Could Digital Artisans be the Future of Work?

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February 22, 2022

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In the UK and in organisations around the world, we are seeing a widespread return to the office after months spent working remotely during the pandemic. For many of us, this has been a welcome relief. Back to normality, to being busy, and working more closely alongside others as we seek to drive innovation and productivity.

For some, however, the return to in-person work has meant a re-evaluation of unfulfilling careers. As the Telegraph reported, according to the Office for National Statistics, job moves hit a record high of 988,000 in the final three months of 2021, driven by worker resignations – a dynamic that many are now referring to as ‘the great resignation’. And, as highlighted by Anna Thomas, Director of the Institute for the Future of Work, good work is core to health, community cohesion, and is the foundation of the modern moral economy.

Within this context employees are increasingly asking: ‘What’s the point of what I do?’ Does it add value to society, or bring personal fulfilment? Does the drudgery of a long, grey commute to engage in repetitive, unstimulating work make any sense in a fast-paced, dynamic world?

In short, more and more people are asking if their work is meaningful?

The question of what gives work meaning has long been of intrigue to business leaders, and it is now more relevant than ever. Can we define it as simply as quality of work over quantity, or is there a deeper source of meaning to be identified and pinned down?

A compelling assessment comes via this Entrepreneur magazine article. It references 5 key characteristics: skill variety, task significance, task identity, autonomy, and feedback. All features that allow us to express our humanity, and all the antithesis of much of our work in an industrialised society.

It’s why I believe a shift in how we work is crucial – away from a system that treats employees, in some ways, as individual steps in a process and back towards the high-skilled, full-process work that defined the artisans of the past.

At Fimatix we are already trying to implement this. Our teams often see projects through from the discovery to implementation – melding creativity with output and productivity, and specialism with significance and size. We want to empower our high-skilled digital team members, as well as our clients, to feel a sense of ownership and meaning over their work, as they create solutions, digital transformation, and new products. The digital artisans of the future. In endeavouring to become more agile, through our approach to the Adaptive Organisation as outlined by my colleague Jeremy Renwick in this paper, we have placed people-centric work as the keystone of increased productivity.

Just as the studios of the great renaissance artists would employ a team of specialists to create their masterpieces, so we aim to fulfil the conceived outcome by directing, coaching, driving quality and correcting where necessary, albeit with the difference in that we only take credit as a team, and not through the figurehead of individuals (as Michelangelo or Raphael did for example).

And as CEO of a company looking to adopt this philosophy, it is my role to design and re-design the organisation, by ensuring that people realise their potential, with delegation keeping the team in line with user needs, the right strategic conversations occurring across the topics of empowerment, accountability, innovation and ethos, and that our identity and values bring about increasing diversity.

We’ve narrowed this to 6 core values:

  • Empowerment – to trust each other to deliver.
  • Curiosity – to ask questions.
  • Focus – to prioritise the needs of our communities.
  • Respect – to speak openly and transparently.
  • Courage – to take on new challenges.
  • Commitment – to do what we say we’ll do.

We believe by living these values, and by approaching our work as agile, modern digital artisans, we can make our work meaningful, add value to our clients and to society. It is an approach we are beginning to see around us, and something I hope will take a profound hold on working life as all of us look to ensure meaning is at the heart of the future of work.