The future of work is now. Digitalisation and a tiny virus called the coronavirus (COVID-19) have sparked radical shifts in how we live and work, and have created a crisis beyond anything we could have imagined. But when we say, ‘future of work’, what really comes to mind? The obvious elements are remote work, Zoom-style meetings, new office designs, automation, diversity, generational differences, and new types of jobs replacing traditional ones.
These changes in the world of work, raise essential questions every leader, C-Suite or not, should be concerned about; namely the precarity of our jobs, the support available if we are unable to work or retire, how does business continue in light of these changes, the skills we need for current and future jobs, the quality of those jobs, and the voice we have in shaping these outcomes. When and wherever strategic decisions are being made on where the work of world is heading, HR professionals, managers and executives must be knowledgeable about how the future of work will impact their workplace.
Every HR Practitioner knows that people are at the heart of their success, and as a consequence, the priority workforce issues in light of all these changes are: talent retention, hiring and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), leadership, leveraging evolving employment models like gig work, remote work, how do we offer people the value and purpose they now expect from work and changing organizational processes to manage technology-driven workflows. In fact, the number one challenge for us all, whether we are operating in the public or private sector, is understanding how we can bolster the workforce with new digital technologies.
In fact, managing a workforce in these times, requires all of us to reimagine the world of work and not hold on to the past. We must dig a little deeper and see that during this time of upheaval and hyper-accelerated change, we simply can’t replicate how we previously worked in the new world of work. We must embrace the new in the shadow of economic unpredictability. This might be difficult for some because the reality on the ground is that many businesses are taking a serious hit to productivity due to supply-chain disruption, new workplace safety and hygiene policies and practices, and new workforce expectations.
As a tentative recovery takes shape, we now have a crucial moment for some unique opportunities for creativity, innovation, and most importantly, leadership. Current and future leadership requires that our leaders develop emotional intelligence and other soft skills to effectively communicate without face-to-face meetings. This will certainly help employees navigate their expectations as leaders balance empathy and performance requirements.
Now more than ever, we must nurture our people and culture. People are the heartbeat of any organisation. An effective culture gives them the means to be productive, and the power to innovate, adapt and progress. The future of work requires that we fortify a culture of inclusiveness. Whatever the post-COVID-19 world of work looks like, inclusion and accessibility can be driven by a simple mantra: ‘leave no one behind’. A culture driven by this mantra, promotes individual wellbeing and accessibility which is naturally going to be more diverse and inclusive. An effective workplace culture also requires our leaders to re- and upskill their employees not only for the here and now, but also to empower them to innovate, adapt and progress for the future.
It is also important for leaders to recognise that they are in the business of employee experience management. A holistic view of the employee experience over the past two years has revealed some positive benefits of working remotely, including less commuting, increased employee productivity and improvements in performance. And there are reports from several organisations that suggest that a growing number of employees want to continue working remotely in a post-pandemic world. To some extent, remote working has connected people on a more personal level. The occasional glimpses into other people’s lives may have made us more empathetic and understanding in some regards. But the other reality is there are growing concerns about isolation and a sense of disconnect and disengagement. Counteracting this and protecting the wellbeing of employees is a challenge and leaders are now required to maintain a connected experience.
The current and future reality is the combination of social change in attitudes towards work, linked with the freedom that comes with technology, which is confronting traditional management practices head on. The idea that work has to take priority over the rest of life is now being challenged. It means that management systems, leadership practices and communication processes built during the Industrial Age of work cannot work today. Do not assume that people are prepared to commit a fixed portion of their lives to their employer and fit their leisure, holidays, and family life around it. This used to work in the days when men were the “breadwinners” and went to work leaving their wife to manage the home and children. But this approach to work does not fit with today’s values of equality, freedom, and flexibility.
“The Future of Work” necessitates that we move towards a future model of work which has truly adapted to the social, technological, and economic influences of the twenty-first century. Many organisations will struggle with this change since it challenges existing power bases and established management controls. It threatens the existence of some middle managers and erodes many of the trappings of power and status in hierarchical structures.
The future is here and leading organisations have already embraced it. There are employers and leaders who have recognized that the command and control culture of the past is now out of date. They have introduced “smart working” or “agile working” schemes as a business strategy and changed their leadership culture, while managing that employee experience. These organisations are seeing the benefits. But those leaders that just “pay lip service” to new ways of working, and not adapt their culture, will end up with frustrated employees and low productivity.
The future of work is the ability to balance work and life, aided by technology. This is what will shape people’s lives over the next decade. If employers do not keep up they are likely to lose their best people, either to more adaptive organizations or to some form of self-employment.
About HRMATT: The Human Resource Management Association of Trinidad & Tobago (HRMATT) is the leading voice of the Human Resource Profession locally. HRMATT Says is a column meant to address issues and concerns of professionals and the general public focused on Human Capital Development. Today’s article is written by HRMATT’s President and Senior Human Resource and Industrial Relations Executive, Cavelle Joseph – St. Omer, SHRM-SCP, MBA, B.Sc. Learn more about HRMATT by visiting all our website: www.hrmatt.com. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. Contact us at: 687-5523 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org