We often think of the workplace as a physical setting such as an office building. However, we should challenge this thought. The workplace should not be defined by its physical or even digital boundaries. Instead, a workplace should be viewed as the domain where services are provided and impact is delivered. This can be done by working together. To deliver the best service and to make the strongest impact, the workplace should be about managing people to embrace collaborations and innovations.
The workplace of the future must anchor and encourage collaboration and connectivity. We need to create space and opportunities for people (as mentioned in the 3Ps earlier) to come together, such as forming communities of practices and NPO alliances. For example, an elderly senior discharged from hospital requires a group of NPOs working together to provide holistic community care that spans medical escort to rehabilitation, physcial and mental health support. This should be done with a “beneficiary in the centre” mindset.
To achieve this, we need to create collaborative spaces. We need to rethink how our offices could look like; how to bring the volunteers, Board and management team together to build relationships, and share ideas. While Covid-19 has disrupted our lives and how we do things, it also presented us with opportunities to explore new methods of doing things. Covid-19 has shown that we do not need to work in offices; we can still work effectively from home, if we use the right digital tools. We have also moved from physical meeting rooms to online meeting platforms.
While we cannot gather physically in large groups, we should be thankful that technology has allowed us to connect with one another remotely. With the safe-distancing measures in place, NPOs should rethink how they can engage their people. With large physical gatherings disallowed, NPOs should implement new ways for small-group engagements, such as gathering a small group of five volunteers either online or offline to conduct activities for beneficiaries, as opposed to mobilising large groups of volunteers. If small-group programming is implemented strategically, it can be a more effective tool in connecting people. NPOs should continue to adopt digital solutions and online engagement methods to connect people; foster collaborations among people, corporates and community, and co-create more efficient ways of doing things so that we can do more, with lesser time.
How to do that
Collaboration and innovation involve change and organisations should leverage on digitalisation to make this change happen. Change does not happen naturally. On top of having training on design thinking and process re-engingeering, leadership is equally important. We need leaders who dare to change and encourage everyone to innovate and collaborate. This will help foster a deeper sense of “social entrepreneurship” among all staff.
People management in NPOs is about ensuring that the NPO’s work is purposeful and impactful, its workforce has a structure for growth, and its workplace is conducive for collaboration and innovation (Figure 4). Only when we are future ready with these in place will we be able to demand our fair share of talent and continue to retain people in the non-profit sector.