The latter part of the 20th century saw organisations move away from hierarchical structures towards a flatter, more decentralised design. The 21st century is requiring organisations to respond to the challenges of globalisation, rapid technological change, shorter product and service life-cycles, increasing workforce diversity, and persistent economic turbulence.

Whatever organisation design is created in response to these pressures, the critical challenge will be to maintain and improve business health and effectiveness. A clear strategic direction and purpose, together with efficient processes and procedures will help. Ultimately, however, all that will separate businesses from one another will be the skills, knowledge, commitment and abilities of the people who work for them. Success in this new environment will depend on the ability of an organisation to create and sustain a workforce of individuals who have the wide range of personal and social competencies needed to function as continuous learners, build relationships with diverse customers and co-workers and address increasing complexity and turbulence in their immediate job situations.

There is a very compelling business case for this proposition. Companies that manage people properly and create a healthy workplace environment will out-perform companies that don’t by 30%-40%.