Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, building a successful career required young people to learn core technical skills for an occupation, and gradually broaden their skills and experience over time. This is what it meant historically to be ‘work smart’. Today, automation and globalisation have led to a loud, compelling and quite different narrative about the future of work, and it is fair to say that career paths appear more complicated. Media reports warn on an increasingly frequent rotation that “robots are coming to take your jobs”. Parents, carers and young people read these reports with rising concern: what occupations will be around in 2030 that a student today can train for? According to the Foundation for Young Australians, today’s 15-year-olds will likely navigate 17 changes in employer across 5 different careers. They will sometimes be self-employed, at other times working with and for others. Clearly, we need a new understanding of what it means to be ‘work smart’ and that new understanding doesn't just apply to today's students, it applies to all of us. This week's HR Blog explores multiple perspectives from which to consider and prepare your organisation for the future of work.
We've done some research about different perspective on the future of work and have included some of those perspectives below for you to consider. Each perspective examines the future of work through a different lens. Let's take a look at what the experts and those in the workplace think about what the future of work will look like (and how to prepare for it).
HRD: Are HR Professionals Prepared For What it Means to Work Smart in the Future?
In preparation for their series national summits this year, HRD conducted a survey of almost 3,500 HR professionals across 10 Asia-Pacific countries. 73% of those surveyed profess to feeling somewhat prepared for the future. 17% of the cohort were feeling very prepared and a very small minority of just 10% feeling not prepared at all. Here are the key themes that emerged from HRD's survey relating to the future of work:
- What will the future workforce look like?
- Strategies to engage remote workers, gig workers and contractors.
- Managing HR programs across a multi-site workforce.
- Driving cultural initiatives and social norms with off-site workers.
- Artificial intelligence, chat bots and machine learning in HR.
- Using HR technology for continuous learning, real-time feedback and performance management.
- Overcoming the challenges of HR technology implementation.
Deloitte: Technology and the Future of Work
Deloitte's perspective can be summarised under three broad channels: work, the workforce and the workplace.
1. Work - What will the work look like: The current transformation isn’t the first transition the western society has completely changed its cultural idea of work. In the preindustrial economy, work was synonymous with craftsmanship, the creation of products or the delivery of complete outcomes. The craftsman took end-to-end responsibility for delivering the product or outcome—a cobbler, for instance, would do everything from measure the customer’s feet to make final adjustments in the finished pair of shoes. The industrial revolution changed this conception of work, as industrialists realised that products could be manufactured faster and cheaper if end-to-end processes were atomised into repeatable tasks in which workers (and, later, machines) could specialise. The notion of a “job” became that of a collection of tasks, not necessarily related to each other, rather than an integrated set of actions that delivered a complete product or outcome. Under the influence of technology, what constitutes work, or a job, will change again and we are in the midst of deciding what our definition of 'work' will be.
2. Workforce - Rethinking talent models: Not only have workforce demographics changed over the last 30 years—collectively making the workforce older and more diverse—but the very social contract between employers and employees has altered dramatically as well. Organisations now have a broad continuum of options for finding workers, from hiring traditional full-time employees to availing themselves of managed services and outsourcing, independent contractors, gig workers, and crowdsourcing. These newer workforce types are available to solve problems, get work done, and help leaders build more flexible and nimble organisations. Alternative workers are growing in number; currently, 35 percent of the US workforce is in supplemental, temporary, project, or contract-based work. This percentage is growing as well—for example, freelance workforce is growing faster than the total workforce, up 8.1 percent compared to 2.6 percent of all employees. How HR professionals (and leadership) decide to manage this realignment of the workforce will be critical, not just to the future success of business, but to humanity as a whole.
3. Workplace - Rethinking where work gets done: As the 'who' and the 'what' of work shift, so does the workplace. Where once physical proximity was required for people to get work done, the advent of digital communication, collaboration platforms, and digital reality technologies, along with societal and marketplace changes, have allowed for and created the opportunity for more distributed teams. Organisations are now able to orchestrate a range of options as they reimagine workplaces, from the more traditional colocated workplaces to those that are completely distributed and dependent on virtual interactions.
To succeed, organisations should zoom out and imagine the possibilities so that they can compose work, the workforce, and the workplace in a way that increases both value and meaning while taking advantage of the opportunities for efficiency we have at hand. Deloitte envisions three actions for employers to consider in directing the forces of change:
- Imagine: imagine the possibilities of the future by leveraging industry-specific data analytics and insights to define your ambition and strategy for transforming the workforce for the future. Set goals for the future of work that reach beyond cost and efficiency to include value and meaning.
- Compose: analyse and redesign work, workforce, and workplace options that take advantage of the value of automation, alternative talent sources, and collaborative workplaces.
- Activate: align the organisation, leadership, and workforce development programs to access skills, curate next-generation experiences, and engage the workforce of the future in long-term relationships and business leaders in new ways of working.
In last week's HR Blog about technology that serves the people, we shared how critical it is for technology vendors, organisations and employees to all work together to redefine HR best practice by building digital workspaces of the future that empower employees with technology that serves the people, not the other way around.
Mercer: Workplace Trends For The Future of Work
Mercer's analysis highlights the following five workplace trends.
1. Working with purpose: In the future, people don’t just want to work for companies. They want to work for companies that have a clear purpose. Mercer’s recent Global Talent Trends report found that 75% of thriving employees say their company has a strong sense of purpose that resonates with their personal values. This focus on purpose bodes well for employers in the future, where fulfilment is more important than ever.
2. Permanent Flexibility: We’ve been on a journey of workplace flexibility for some time, but the definitions of what that means are evolving with the workplace. Flexibility in the future is not just our own — working from home, for example — but also how employers scale teams up and down to reflect their goals. In the future, success will depend on our ability to remain flexible at all times.
3. Platform for Talent: Nothing functions at work without properly skilled, engaged people. Matching business demands with the right skill supply and helping to maximise their contributions and career ambitions requires great HR partnerships, supportive management, and future-focused learning and training programs .
4. Change@Speed: The solution you came up with three months ago, may no longer apply. That’s how fast the global economy is changing, and everyone needs to adapt and iterate at amazing speeds. To work like this, in practice, requires working for an agile organisation – one that emphasises a lab mindset and exponential learning.
The world is only going to get faster, and success in the future of work will belong to those that can keep up. The pursuit of a nimble, responsive organization will impact everyone; change at speed requires buy-in from the entire organisation.
5. Digital from the Inside Out: All workplaces are digital workplaces today, but not all of them make a distinction between digital intention and digital strategy. “For workplaces to be truly digital, there cannot be just one Chief Digital Officer,” says April Rudin, Founder and CEO of The Rudin Group, a marketing strategy organisation for the financial services and wealth management sectors. “Instead, it must be part of everyone's mandate from human resources to marketing to C-suite.”
PWC: How Can You Best Prepare Yourself and Your Employees?
According to PWC, the capacity of any business to realise the return on investment, digital must be infused into the corporate culture, better ensuring its impact, and support, of the greater good. They suggest the following seven considerations when preparing for the future of work:
1. Act now: this isn’t about some ‘far future’ of work – change is already happening, and accelerating.
2. No regrets and bets: the future isn’t a fixed destination. Plan for a dynamic rather than a static future. You’ll need to recognise multiple and evolving scenarios.
3. Make ‘no regrets’ moves that work with most scenarios: but you’ll need to make some ‘bets’ too.
4. Make a bigger leap: don’t be constrained by your starting point. You might need a more radical change than just a small step away from where you are today.
5. Own the automation debate: automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will affect every level of the business and its people. It’s too important an issue to leave to IT (or HR) alone. A depth of understanding and keen insight into the changing technology landscape is a must.
6. People not jobs: organisations can’t protect jobs which are made redundant by technology – but they do have a responsibility to their people. Protect people not jobs. Nurture agility, adaptability and re-skilling.
7. Build a clear narrative: a third of workers are anxious about the future and their job due to automation – an anxiety that kills confidence and the willingness to innovate. How your employees feel affects the business today – so start a mature conversation about the future of work.
Each of the above major voices in the world of work, the workforce and workplaces, presents a slightly different perspective on how to navigate the future of work. We hope that each of those perspectives provides you with some food for thought about how you can approach the future of work in your organisation.
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Image Credit: Deloitte Redefining Work