‘Work without Jobs’: Restructuring your organization for the future of work


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Engaging employees in the ‘new operating system of work’

As organizations develop agile work structures, Ravin Jesuthasan and Dr. John Boudreau explain how companies are embracing flexibility

For every skill gap that emerges, leaders must ask one question: Is the challenge a true lack of internal expertise, or an inability to find and leverage it?

Ravin Jesuthasan and Dr. John Boudreau’s bestselling book, Work without Jobs, teaches business leaders how to prepare their workforce for a landscape that prioritizes agility. Too often, companies rely on old systems that are simply no longer applicable: organizational silos, top-down management, and an emphasis on external hiring over internal talent mobility.

But by breaking down each job into its core tasks, companies can better understand the skills needed to compete.

“Deconstruction was kind of at the heart of so many ways of seeing the patterns,” Boudreau said. “That’s the way I see it. It doesn’t really mean that we’re anticipating a world without jobs at all, but it means that leaders and others can do better to see patterns, optimize their strategies, and be more agile if they free themselves up from the starting assumption that the work we’re dealing with is this job that we have.”

Jesuthasan and Boudreau’s “new operating system of work” details the way companies can atomize, organize, and deploy hidden and untapped skills within an organization. With the power of workforce agility platforms to quantify skills and connect people to the projects best suited for them, talent strategies no longer have to rely on job titles to assess capabilities.

While traditional paradigms stifle the kind of mobility needed to accomplish modern work, enterprises that put skills above job titles can prepare themselves for future disruptions and power more productive and innovative workforces.

The ultimate guide to the skills-based organization

As skills lie at the center of every agile transformation, learn how to change your organization’s mindset from a simple “numbers” game to a comprehensive talent strategy.

In collaboration with David Green and Udemy Business, we break down the current state of skills and where skills are headed next through a series of real-world case studies and informative concepts.

‣ Top takeaways

How Gloat's talent marketplace democratizes opportunity and identifies skills gaps

The third was something that (Gloat) does exceptionally well: thinking of work arrangements as kind of a boundary-less democratized work ecosystem. There was an insurance company that had, at its heart, a marketplace as a way of reducing the friction with which digital talent and data scientists connected with work across the organization. One of the really beautiful things about that story as we were writing it was watching the company's use of that marketplace grow, and seeing not just how the marketplace connected people to work better, but the benefits of having an algorithm sit at the heart of connecting people to work.

You get these amazing signals of, "What skills are growing in demand versus lessening in demand?" and "What does that mean for my personal development needs?" You get these other signals of, "What does this now mean for the price, for the market value, of different skills?" And being able to sort of have skill-based pay become a much more real phenomenon.

It also raised some interesting questions about the role of leaders in an environment where the algorithm is sending signals to people as to how projects are going, et cetera. Freeing a manager up from basics of supervision and coordination to actually leading and coaching and developing the talent within their purview. So that, to us, was just a terrific example. And again, something that the Gloat marketplace does so exceptionally well.

The four principles of the new operating system of work

The first is starting with the work—not the current and future tasks and not the existing jobs or the jobs to come, i.e., how we organize those tasks. So transcending that legacy of jobs, that's kind of the first piece, that whole notion of deconstruction. Second then is once you've done that, how do you get to the optimal combinations of humans and automation? ... Highly repetitive, rules-based work, the way it could augment the skills of the talent, making them almost super productive. Where does it actually create demand for new or different human skills?

So once you've gotten to that optimal combination, the third principle then is, as John alluded to, how do you think really holistically about all of the different ways in which talent can connect to work? Is a job the best thing? Is an internal gig the best thing? Is an agile talent pool the best thing? Should it be the talent of an outsourcer or an alliance partner? Should we centralize? There's just so many different ways of connecting talent to work.

And then lastly, just this notion of perpetually looking for opportunities to take the friction, as we've talked about, take the friction out of how we connect people to work. So progressively allowing talent to flow to work to keep increasing the agility with which talent is connected.

DHL: Using AI-powered workforce intelligence to maximize human potential

The experimentation that (DHL) has been doing with a bunch of different types of robotics, all based on an acute and detailed understanding of the specifics of the work, was a fantastic example. And the thing about them is it's not just one type of automation, but many different types based on the very nature of the work.

John Boudreau on the need for HR leaders to be digitally fluent

First, leaders, instead of just being digitally savvy, will really need to become fluent with the technology, particularly the algorithms and the matching platforms that are embedded in the kinds of things that (Gloat) does. We think that leaders will need to move from just, "I understand how to use the HR system. I'm savvy digitally," to, "I really am a master at understanding how the technology of these platforms, whether internal or external, actually work."

The second observation is from process execution. "I have these five people, they work for me. They're in a job that has been fitted into this process," to really more project guidance where the workers are free to move from one leader to another to flow to different projects. So the difference between thinking about a fixed process and a set of jobs attached to it to really thinking about projects that are fluid, that are deconstructed from the level of the job, and guiding workers through those project opportunities in conjunction with the other leaders.

Genentech: Breaking down jobs to make a more equitable work environment

The idea for them was, how can we use this concept of deconstruction to move beyond the job as the marker or determinant of what flexibility and equity would look like? Because everyone is trying to figure out what work post-pandemic should be remote versus hybrid versus onsite. They actually went through the process of deconstruction with the goal of creating a more equitable and inclusive approach to flexible work.

By going beyond the traditional headlines that you often see of, "Well, this person is in an accounting role. They can work remotely." And, "This person is in a manufacturing role so they have to be on site all the time." What they actually did was not on an equal basis, but on a more equitable basis, extend this concept of flexibility to all types of work based on the activities and the tasks and not necessarily the headline of the job. So I think it's a good example of deconstruction in practice, focused on a very topical issue for us.