Successful companies of the future will be OAPs

Cheryl Isaacs tells us why OAPs are the future. 

We are an ageing population with an ageing workforce and face a considerable number of challenges. The rate of technological advancement, evolving work practices and the pace of change has never created such a need for a radical rethink on how organisations work.

We now live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world where people are starting to question their place within it and as a result are being driven to a more value-based and self-actualised approach to their lives and work.

People are more motivated than ever by working in places that fit their own ethical standards. They derive value from sharing the same norms and morals and will actively seek out organisations that fit those ideals (often called ‘identity economics’). 

I have personally seen a huge shift in companies wanting to develop organisational and team values and build them into current processes from personal appraisals to development strategies. It seems the ‘how’ (behaviours) has superseded the ‘what’ (results).

People are more motivated than ever by working in places that fit their own ethical standards.

You only have to consider high profile examples of poor corporate social responsibility (Deepwater Horizon, Enron, the handling of BHS by Philip Green) to realise how far public opinion has shifted and the lack of public acceptance of them.

Companies of the future are going to have to make themselves into OAPs to address the changing drivers of people and what they will demand from them.

Successful workplaces will be:

  • Original – they will think differently
  • Adaptable – able to work anywhere and focusing on appropriately designed workplaces
  • People-centric – focusing on driving performance though a healthy organisational culture


There is now a worldwide population of over 7.5bn. This brings incredible opportunities and vast challenges to businesses. Notwithstanding the obvious challenges to all of us including resources, food and water, from a business perspective you are highly likely to have thousands of people doing what you’re doing.

Every role, every industry and every business is competing. How will yours stand out? I suggest three ways of building your originality-receptivity.

  1. Original people – Understanding that ‘what got you here won’t get you there’ and developing thinking around the kind of people/personalities and more specifically the behaviours that will move you forward.
  2. Originality-inspired processes – ensuring your selection processes for example are not unconsciously biasing employees who just fit the company mould. Moving away from having names on CVs, using a range of assessment techniques to increase selection validity and delivering ‘unconscious bias training’ to your selection panels are some ways you can increase your likelihood of staff diversity.
  3. Originality encouraged culture – how do you inspire your people to act and think differently? It’s intellectually lazy to not have your ideas challenged so how can we create cultures that ensure that encourage feedback, ideas and original thinking? Adam Grant, author of Originals, suggests we need to ensure that there’s effective processes in place for more verbally-active staff members to share their concerns – what he terms as ‘keeping your canaries singing’.


“To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they are, without supervision. We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they are at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.” – Richard Branson

People have significantly moved away from the typical 9-5 office-based model. Changing habits, lives and perceptions have created a whole new way of working in the last 10-15 years that have left a number of non-agile companies behind the trend.


You only have to think of Google and Facebook to mentally conjure up the kind of places young people today want to work. I recently read that young people would prefer to sacrifice a higher salary for the latest technology. They want to be somewhere considered ‘cool.’It is no wonder Google have a waiting list for roles. 

A recent study by Investors in People suggested that one in three people reported being unhappy in their work this year. Employers be aware.

Companies should consider:

  1. Working practices – hours which reflect employees changing lifestyle and needs. Do we all have to start at 9am? How can we adapt to suit different circadian rhythms, for example?
  2. Design of work environments – if you must have an open plan office, also have separate workstations so employees can work in quiet places, and team areas for spirited creative talk.
  3. Technology to support agility – Skype, WhatsApp and all of the usual suspects should be supported as well as new technology such as Loomio which encourages specific team members to discuss and contribute to live challenges (with the focus always on building solutions). Clearly much better than traditional email where the problem can get lost in translation and buried under another 1000 messages.


Given my earlier points about what people want from their lives and the workplace, successful companies of the future will no longer settle for the typical employee life cycle. Leaders will be selected using a more culture-fit and value-driven approach using the latest culture review techniques and profiling tools. Talent can then be home-grown to ensure a real meritocracy, giving them something to really aspire to.  

Companies should consider:

  1. Selection practices – how you’re selecting your people on culture-fit and values so that they are culture-ready for your organisation and strategy.
  2. Development – limiting ‘leadership drift’ and ensuring that current leaders are aligning their behaviour with the organisational strategy. Team days, coaching and strategic-planning sessions can support this.
  3. Value-based careers – ensure staff development reflects what employees want and taps into their values, needs, preferences and aspirations.


About the author

Cheryl Isaacs is a chartered psychologist and performance and behavioural expert at IsaacsHill.


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