INTOUCH : Comment On Employee empowerment in a globally integrated world

There was time when it seemed that globalisation was something only large corporations thought about – and for short while we may have kidded ourselves that, as small nation on the edge of the Pacific Rim, we were somehow apart from it.
The reality, though, is that whether you are developed or emerging nation, big or small, globalisation has changed the way you do business.
Driven by the cumulative effect of free-trade policies, the internet and the emergence of highly skilled workforces in the world’s most populous nations, the result of globalisation is that for the first time, organisations of all sizes can capitalise on skills, expertise and economics now accessible all over the world.
Businesses have become more virtual and fluid, driven by the need and opportunity to trade goods and services in this open, global market. These days, we are just as likely to collaborate with colleagues across time zones as we are across town.
In this emerging world, work flows to where the skills are, and it is imperative that New Zealand attracts high-value work that builds and retains local skills. We need to use the additional connections provided by globalisation to open up new markets, tap into complementary sources of talent, and make work flow to New Zealand.

Leading in globalised world
The changing workplace dynamics of globalised world have implications not only for how we structure our businesses but how we lead them. prerequisite for success is the willingness and means to collaborate.
Fortunately, technology is overcoming the disadvantages of size and distance that traditionally limited our ability to connect with others.
Social media and intranets level the playing field for local managers frustrated by slow ‘trickle down’ information flows. In turn, new corporate cultures are emerging, characterised by faster decisions fuelled by collective intelligence and instant communication. The organising principle that brings employees together is less about the enterprise and more about the endeavour.
The rise of so-called Web 2.0 communication tools, in which blogs, wikis and social networking sites are driven by consumer-generated content, also changes the rules for business-related communications and collaboration. Companies, including IBM, are using social networking sites and virtual worlds like Second Life to build communities of interest, for employees and other stakeholders. The challenge for leaders is to help employees unlock economic value from these new forms of collaboration, rather than see them as distraction from the job at hand.
In this connected world, where technology enables people to self-organise, self-aggregate and produce, it is inevitable that traditional management styles are being reassessed. Employees with instant access to unprecedented amounts of information are far more independent than ever before – and as likely to look to their peers for answers as they are to their managers.
Successful managers in the 21st century will be distinguished less by what they know and more by how well they teach effective collaboration and lead dispersed, multi-disciplined, and multicultural team.

The 21st century global workforce
How then to define the workforce that is able to take advantage of globalisation? I believe it will be characterised by an emphasis on collaboration, trust, real-time decision making and flexible approach to working.
To solve today’s complex business problems, the ideal 21st century employee may be described as ‘T’ shaped, combining ‘broad’ skills such as business strategy, economics and management with ‘deep’ skills in science, engineering, and
operations.

Katrina Troughton is the managing director, IBM New Zealand

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