Hybridization and flexibilization, the new managerial trends


With the upcoming French presidency of the EU and uncertainties surrounding the fifth wave of COVID, the conclusions of the Aneo Holaspirit Barometer of the Next Generation Enterprise take on particular significance. The Barometer brings together the best global studies on the future of work, exclusive insights from the “NextGen” analyses and unprecedented research findings. Minister Olivia Grégoire’s work on the European perspectives on the status of mission-driven companies and on the CSRD (Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive) should significantly reinforce the dynamics of organizations focused on their purpose. At the same time, the 250 enterprises studied across 30 countries for the book “The Next Generation Enterprise” confirm the close link between striving for the most positive impact on society and/or the environment and a management style that distributes authority and promotes responsibility and autonomy.

Governance and purpose

Next Generation Enterprises are characterized not only by a cooperative management style, but also by a federative and co-constructed mission based on the collective intelligence of their stakeholders. The European Parliament’s work on the CSRD directive should make it possible to put an end to the “greenwashing” of certain large European enterprises by obliging 50 000 of them to publish information on their supply chains, their impact on ecosystems, climate change, deforestation, local populations and their corporate governance.

How can we imagine tomorrow’s talent participating in an impact project with archaic management? And what sustainable relationship can be established between an agile management style that engages its vital forces in pro-activity and initiative, and an irresponsible, opaque or autocratic corporate project?

A new managerial paradigm

The pandemic, by making telecommuting prevalent worldwide in a matter of days, has broken multiple taboos. For starters, it has exposed the incredible inability of most organizations to cope with an unexpected crisis. According to PwC, 95% of leaders say they need to improve their crisis management capabilities and 70% of enterprises are willing to make investments to increase their resilience.

In addition, it has generated an unprecedented complexity of managerial specifications by allowing the emergence of specific individual requirements. To the hybridization of workplaces between office, home and third places is added the flexibilization of working hours during the day, in its weekly or monthly pace. Faced with such a bundle of added constraints, many managers are looking for a change of direction. However, more than ever, we need managers, or rather servant leaders, who are at the service of their team and are able to perform by reconciling these different dimensions.

A 2 days / 3 days telecommuting match

According to Accenture, hybrid work is now the optimum for 83% of workers, and if their employer does not offer flexibility, 25% of them consider switching, according to McKinsey.

A 2D/3D telecommuting debate is arising and could change everything by shifting the work center of gravity from the office to the home, for example. According to the NextGen study, employees are slightly more in favour of a 3-day arrangement – 45% of choices – and enterprises are leaning towards a 2-day arrangement on average (35.3% of employees’ choices). A balance should be established on these values depending on the business, the enterprise culture and the level of development of the teams’ collective intelligence.

Office deemed essential

Another major finding of the Aneo Holaspirit Barometer of the Next Generation Enterprise is that returning to the office is considered crucial by a large majority of respondents. For reasons relating to the consolidation of a sense of belonging, the development of collective intelligence and finally culture, 79.2% of respondents consider common days or moments as essential.

The office as an anchor of the collective must also be seen as one of trust and moral support. Trust is developed within the team through the creation and consolidation of the social capital necessary for hybrid work and flexibility.

Finally, it goes without saying that the most complex problems or the most cross-disciplinary projects will require a multidisciplinary approach in a configuration that favors creativity and exchange on a shared and tangible field. A field open to strong links but also, and this is crucial, to weaker ones.

A profoundly redesigned office of the future

It is clear that traditional offices will have to change and become less dense, while inventing new ephemeral projects or creativity bubbles. More than ever, collective time will need to be made a sanctuary in the agendas and practices of the enterprise.

Common days or moments should allow:

• moments of conviviality for 68.9% of respondent
• collective activities for 62.9%,
• collective presential rituals for 53.5%.

A reorganization of the offices is hoped for by 39.6% of the employees surveyed.

The office of the future should allow:

• collaboration and teamwork for 83.1% of respondents,
• the development of informal relationships with colleagues for 77.5%,
• concentration and isolation for 45%,
• the possibility of exercising and resting for 35.1%.

The era of collective intelligence

Research has shown that collective intelligence leads to results that cannot be achieved by the sum of the cognitive abilities of the individual members. It has also shown (most notably through the work of MIT, Carnegie-Mellon, Union College, and Emile Servan-Schreiber) that nonverbal communication and the physical proximity of individuals are key to this phenomenon of collective intelligence. The “soft skills” and emotional intelligence of the members of the collective thus seem to be more crucial than a specific expertise. The office as a place for the expression of collective intelligence seems to remain indispensable for a long time to come.

Towards a management style favouring autonomy

The crisis was better managed by the Next Generation Enterprises for having anticipated the adoption of shared governance and associated digital tools, all in the service of a unifying and engaging purpose and values. The results of applied research by NextGen partner OpenDecide show that the more autonomous a team is, the better it performs: moving from directive to participative and then to autonomous mode opens up different “stair steps” or “performance tranches”. Finally, teams want more responsibility and autonomy.

The times ahead are full of opportunities and concerns for managers and employees. The time for leaders is NOW!