Doesn’t it seem like everybody has weighed in on the future of work? I’m nothing if not fashionably late, but for what it’s worth, here’s my take, based on a mere 20 years as an observer, researcher, and practitioner in the world of work.
- First, we’ll need to acknowledge and then fix the pay-equity morass. It’s not enough to embrace it; we’ll need to suit up, wade in hip-deep, shine a light, and figure out how we’ll get out of this quagmire. It won’t be pretty. We’ll expose a lot of wrongdoing, unfairness, and both conscious and unconscious bias. Yet unless we find the space and grace to admit our past wrongs and make a plan to do right and then execute on our plan, we’ll never make progress. So what does this mean for you as a worker, a leader, or an HR practitioner? As a worker, it means knowing what you’re worth (using data, which does exist), as a manager, knowing what your people are worth (using data, and there are sources for you, too), and as an HR professional, teaching people what your people are worth (using–you guessed it–data).
- It’s time to shift from screening for jobs to matching capability to work. This has a multitude of facets. It means rethinking assessments, rethinking organizational design, honestly focusing on achieving diversity and inclusion, and using technology to support collaboration, knowledge sharing, and remote work. It means understanding the skills required for tasks, the behaviors required for culture fit, and the knowledge to execute strategy. It means we’ll need to teach managers how to coach effectively and how to give real feedback. We’ll need to both respect and expect our managers and their ability to translate strategy into job performance among their teams. The great news is that HR professionals will be worth their weight in gold if they can strike the right balance between defining competencies, redesigning jobs, upskilling managers, and smartly implementing technology.
- The future is all about who you know – but not the way we used to mean it. The “old boys’ network” was based on knowing, stroking, and guarding an elite class of decision-makers. The new network judges you on who knows you. Credibility will rest on those people who will claim you in their network and who can attest to not only your skills and knowledge, but also to your value as a team member, peer, or boss. Transparency guarantees that sunlight will reach into every dark corner with its disinfecting power, and if you’re not what you seem, it won’t go unnoticed. Undoubtedly all of us will make mistakes (and they will be documented and live forever, thanks to the Internet), but the positive in your new network should outweigh the negative.
- Society will change technology, and vice-versa. I’m not worried about robots.I’m worried about the speed with which technology changes. People have worried about industrial looms, and steam combines, and those newfangled punch-card computing machines, and these technologies, among others, all impacted the workforce, and we adjusted. The difference in the past was that the timeframe to get used to these changes was substantially longer. The speed of change we currently live with means we’ll need to prepare our employees, our industry associations, and our educational institutions for technology-driven change. I feel safe betting that we’ll be unable to hire our way out of skill gaps and shortages, so it won’t be up to someone else to solve these problems.
The workforce of tomorrow is the responsibility of business today. The time to start living this reality is now.
I’ll be working on these issues and more in ongoing research so tell me what you think using the comments. I look forward to creating the real future of work with you.