We want it all and we want it now! During the coronavirus pandemic, people have developed new expectations when it comes to how they want to work. Looking for self-fulfilment and purpose, young generations in particular want both a career and personal well-being. Wolf Ingomar Faecks calls this phenomenon the “Nowness Economy” and advises companies that want to attract top talents in the long term to take on board and implement five key principles.

Creating a Framework for Cooperative Self-Organisation

April 2021 could well be seen as a turning point: the month in which some four million Americans resigned from their jobs – a phenomenon known as ‘the great resignation’. And, according to a study by Microsoft, this could increase in coming months, including outside the USA. This is because an estimated 41% of the global workforce are considering leaving their employer. This approaching wave of resignations can be attributed largely to three reasons:

Firstly, many employees no longer have a connection with their employers. Interpersonal communication has suffered because interaction has dwindled or is now based entirely online, leading many employees to feel that they are not noticed or appreciated.

Secondly, the pandemic has reinforced the employees’ view that they can only learn new skills or take the next step up the career ladder by moving to a new company. They don’t see any (further) opportunities for upskilling or advancement in their own company as things currently stand.

Thirdly, after a year riddled with change, employees are looking for a new direction to take. Rather than simply returning to their old pre-pandemic life, they want to pick up on the positive aspects of recent months and use these as a basis for making lasting changes to their own lifestyle.

These positive attributes include greater flexibility when it comes to their own working times and workflows. Remote work has meant that it’s no longer necessary to spend time travelling to the workplace every day and made it easier to plan working days and strike a healthy balance between family and work obligations. This allows people to concentrate on the things that really matter in their lives.

All of this is giving rise to an intrinsically motivated Nowness Economy. Rather than ‘business as usual’, employees are seeking out life paths that lead to purpose and personal fulfilment. In their career decisions, they are no longer interested in security that comes at the expense of living a full life. This means that they are considerably less willing to sacrifice quality of life in the interests of furthering their career. Instead, they are looking for a way to combine professional growth with personal wellbeing. Employees want to benefit from their newfound freedoms in the here and now; and at the same time, they want to shape the future today while rejecting any compromises that involve being tethered to any one employer.

The way in which companies meet these expectations will determine who will stay, who will go and what new employees are brought on board. Employers should therefore make use of the positive aspects of recent months and learn from the challenges they have been faced with – this will allow them to remain an attractive proposition in the market for top talent, in the long term and under these same conditions.

To capitalise on the zeitgeist of the Nowness Economy in this context, organisations need to take into account five core aspects and implement them:

1. Maximum flexibility rather than old patterns

Rather than ordering the entire workforce back into the office and reverting to old patterns, companies should now establish – if they haven’t already done so – the necessary conditions for flexible working models. Thanks to modern workplace booking systems and agile process management, it is possible to observe fluctuations in how often employees come to the office. This takes into account the individual work-life balances of each employee, while also making it possible to adapt to potential peaks in office capacity. As a result, employees are permitted the necessary freedom, the option of deciding for themselves when they come to the office and when they work from home – or in other words, continuous alignment based on the new requirements of the Nowness Economy.

2. Connecting the physical and digital worlds rather than differentiating between them

These days, the concept of ‘the office’ and employees’ connection to a company go well beyond the office in the physical sense. Accordingly, a cornerstone of the Nowness Economy can be used by managers focusing on transparent communication. Here it is imperative that employees are not only equipped with digital tools but, above all, with a digital infrastructure that enables them to participate in internal and external company discussions wherever they happen to be working. This means that collaboration models also need to be possible via different constellations – regardless of where employees are physically based. Concepts should be developed accordingly, complete with tools and systems that facilitate hybrid situations rather than hampering them. This will boost the team spirit even beyond the physical space, ensuring that all employees are given a voice and that their needs are taken into account.

3. Employer centricity instead of optimised human resources

The talent landscape has shifted and employee expectations have changed. Managers need to take a close look at the individual needs of each group within their company. From initial onboarding to individual career development paths and new work concepts, they should create an environment in which every employee can and wants to deliver their best performance for the company. Essentially, it all comes down to implementing an integral employer experience within the company rather than focusing solely on optimising resource allocation on company-wide projects.

4. Freedom for self-realisation rather than restrictive guidelines

Two core elements of the Nowness Economy are the desire for self-realisation and the need for self-determination. To give due consideration to these aspects, employers need a new organisational outlook: individual employees should be free to choose their own work practices within a given framework. However, this calls for a new concept of leadership – one in which leaders set the general direction and create an environment in which employees organise themselves. In this way, rather than curbing employee motivation, they encourage an ongoing willingness to learn and many ways for employees to contribute.

5. Explicit culture work instead of implicit culture vacuum

Introducing greater freedom and hybrid working models will have a fundamental influence on the organisational culture of the future. It will give rise to a cultural conglomerate that is based less on spontaneity and more on plannability. To lend this the right level of authenticity – and, in turn, get employees interested – companies should work on formats for instigating active cultural change that create the necessary degree of interaction. Environments, possibilities and formats for bringing people together should be initiated for this purpose: this is to provide the effects of the Nowness Economy with the necessary space and to allow the accompanying new cultural identity to develop.

To sum up, the way organisations can meet the new requirements of the Nowness Economy can be determined using five key elements: flexibility, freedom, hybrid working forms, employee-centric organisational forms and active culture work. This is the only way to achieve ‘mass uniqueness’ as opposed to ‘mass standardisation’ – and to ensure that the working environment allows employees to pursue their own self-realisation goals.

It is probably safe to say that we will not be returning to a pre-pandemic state of affairs – or at least that we should not aspire to do so. This is because new employee needs will force organisations to move away from old standards and give employees a new freedom to act as they see fit. Away from rigid company guidelines like fixed working hours and office attendance and towards flexible working times and hybrid working concepts. Only in this way will employees be able to help define their working environment wherever they happen to be and in the context of their day-to-day lives – and also play their part in shaping the future today.

This article first appeared in TWELVE, the Serviceplan Group’s magazine for brands, media and communication. You can read more exciting articles, essays and interviews by and with prominent guest authors and renowned experts in the eighth issue under the central theme “A Human-driven Future: How People Shape the Digital Tomorrow. Click here to access the e-paper.

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