5 Things You Need to Know Regarding the Future of Work
Featured in The FOWC ebook published by the Future of Work Community (September 17, 2015)
Pick up any book or article in the past six months and it’s impossible not to be awash in perspectives on all that is changing in the workplace. Competition is increasing, global business is ubiquitous, and traditional boundaries between companies are collapsing. Workers are changing, work is changing, and workplace is changing. At the same time, we are under unprecedented pressure to contribute with speed and substance, and to deliver results. The bar is high and it’s getting higher all the time.
What kinds of results are required? Research in Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations , suggests that senior leaders prioritize key business drivers like shareholder value, growth, customer satisfaction, and market leadership. The way to accomplish these results is through creating fulfillment for people – when organizations take approaches that serve people and create great workplaces, they increase the likelihood of overall success for the company.
Ultimately, this success and the future of work will be about fueling the intersection of engagement, collaboration, well-being, and productivity. Through these efforts, companies can in turn deliver results. Companies want to create the future, not just react to it – and we know that passion, purpose, and place combine to reflect five key realities that will dictate success going forward.
The future of work will be about people and their work.
#1 – Prioritizing People. Ours is a service and knowledge economy. The way companies create value – ultimately – is through people as our most critical resource. Attracting them, retaining them, engaging them, sustaining them, and motivating them will be the most important job of every leader in every company. Consider this logic train: a great work experience motivates people who can in turn do their best to create value for customers and the company. The logic train works with almost any variable we affect. Leadership skills, workplace, and training approaches are examples. Through any of these, we’re seeking to positively affect employees so they can in turn deliver for the company. The best companies will recognize this logic train and prioritize programs and processes that make the greatest contribution to the employee experience. Companies need to tap into employees’ discretionary effort – the above-and-beyond time that employees are willing to spend when they are passionate about their work and feel good about the company to whom they’re making a contribution. Companies must determine people’s interest and skills and align job responsibilities accordingly.
#2 – Tapping into Passion. Today, the emerging model of employment is based on aligning work with talent. The ‘Hollywood model’ in which teams regularly form and re-form based on projects rather than functional silos is becoming the norm. The most successful companies will embrace this new pattern of work and tap into talent which is increasingly selective about their work. The employer brand will matter more than ever since companies will constantly need to attract the best and the brightest employees who have a lot of options about which companies they join. They will choose where to contribute based on a match to their passions and skills. Social media applications such as Glassdoor will guarantee a previously-unknown level of transparency. Companies will need to manage their reputations and their brands such that they can attract, engage, and retain talent. In addition, these more am orphic employee teams will require leaders to quickly acclimate new members, set direction, build teams, and foster a climate of results. Overall, success will require identifying talent and providing opportunities for people to channel it into the work that is the best fit for their passions.
The future of work will be about purpose. It will be about organizational culture and leadership.
#3 – Culture. Organizational culture is defined as the norms, values, and patterns of behavior in an organization. It is ‘the way things get done around here’ or ‘what people do when no one is looking’. As the speed of change increases, culture will be the constant, and it will create a sense of overall purpose and context for employees. It is the one element that provides insulation against competition . Competitors can copy strategies, mimic marketing plans, and even hire away talent, but culture is the one aspect of an organization that is hardest to replicate. It is also the element in an organization that guides behaviors and performance. It is therefore a cornerstone for companies that create their own future. Successful companies will consciously assess and manage culture and recognize that it cannot be left to chance. In addition, effective companies will consider all of their policies and approaches – from hiring practices and development approaches to compensation, measurement, and well-being practices – in order to ensure they are aligned with the purpose they are pursuing and the kind of culture they are seeking to create and constantly renew.
#4 – Leadership. Of course organizational culture is deeply affected by leadership in organizations, and leaders are in a critical role to give people a sense of purpose and the bigger picture. Leaders engage employees in the vision, select employees, assemble teams, set expectations, reinforce performance, and reward outcomes. In addition, as people begin to work differently – in terms of where they work, when they work, and how they work – leaders will need to lead differently. Effective leadership will be based on managing total outcomes, not simply on ensuring employees’ presence in the office. In addition, because of their visibility and position, leaders send cues to the organization about what is accepted and valued in the organization. Leaders shape policies and their practices and decisions have significant impacts on their employees. The most successful organizations will attend to leadership by ensuring they are selecting the best leaders, holding leaders accountable, continually developing leaders, and providing feedback so leaders can continuously improve – and in turn develop and continuously improve their teams and be a positive influence on the people around them.
Finally, the future of work will be about place, specifically, the workplace.
#5 – Workplace. The future will bring with it a paradox. Our technology has created a world in which we won’t need to come to work in order to do work. Employees can increasingly work from anywhere: their homes, third places, or fourth places (think, workclubs). So if people don’t have to come to work in order to do work, why would they show up? For the social contact, collaboration, and relationships. The workplace needs to be a magnet and a destination. It must provide the best value equation for an employee who can choose to work anywhere. Humans are wired to connect and when we feel good about the people and relationships around us, our brains release the feel-good neurotransmitter oxytocin . This causes us to want to repeat positive experiences. Workplaces that give people a chance to connect in a ‘coffee shop experience’ provide for this social craving. When new employees join an organization, they want to rub elbows with others . They want to learn and connect and grow their networks. Workplaces that have places for connecting over coffee or comfortable zones for impromptu conversations will be best positioned to take advantage of this social reality.
The seeds of the future are planted now and we can begin creating the future today by smartly anticipating it. Create passion by focusing on people and the work that means the most to them. Prioritize purpose by ensuring culture and leaders are context for organizational success. And create a place that stimulates, enlivens, and fosters connections among co-workers. The future of work will be about inspiring passion and purpose in the workpaceby fostering engagement, collaboration, well-being, and productivity. These will be what dictate success in the future.
Click here to download the entire The FOWC ebook.
Tracy Brower, PhD, MM, MCR is the Global VP of Workplace Vitality for Mars Drinks and the author of Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations which focuses on work-life fulfillment. Mars Drinks creates great-tasting moments at work and is a 100% workplace dedicated segment of Mars, Incorporated. Mars Drinks supports businesses who want to provide great working environments for their people by inspiring workplace engagement, collaboration, productivity and well-being.