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I am interested in exploring how workplaces are actually changing (not the hype). This blog is my place for thinking out loud about what I see happening - or not happening.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Today's image is an Anthony Gormley figure, taken outside the Royal Festival Hall in London on the day of the 2007 Tour de France speed trials.

Back to the article, which I co-authored with Dr Marie Puybaraud for the Knowedge Management Review and which I threatened to summarise in a post a couple of days ago.

Marie and I facilitate the Johnson Controls' Global Mobility Network, which is a learning network for senior IT, HR and Facilities Management executives. We started out nearly three years ago to explore workplace mobility. As we considered the wider link between the business environment and mobile working, we realised that mobile working encompasses a more pressing set of global issues. We identified the following:

Global mobility of talent (people)

Global competition for scarce, well-educated and skilled knowledge workers is creating physical migration of people to places where their talents are in demand. Highly skilled migrants are likely to be young and their entry into the workforce helps to make up for the deficit of home grown talent. Growing diversity on multiple fronts, including culture, age, communication styles, and differing attitudes and approaches to using communication technologies are creating a significant challenge for managers, ways of working and workplace design.

Global mobility of economic sectors

This change is related to the global mobility of talent. Thomas Friedman's contention that the
globalised world is flat is a view Richard Florida challenges as partly correct. Florida sees the world as spiky. What he means is that despite electronically-enabled, distributed, remote and virtual working, the prominence of place remains. He speaks of a “new geography of creativity” and links increased physical concentrations of people to the shift from industrial sectors to the rise of geographically co-located high-tech, knowledge-based and creative industries.

Global mobility of work (roles and activities)

As well as talent and specific sectors being on the move, work and roles are more generally relocating as businesses use the world as their supply base for talent and materials. Sharif Khan, VP HR at Microsoft Canada, speaking at the Workplace 2017 conference about the urgent need for Canadian businesses to attract and nurture talent, claimed that as workforces become increasingly distributed, talent will be sourced from a global talent pool into which a domestically-based company can cast its net. Roles and activities will locate where the talent is.

Global mobility of economic opportunity

IBM’s Chief Executive, Sam Palmisano claims that the very nature of corporates is changing as activities locate where they are best done. Western corporates are, as the Economist puts it, shifting their centre of gravity to the emerging economies. In the process, they are experiencing highly competitive local labour markets, the need to contain rising labour costs and the need to innovate to head off threats from local corporates. These businesses learn quickly and present stiff competition. As these local corporates grow, a two-way acquisition and relocation of businesses from the growing economies westwards is likely. (Ref: Economist Briefing: IBM and globalization, The Economist, April 7th – 13th 2007)

Global mobility of collaborative relationships

As Sharif Khan indicated, business structures are fragmenting into dense, highly-connected networks. The boundary-less office is here with the formation of partnerships, alliances and fragmentation of supply networks. This article from Microsoft says that "the once popular perception of the corporation as a standalone, self-sufficient entity is as out of date as prohibition ans snake oil ... large corporations are beginning to look like social networks", consisting of collaborative relationships that might be entirely virtual, or a mixture of virtual and face-to-face – within and across organisational and national boundaries.

Underpinning all these trends, of course, is the digital infrastructure that is enabling and energising these global trends.I will pick up on each of these trends in future posts, and explore their strategic implications for businesses seeking to adapt to these far-reaching and simultaneous global workplace trends.

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