3 things every business should do to build the workplace of the future


As a CEO, I am constantly asked about what the future of work looks like, and for good reason. There’s a lot of anxiety from businesses of all sizes about where their industry is going, and how they can continue to thrive.

Much of this anxiety comes from the rapidly-developing world. To look ahead, we need a new model of business thinking; as John Hagel said, it’s about trajectory, not terrain. Businesses have traditionally mapped a terrain around them (understood their market), and have then plotted course through that landscape (built a plan) – but this approach assumes the terrain is stable. Knowing the pace of development is unlikely to slow, and that our competitors of tomorrow can be difficult to see today, today we must be trajectory-focused.

If we cast out a line 10 years into the future, what is your industry most likely to look like; and how will your consumers’ needs be met in that world? Which skills will be really important to defining the future of your industry? And if that is the future, what are the two or three things you need to get done this year?

Working from a trajectory-led perspective, here are three things we do at MYOB that can apply to any business, in any industry.

1. Create purpose in the mission, not obligation in the task

The workplace of the future is unlikely to look much like today’s office environment, so why should your approach to people and structure be stuck in the 80s?

Too often I see businesses that try to “buy” employees loyalty and commitment by box-ticking actions that they hear are part of the modern workplace experience. This can be from dropping performance reviews to painting the walls with inspiring quotes. These might be important elements of your workplace strategy, but they should not be the core. You will be far more able to pivot as your view on the future of your industry evolves if you’ve been able to credibly and genuinely explain to your team what your mission is. Why do you exist? What would happen to the world if you weren’t there and how is that important to people’s lives and the community they live in?

2. Build a diverse team

It’s been well documented that diverse teams are more likely to succeed and create more innovative solutions than homogenous teams. Consumers are also more likely to support businesses that reflect their community over ones that don’t. For the brands of the future to be competitive and accepted by customers, diversity will put simply be a mandatory requirement.

To make a real commitment to diversity, businesses must embed a belief in their culture and in their people that diversity is important to success. The belief should be reinforced by commitment, setting goals and tracking them. Businesses need to invest in training and education, and be accountable for the way their diversity process works.

We strongly believe that the wide array of perspectives that comes from true diversity promotes innovation and business success. At present, we are giving particular attention to the opportunities and experiences we provide for women in technology, but diversity in background, ethnicity, age and experience is what we strive for more broadly.

I am proud to say that at MYOB we have made significant progress towards gender equality in the last 18 months – but there is still a long way to go. At MYOB, today our team is 42% female. Women make up 38% of leadership roles. We tackle the gender pay inequality head on, by carrying out an annual audit and fixing any inconsistencies that arise. I’m confident that we pay women and men who do the same role and perform at the same level equally. But there remains a problem – we still have a 15% pay gap due to the under-representation of women in some of the better paying functions in our business – specifically a shortage of women in our software engineering team. To close this gap, we have made a commitment that at least 40% of graduate level roles in our engineering team will be filled by women. When we can’t hire enough woman from campus recruitment we complement this with an internship we call DevelopHer.

3. Prioritise the 95%, not the 5%

95% of people turn up to work 95% of the time wanting to have an impact, to do something that makes a difference. Historically, however, our internal systems and processes have been built for the 5% who don’t – and this approach is fundamentally flawed. It prevents the 95% from doing the most they can, and instead wastes resources on the monitoring or discipline of the individuals unlikely to shift the needle in the first place.

The workplace of the future needs to turn this around, instead prioritising feedback to the 95%, investing in activities that allow them to take risks, move forward and get excited about what they could contribute to the organisation. Deal with the 5% quickly, but don’t allow that to eat into the effort you put into the 95%.

Tim Reed joined MYOB in 2003, and was appointed CEO in 2008 after holding several senior management roles in the business. Tim has overseen MYOB’s transformation into a modern tech company that delivers innovative accounting and business management tools to clients across Australia and New Zealand. He also sits on the board of the Business Council of Australia and the Business Advisory Panel to the Minister for Small Business, as well as chairing the Salvation Army’s Oasis Advisory Board.

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