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The Future of the Non Profit Workplace

Jane Cockerell

Although I'm fascinated by the innovations, ideas and concepts that we collate and share as part of the Future Purpose Project, my key interest is the process and the psychology of engaging leaders and teams with these ideas in order to create resilient organisations delivering greater social impact.

The mission of any organization provides heart and purpose, but what we understand about how systems are designed, how resources are deployed and fundamentally, how people operate, (their beliefs, their fears, their quirks, their desires) are essential to its success. Without this, our grand plans to make the world a better place are a bunch of nice ideas...

This post expands on trends summarized in our QuickStart Guide and considers what it will mean in five years’ time to be working within an organisation delivering purpose-driven do-gooding wondrousness. I’ve flagged some questions that leaders can ask themselves to initiate action and engage with these emerging trends.

Data and Decisions

  • AI will have the capacity to supercharge our decisions through real-time access to all online information through wearables as well as fixed gadgets.
  • As access to information expands, leaders will need to find ways to effectively leverage this, whilst also reducing the potential for overwhelm in employees, helping them navigate this complexity, extract the key data and make sound decisions.
  • Robots, algorithms and AI will take over most routine jobs. Over time, we will shift our work to roles that require human intuition, empathy and collaboration.

Questions to ponder:

How can I help my team adapt and thrive? What are the skills required to take advantage of these trends and are we hiring appropriately? What emotional responses to these changes would we do well to acknowledge and address? Am I challenged as a leader by these changes? Is it influencing where I put my attention or my decision making?

Skills & Selection

  • The average person will change careers multiple times. The concept of learning and how people work will evolve as AI becomes built into every aspect of formal and informal education.
  • Organisations need to adapt and provide training accessible to staff at all levels and that appeals to tech-savvy young staff with shorter attention spans.  Investment in adaptive learning technologies can help tailor training to the needs of individuals. 
  • AI and data analytics could be utilised to both understand employees more deeply and to enhance or modify recruitment processes.

Questions to ponder:

Are we keeping up with tech trends so that we are not left behind in staff recruitment and engagement? So that our team are able to access the most useful information that we require to deliver our mission effectively? Are the team willing and able or do they avoid ‘keeping up’ with tech trends? How could we help? Is there a conversation required with funders about the fact that tech investment must be a larger proportion of our budget than in the past?

Purpose and Performance

  • As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, a more holistic, cross-cultural and dynamic mind-set will challenge the status quo. In many organisations there will be a move to use networks of teams, rather than traditional hierarchy, to solve problems and tackle projects.
  • The concept of success is changing with the aspiration to ‘more’ being replaced by ‘better’. Living with meaning and purpose will be a priority for many, so pay and status may not be main drivers.
  • Loneliness is increasing and the more ‘tech’ the world becomes the more we will crave touch, physical interaction, time in nature to reconnect and re-balance

Questions to ponder:

Have we identified what matters most to our employees, and designed appropriate systems, policies and work environment? Could we strengthen employee engagement by storytelling around meaning and purpose? Do we have the structures that allow employees to thrive and contribute? Do we have a wellness programme that facilitates physical and emotional health, connection, community and other key drivers of employee engagement and performance?

In summary

Many of these questions are challenging. Future Purpose Thinking takes courage and curiosity, but with small steps and practice at peering into the unknown, we can increase our organisational capacity to navigate complexity and uncertainty with confidence.

Do let us know what this sparks for you and your team.

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