no one size fits all – we can’t cookie cutter our way through hybrid working based on a lowest common denominator approach, or indeed what works for another organization as we discussed in the episode on the tech sector. We explored the propensity of organizations to want to copy other organizations’ practices, because they assume that’s what works, or that’s what makes them successful.

Just as no one architectural design will suit different situations or organizational needs, so the way of working must reflect the culture, objectives, needs and purpose of the organization being designed for. “What is Google doing?” is rarely a question that leads to a satisfying outcome. Google is unique in terms of culture, business situation, business processes and product ranges – but so are other companies – all are unique.

So avoid looking for quick fixes or short cuts. Take time to plan and trial things out and learn from successes and failures. Getting the solutions that are right for your organization takes time, patience and commitment.