• Jane Ginnever

5 steps to new ways of working

The very best of intentions

Even when a company’s leaders have the very best of intentions, implementing new ways of working can be really hard. Increasing flexible working, retaining talent and developing diverse teams are on the to do lists of HR teams in most businesses, but that’s often where they stay, as introducing new ways of working is simply too difficult.

That’s why, despite the large body of evidence that shows improved diversity leads to better outcomes for business, there was no significant change in the UK gender pay gap in the year to March 2019, and there are more people than ever before rejecting the restrictions of traditional employment and embracing insecure but flexible freelancing.

Assumptions about how companies have to work

The fact is that the way many of us still work is based on assumptions about the way effective companies have to work that goes back hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years. Yuval Noah Harari (in his book ‘Sapiens’) reckons it all started about 10,000 years ago, when we changed from being hunter gatherers to farmers. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that, to some people in our businesses, ideas about new ways of working seem pretty nonsensical and laden with risk.

Imposing change top down really isn’t going to work.

Implementing the changes

It’s not just the changes that we want to make, but the way we try to make them that creates challenges. Introducing new ways of working is different to the kind of change we usually make in business. To be effective, it can mean changing the long-term behaviour of many individuals, with all their different needs and different lives and different roles. Imposing change top down really isn’t going to work.

To try and address this we consult colleagues about the changes, but the feedback can make the potential consequences seem too hot for us to handle. And things stall again. All in all it’s not surprising that introducing new ways of working often gets put back in the ‘too difficult’ box.

An experimental approach is much more successful when introducing new ways of working

An alternative approach

But given that we know we need to change to get the results we want, there are ways that we can make this all much easier. An experimental approach is much more successful when introducing new ways of working, and these 5 steps can help unlock solutions and get better results:

1. Be clear about the outcomes you’re looking to achieve through the changes

2. Involve people rather than consulting them

3. Challenge people's thinking about how work works

4. Run pilots to test out theories

5. Learn from the results and iterate

WOW Labs is a 12-month structured facilitated programme to support in-house teams do all of those things and more. In addition, they get to share ideas and learning with other teams that are introducing change in local (non-competing) businesses.

Our aim is to support businesses to make those difficult changes and accelerate the introduction of new ways of working, developing the capability of businesses across the UK to be more agile and inclusive.

If you’re interested in joining one of our cohorts in London, Manchester or Bristol in September 2019, or just want to find out more, get in touch.