The future of work.....are you ready?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

If one out of two people born in Europe today live to 100 years of age what does this mean for our working lives? How will your company adapt to the evolution of the 9-5 working day or having to hire freelance talent that you may never even see? With the ‘always on culture’ how can you keep your employees engaged and prevent burnout?

The Future of Work Institute in Ireland has put together a white paper on this topic given the huge challenges organisations are going to face, here is a quick summary

Change has never happened so fast. The world, how we work, where we work and when we work are all evolving. What does all this change mean for companies?

If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people. In this age of exponential change we cannot guarantee 100 years but people are still your best chance at a competitive advantage. Talent lies at the heart of the future of work. It will help drive the change that will transform many facets of your business. Talent itself will also be transformed - how we source it and keep it engaged.

The four major ways that companies will need to focus on in order to thrive are future brand, future talent, future technology and the future workplace.

Your Future Brand: Building a successful brand will depend on how you communicate with your customers. We are bombarded with more than 5,000 marketing images and messages a day. Companies will have to conquer this ‘communication fatigue’ in order to create genuine emotional connections. Such connections will build a brand that not only stands out from the crowd, but attracts and excites them. Use social media more effectively, invest in understanding customers’ perceptions and do not underestimate user experience.

While all of this is vital, it will fall flat without the support of brand ambassadors. Look to your employees for this. Successful brands are ‘liveable’ and intertwine with the company’s culture. No one, not even the CEO can escape. A negative personal brand has negative consequences for how the world perceives your company. The ex CEO Mozilla, Brendan Eich was one such casualty after it was revealed that he donated money to the campaign for Proposition 8 - a measure that made same-sex marriage illegal in California. This resulted in significant social pressure for him to step down.

Your Future Workplace: In the future work will no longer be a place you go but a thing you do. Work as we know it is being transformed. In 2001, Peter Drucker predicted that big company bureaucracy was breathing its last. This has emerged in the form of initiatives like ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) and 20% time. Companies are realising that a narrow focus on profit alone is not as lucrative as a people-centred focus. Companies with high employee engagement have 3.9 times the earnings per share of competitors. For companies to remain competitive they will need to make the most of their talent. Building brands, sourcing talent and innovation will all evolve from a people-centred focus. To do so, the ergonomics of our workplace will evolve to help inspire creativity, collaboration and support a more flexible working life.

Your Future Technology: Technology is not a thing to be feared or ignored. Technology will assist companies in rolling out many of the changes necessary in the future of work. It will help connect remote workers, encourage collaboration, revolutionise the talent search, and deliver innovative insights that will transform business strategy. Technology is disintermediating so many industry’s, it will be important to look to see how it will affect yours and be ready for it.

Your Future Talent: Social change is a significant part of the future of work. We are already feeling the consequences of the talent gap. However, this will only get worse as the population of much of the developed world plateaus or declines. Japan, Greece, and Italy all have 0% population growth. Germany and the US noted a talent shortage of 40% in 2014. Companies need to look towards new sources of talent such as older candidates, females, the diaspora and high-potentials in other countries. Sourcing talent is not the only problem. The workplace has to grapple with a ‘collapse of loyalty’. Companies are experimenting with several ideas in order to hold on to their best people. These include promoting healthy work-life balancing and investing in employee needs and aspirations. But talent has never been more critical as the best technology will only work in the hands of your best people. Your best people will also be the ones living and selling your brand – so focus on your talent first and foremost.

Peter Cosgrove set up the Future of Work Institute in Ireland and has written many research papers which you can find here: