The Donkin Doctrine – The Aspirational Future of Work

I have always been fascinated by work and the future of work. Some of this started when I read the Toffler trilogy, but it was a book by Richard Donkin titled “The Future of Work” – –  that then led me to read Lynda Gratton, Richard Watson, Dave Coplin etc. – all of whom have given me immense pleasure and much food for thought.

However, it was at the back of Richard Donkin’s “The Future of Work” that I found his “New Charter for Work.” This charter provides some great guidance about what organisations and society should be thinking about. I have therefore adapted and added to his original charter to create what I call the “Donkin Doctrine.”

So here are 20 challenging thoughts that I think every individual, organisation, and leader should consider:

1.) Make work mobile friendly – it is about workspace and not workplace:

The nature of how we work will always change. Technology allows us to interchange between work and home, and ubiquitous mobile devices, as well as the development of IoT and Smart Cities mean we can work any time or anywhere. For those who will and are already working like this, we need to ensure they are supported, connected, trusted and measured by their results. Adapt work around new capabilities and opportunities, rather than continue to rely on traditional notions of good working practices.

2.) Retire the concept of retirement:

Get rid of the concept of retirement and remove default retirement ages. We are an aging workforce and more people want to/have to work beyond what is currently perceived as an age to retire. If you love your work and the social or personal opportunities it brings, people should be allowed to continue to contribute. Why not change pension or retirement funds to life funds? They would be additional income accrued over time through investment by employers or the individuals to facilitate changing work needs as people grow older. If we can, want to and need to work -let people do so.

3.) Reconsider the concept of working time:

Think about reducing the amount of days or hours people work. Why not give them an additional day for the weekend? How many people work productively for 8 hours every day, every week? Could weekends become a thing of the past? It is about giving people the discretion and trust to do the work when they can or when they are most productive. Time defines most of the working agreements we have in place, but we all know that there is a great deal of difference between being efficient and being effective. Give people the chance to manage their time and their work – trust them to deliver, and we are then more likely to see people go that extra mile (the discretionary effort that organisations crave).

4.) Focus on output versus input:

Trust people to customise, manage and adapt their work to suit both their mindset and their own methods. One size will never fit all and we therefore need to ensure we focus on results, not time spent on task. Help people identify their own learning or working preferences so that they can optimise their own performance.

5.) Relearn what learning is and what it is becoming:

The way we learn has changed a great deal over the last two decades. We need to be mindful of this and ensure that learning is dovetailed seamlessly with the work we will be doing going forward. Learning therefore needs to be accessible, context related and collaborative. This should start in school with employers taking an active interest and contributing to that learning. It is everyone’s responsibility.

6.) Break down barriers:

Technology and changes in society have been doing this for some time, but we need to continue doing so in the workplace. Remove barriers to entry for professional bodies, remove discrimination, as well as embrace a more inclusive and open approach to the world of work. Make professions, trades and specialist roles more accessible to the wider talent pool.

7.) Make EQ part of the management equation:

Do not be blinded and focus all your attention on IQ or technical capability in management. Management is more about managing people and their capabilities, and they are not machines. Ensure empathy, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills are part of the manager’s DNA.

8.) Make wellbeing work:

Promote and monitor employee health in a positive way – both mentally and physically. Design positive interventions or support frameworks that people can access as part of their work experience. It should be BAU rather than a benefit.

9.) Recruit inclusively, not just exclusively:

Talent comes in many forms and whilst we are looking for the best talent to drive our organisations, they often do not fit the profile we imagine. We need to continue to create a more inclusive environment that embraces diversity in all its forms.

10.) Leadership should be holistic and not just hierarchical:

Organisations need to rethink leadership. It can be team, technical and thought based, and it should be practiced across the organisation. Leaders will emerge that create new ways of thinking, working and will engage people to create a more collaborative environment that allows every manifestation of leadership to contribute.

11.) Manual and mind work should be equals and not opposites:

Employers, educators and society need to reconsider how manual trades are perceived. They real, tangible add value to the world around us and we cannot construct a world of the future without building and maintaining the physical environments around us. The skills of specialist trades are very much part of our forward journey and will evolve alongside other professions.

12.) Transparency in total reward:

The reward rates in organisations should be published and expressed as a ratio between the bottom and top values. We should be mindful of how organisational reward frameworks are perceived not just internally but externally. High ratios should be considered a governance issue, and review should be overseen by stakeholders including employee forums, investors and shareholders.

13.) Make work fundamentally fulfilling:

Take the opportunity to scrutinise work – identify mundane repetitive work, understand the detrimental effects it has on people and focus on developing work that is enriching, engaging and energising – this helps create a culture of innovation and a more fulfilling work experience. Mundane work should be considered a contributing factor in tribunals, as it is complicit in driving breaches of the psychological contract and other behaviours that are detrimental to a positive workplace.

14.) Understand and accommodate different attitudes to work:

Don’t generalise by generation, consider the individual and their mindset. We need to look at ways of making work collaborative, where people share knowledge, experience and capabilities so that everyone benefits. Look at what everyone can contribute and give people the opportunity across the breadth of the organisation to do so. Make work truly inclusive.

15.) Frame the work, don’t restrict it to a job:

Give employees or those doing the work the freedom to exercise discretion on how work is done within parameters that are relevant, meaningful, realistic and ethical. Move away from job descriptions or definitions and consider moving to work or career spheres based on skills, knowledge and experience. This creates a more adaptive and career enriching approach to the work proposition.

16.) Publish people metrics:

Organisations should aspire to measure what they do to encourage high performing, productive and personable employees. Metrics should be publicly available so that investors understand both economical and ethical risks when investing. People drive business so we should consider how organisations foster the wellbeing and capabilities of their people as part of any investment proposition.

17.) Measure trust as a metric:

Organisations should look at how much their products are respected, how trusted they are as a brand and how their own people trust what the leadership are doing. This offers a completely different and more transparent dynamic to the value equation and stakeholder satisfaction.

18.) Talk to people versus purely via technology:

What makes a working relationship meaningful is the connection between people. We need to encourage and nurture genuine communication and conversations between people face to face, rather than just through technology. Technology is a tool, not a custom or practice.

19.) Make work about the people and not the process:

Take a holistic look at work and make it as positive as possible. It is not just about getting a task done, it is about allowing people to develop and learn through their work. This creates an underlying culture of innovation and trust that will ensure sustainability.

20) Constantly redefine work based on the context and not the content:

Work will be redefined over the decades ahead. Organisations need to consider how they define work; the work tools and methods that people use; and where or how people work. Work will not stand still; work will evolve and so will the definition of work. Focus on more than just the work being done, and look to the future to understand what will impact the organisation, its purpose and the work it does. Drive the change, don’t just simply be carried along in the aftermath.

So, I hope this might get you thinking a little about the future of work.

I do recommend you read Richard Donkin’s “The Future of Work,” ( – the content above is based heavily on his charter and thanks should go to him for the inspiration!

Article by Giles O’Halloran

Find out more about Giles here

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