How the Intersection of Work, Workplace, and Workforce is Shaping the Way We Work
Have you ever wondered what the future of work will look like?
Will we be replaced by bots, or will our jobs become more fulfilling and purpose-driven?
Rapid technological advancement, the rise of the gig economy, and the changing expectations from the workforce are just a few factors that are changing the way we work. As a result, many business leaders and HR and L&D professionals are struggling to keep up with the changes and be prepared for the disruptions that lie ahead. The question then is, how will these changes impact our jobs, our workplaces, and our workforce?
In this blog, we'll explore the answers to these questions by deep diving into the Future of Work 2023 and its impacts on organisations and professionals.
We'll explore the ways in which work is evolving, and the future of work trends that are shaping it including the rise of automation and artificial intelligence and the growing importance of purpose-driven work. Furthermore, we’ll see how workplaces are changing, including the emergence of remote work, flexible work arrangements, and infrastructural transformations.
Additionally, we'll delve into the future of work trends that are shaping the way in which the workforce is changing, including the rise of millennials and Gen Z employees, the dismantling of corporate structures, and the increasing importance of strategic thinking and a growth mindset.
Join us on this journey as we explore the intersection of work, workplace, and workforce and uncover the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
The pandemic brought about certain unprecedented changes in the way we live and work. Some key changes were as follows:
Overall, the pandemic has had a significant impact on the future of work, accelerating existing trends and highlighting the need for businesses to be agile, flexible, and innovative in their approach to work.
The future of work is the outcome of a range of dynamic aspects that are affecting three interconnected dimensions of an organisation: work (What), workforce (Who), and workplace (Where). Let’s decode each of these dimensions!
The FIRST crucial question that organisations need to focus on is: WHAT aspects of work are changing, and which are the drivers of this change?
The emergence of new technologies is impacting the future of work in several ways:
Some emerging technologies that are responsible for this change include:
In the future of work, a growth mindset is becoming increasingly important as employees are required to continually adapt and learn new skills. A growth mindset is the belief that individuals can improve their abilities and skills through effort, hard work, upskilling, self-assessment, and dedication. It involves embracing challenges, persisting through obstacles, and viewing failures as opportunities for growth. Developing digital skills, analytics skills, and organisational transformation skills are often essential components of a growth mindset in today's work environment.
Organisations that encourage a growth mindset are better positioned to develop a workforce that is more likely to take on new challenges, learn from their mistakes, and push themselves to achieve their goals. Ultimately, this can lead to a more innovative and successful organisation that is better equipped to navigate the challenges of the future of work.
Many routine and repetitive tasks are being automated, leading employers to look for individuals who can bring creativity and innovation to the workplace. This has made strategic thinking and problem-solving two of the most important skills in the future of work.
Strategic thinking involves the ability to see the big picture, analyse complex situations, and develop innovative solutions that meet long-term goals. It is essential in a rapidly changing work environment, where companies need to adapt to new technologies, market conditions, and customer demands.
Problem-solving, on the other hand, is the ability to identify, analyse, and solve problems in a logical and efficient manner. It requires individuals to use critical thinking skills to evaluate different solutions, identify potential roadblocks, and implement effective solutions.
Modern organisations are expected to be flexible in their approach to work and be able to adjust their strategies and plans as needed. One way in which flexibility is becoming increasingly important is through changes in traditional work schedules.
Many organisations are recognising the benefits of offering more flexible working hours, such as shorter working days or the ability to work remotely. Moreover, they can provide hybrid learning programs to employees that are convenient, value-driven and flexible. This not only improves work-life balance for employees, but it also helps businesses to retain and attract top talent.
Research has shown that businesses are finding it easier to retain workers by implementing four-day work schedules. A recent survey also found that about 68% of respondents believed that shorter work days or workweeks could increase productivity.
Furthermore, a majority of them expressed a willingness to sacrifice some of their salaries for the opportunity to work fewer hours. So, as the job market shifts towards being more employee-oriented, it's possible that the traditional five-day workweek may become a thing of the past.
Workers are increasingly seeking jobs that align with their personal values and passions. They want to make a positive impact on society throughout their careers, not just during retirement. Forward-thinking companies will need to offer opportunities for their employees to make a meaningful impact on the world in order to attract top talent.
The SECOND question that organisations need to focus on is, “WHO is going to be affected by this change?” The answer is obvious: the employees.
As technology eases the traditional 9-5 work schedule, employees can increasingly participate in the gig or sharing economy, taking on diverse roles and experimenting with their careers. However, this shift has also led to growing feelings of stress, instability, and insufficient pay.
In the future of work, the skills required to perform certain jobs are constantly changing. This means that the gap between the required skills and those that the employees already possess is widening. One approach to bridging the skills gap has been by investing in talent development programs. However, traditional training has its limitations when it comes to providing practical experience. But by replacing ‘learning by rote’ with ‘learning by doing’, through an experiential learning approach, organisations are more likely to drive real-world skills development and application.
Three generations are currently working together for the first time in modern history.
Each generation has its own unique personality and traits. To add to it, there are several stereotypes and generalisations, including "Gen Xers hate everything," "Millennials are entitled", and “Gen Zs lack face-to-face communication skills.”
Managing such a multigenerational workforce effectively requires leaders to look past these stereotypes and identify the strengths, unique perspectives and employee experiences that each generation brings along. Organisations need to foster an inclusive environment that caters to the needs of every generation and helps bring out the best in them. One way to do this is to introduce personalised learning programs at work.
The hierarchical structure in the workplace is gradually collapsing as organisations become more agile and adaptable. In many organisations, the traditional corporate ladder is seen to be replaced by a corporate lattice in which growth, progress and recognition have a dynamic flow along horizontal, including vertical and diagonal paths. The management system is seen to be decentralised, and employees have the freedom to move in any direction across the organisation to gain knowledge and experience in the roles of their choice. They are largely self-directed, allowing them a better scope for experimentation and opportunities to work with cross-functional teams.
As Philippe De Ridder, co-founder of the Board of Innovation, rightly points out, “Large organisations have a huge challenge in attracting the millennial generation to come and work for them. Those people expect much more entrepreneurial environments – more freedom to operate, less control.” This kind of model is perfect for attracting millennials and GenZ employees that are dominating the global market.
The gig economy has experienced a significant increase in recent years, as more workers have turned to freelancing and contract work to build their careers. This trend is driven by a number of factors, including the rise of online platforms and apps that connect businesses with independent workers, as well as a desire for greater flexibility and control over work schedules. The COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated this trend, as many businesses have shifted to remote work and are hiring freelance or contract workers to complete specific projects or tasks. As the gig economy continues to grow, it is expected to have a major impact on the future of work, with more workers embracing flexible work arrangements and businesses tapping into a global pool of talent to stay competitive.
As employees become more aware of the importance of work-life balance, organisations need to re-architect their work models to offer more flexible work arrangements. This can include catering to an increasingly remote or hybrid workforce with flexible schedules, and proper vacation leaves. They also need to prioritise employee well-being and provide resources for stress management and mental health support. Organisations that strive to achieve this balance for their employees can experience many benefits, including improved productivity, outcomes, and better retention, among others.
Modern employees need to continuously learn and adapt to future work skills and knowledge. For this, organisations need to provide opportunities for ongoing learning and development, mentorship, and access to educational resources. This can help employees stay competitive and adaptable in a constantly evolving work environment.
“The role of the office has changed. People aren’t going to go back to five days a week. Offices are going to be hubs of innovation and social interaction.”
Bhushan Sethi, Joint Global Leader, PWC
The above statement aptly summarises the post-pandemic workplace scenario. Following are some aspects of the future of workplace transformation.
82% of executives say they intend to let employees work remotely at least part of the time, according to a survey by Gartner Inc. The pandemic-led work-from-home or hybrid workplace arrangement is now seen to be the new normal. Companies face an interesting dilemma of reconfiguring their office space in light of this current situation. They are likely to reduce their real estate holdings if employees do not work in the office full-time. According to CoreNet Global, a non-profit organisation, 70% of companies are expected to downsize their real estate footprint within the next two years.
Moreover, office design experts predict that more companies will adopt the concept of "hoteling", where employees no longer have dedicated seating but instead can move to available spaces according to the nature of their tasks. A few areas will be designated for quiet work, while others will be reserved for brainstorming and group discussions.
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Innovation is valued as a significant driver of growth in the current fast-paced business environment. An innovation climate refers to a workplace culture that promotes and facilitates creativity, experimentation, and risk-taking. Such an environment empowers employees to take risks and explore new ideas and methods, fostering innovation and expansion. Businesses that cultivate an innovation climate are better equipped to adjust to market shifts, outperform rivals, and attract and retain skilled professionals.
83% of business executives are expected to hire more people for health and safety roles within the next two years, according to a report by McKinsey & Co.
The pandemic brought employee health and safety to the forefront for all industries, not just those with a reputation for being hazardous. With employees returning to their workplaces, safety measures such as wearing masks, sanitising surfaces, and maintaining social distancing became common. These measures are expected to stay or rather evolve into workplaces with the implementation of sophisticated tools for detection and disinfection.
The concerns are not limited to physical well-being. The economic downturn and social upheaval post-pandemic have resulted in a rise in anxiety, depression, and stress levels among employees. Workplaces need to have provisions for tackling these issues, like having game rooms or recreational centres.
By promoting inclusion, diversity, and equity in the workplace, organisations can benefit from increased innovation, better decision-making, improved employee engagement, and stronger performance. It can also help create a more positive and fulfilling work environment where all employees feel valued, respected, and supported, which can lead to improved retention rates and greater employee satisfaction.
The future of work is shaped by the intersection of work, the workplace, and the workforce. Changes in one affect the others. Changes in work, such as the rise of automation and the gig economy, have significant impacts on the workplace and the workforce. As work becomes more digitised, there is a need for workplaces that support remote and flexible work arrangements.
At the same time, changes in the workplace, such as the adoption of new technologies and the creation of more collaborative spaces, can have an impact on the type of work that is done and the skills needed to perform it. For example, the use of advanced technologies may require workers to have more specialised skills, such as data analytics and coding, which were not previously required.
Changes in the workforce, such as demographic shifts and changing expectations of work, also influence the work and workplace. With technological advancements, elder employees upskilling is needed to stay updated. Moreover, younger generations entering the workforce have different expectations around work-life balance and are more likely to prioritise flexibility and remote work.
Striking a balance between these three aspects is the key to staying competitive in the future of work.
Overall, the intersection of work, the workplace, and the workforce are complex and constantly evolving. Organisations must be agile and adaptable to keep up with the changes and leverage the opportunities that arise from this intersection. This requires a commitment to ongoing learning journeys, a willingness to experiment with new approaches, and a focus on creating a workplace culture that values inclusion, diversity, and innovation.