Notes On The Future Of Business & Talent

Top talent, Adaptability & WFH

The last 18 months have been nothing like we’ve ever lived before. Forced to stay inside our houses, changing our daily habits, changing the way we work, confronting divisions in society… and more.

We can start to write about certain aspects or events in retrospect. And I can safely say that it has been a collective ‘awakening’. A mass red pill, if you like.

In some way or another, we’ve all been forced to interrupt the autopilot path we were taking in our lives. And we have forced to re-think many things.

One of them, possibly the first we can start to write about in depth, is the rise of working from home (WFH). While it already existed before the lockdowns and pandemic started, it has now entered center stage in the public consciousness.

And it is changing the way everyone thinks about work, work-life balance, companies, skills, and more. This article will be some notes on different ideas observed over the last 18 months.

On the future of company sizes

Back in 2019, I wrote a thread about the future of business and the size of companies. Based on some studies done by one of my professors at university, who I intellectually respect.

The main points behind are that we will see a drastic change in the distribution of sizes of companies. Essentially, that most people will work for companies in one of the two extremes of the spectrum: small companies with less than 10 workers, or mega-conglomerates with hundreds of thousands (or even millions).

The idea of a medium-sized company will be a remnant of the past.

One side of the spectrum, individuals will be able to out-compete medium-sized companies, by leveraging new and existing technologies. Individuals will be able to coordinate with each other and act with quicker speed and flexibility.

On the other side of the spectrum, companies will merge between each other and form mega-conglomerates (something we are already seeing). These mega-conglomerates will have the power of nation states (some already have more power), and they’ll reach critical mass where they’re too big to fail.

What does this mean for the individual? Well, that it is very likely that you and I will either work for ourselves, or for large mega-conglomerates.

We will either group together with other individuals based on specific projects, or our megacorps will group us together based on specific projects.

I don’t know which option of the two is best. I think it is down to each individual’s preferences, personality and situation.

I do know one thing though, and it is that, irrespectively of where we work, building valuable skills lies at the forefront of our individual success.

Skills and top talent

Adaptability is key. And it will continue to be.

If you aren’t adaptable, you won’t work for the mega-conglomerate, and you won’t work for yourself either. UBI might be the only future for the non-adaptable.

Building your skills, honing them and keeping them fresh is a safe bet to remain as adaptable as you can. There is no guarantee that it will make you succeed, but it will guarantee you have more options.

And while adaptability is paramount for us individuals, it is precisely here where many businesses and companies are failing today.

One thing I’m observing in my day to day job, from conversations with many people across many industries, is that top talent from companies who aren’t being able to adapt are leaving.

Talented people are flocking to those companies and businesses which have been able to adapt and are thriving in the new status quo.

The last 18 months have proven an inflection point for everyone.

While some have been able to adapt and use the moment to make changes for the better, others haven’t been able to and are stuck in limbo. Some are just more adaptable than others, and some just had a better position to leverage from than others.

Such adaptability and capacity to overcome new obstacles applies to individuals AND to organizations.

If you were a top talent, an individual who not only has adapted to the new paradigm, but is actually thriving, how long are you realistically going to stay working for companies who can’t catch up?

The best example that comes to mind to illustrate this is the rise of working from home.

Working from home

Many companies have successfully adapted to working from home.

They coordinate their teams remotely, set up the right systems in place, make the changes necessary to adapt, restructure their hierarchy if needed, look out for their workers and are now thriving.

Plenty of these companies have successfully ensured the adaption to working from home for the present state of affairs.

And are working hard to ensure the success in the long term by updating onboarding processes for new hires, maintaining team members with flexibility in work conditions, rising salaries and more.

On the other hand, many companies have done a very poor job at adapting to working from home.

They are trying to fit the old model of work into we’ll do what we always do, but via videocall”.

This poor attempt at adapting to working remotely is then used as a pretext to going back to the office:

“Working remotely just doesn’t work”

— Those who never tried to make it work in the first place.

Now, I won’t be ignorant to the reality that working remotely is not for everyone. Many jobs just can’t be done from a computer, and many people just can’t make it work for themselves either.

I am aware that working from home suits my personality more than it does for someone who’s social life is limited to the office.

However, even while working remotely is not for everyone, I can guarantee you that all top talent wants the option to choose.

Working from home and top talent

The reality for top talent over the last 18 months is the following:

  • they’ve worked hard to adapt and thrive under the new conditions

  • they’ve slashed their working hours to less than the 8 hours and still over-achieved

  • they’ve enjoyed a better work-life balance

  • they’ve set up work on their own terms and thrived

  • they’ve realized they represent most of the value generated by the team

While I emphasize that working from home is not for everyone, most top talent wants the option to choose the above.

Recently, there is a rise in headlines about how companies are making it mandatory to physically work back at the office and them losing their best employees because of it.

Many people, en masse, have tasted freedom at the same time. A bit too much of freedom.

For the person who manages to get more done, in less time, without distractions and petty office politics, are they truly going to give up on that and just go back to the office to “the old ways that used to be”?

These people, who deliver, who are the backbone of teams, have realized how good they have it working from home compared to at the office.

And they are the people who are leaving organizations which won’t adapt.

And it’s happening everywhere.

Adaptability

Organizational culture emerges from the individual contributions of each member. It becomes a sort of life-form of its own, and then it affects change in said individuals’ behavior.

(Read more about this phenomenon here: How the collective shapes the individual).

Organizations and companies, as life-forms of their own, just might be starting to be held to similar standards we hold for individuals.

Companies must self-improve. And I don’t mean it as a joke.

When the pandemic hit, all of our lives changed. Locked inside our houses for months. Forced to stop many of our daily habits that make us, us.

Many of us adapted, started new habits, fought hard, worked hard and ended up thriving under the new paradigm.

Many did not.

They got stuck, metaphorically and literally. And are still in a phase of stagnation. Longing for the return of their previous lives. To make a little joke, just two more weeks to return back to our previous lives!

We admire those who made a change and came out on top, and we feel compassion for those who got stuck.

However, sooner or later the feeling of compassion and understanding disappears.

After a period of mourning for our past lives, we expect even those who are staying behind to start adapting and “getting over it”.The longer they stay stuck, the less compassion and understanding we have for them.

The same expectations we are starting hold organizations and companies to. Those who refuse to adapt, who stagnate and who don’t figure out will be left behind.

If the recent moves of top talent is any indication, those who start to figure it out will continue the trend.


PS: I was invited to the GET DOING THINGS podcast, by Craig Burgess. I touch on some of these thoughts there, with more free-flowing thoughts. Make sure to check it out if you enjoyed the article:

Benjamin George — The new work revolution | GET DOING THINGS 230