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Hardly a day goes by without one of the mainstream newspapers or journals pexels-photo-90333publishing an article about the future of work; how and where we will work in five or ten-years time.

Subjects in the last month have included: artificial intelligence, big data, robotics, the Internet of things and generational differences to work and how these will play out.

We think this is an incredibly interesting subject and many writers and researchers believe there is a revolution happening or about to happen.

We believe that the future of work will be vastly different from how we work now driven by:

  • Advances in technology
  • Changes in behaviour (flexible working, use of social media)
  • Generational differences (millennials)
  • Globalisation and
  • Mobility (work anywhere there is an Internet connection).

17th May ‘Financial Times’ – ‘Disruption’

Although there have been a lot of false starts, artificial intelligence (AI) applications are now taking hold. ‘We’re at the tipping point because of the advancement of technology, the Cloud and the amount of data we now have.’

For example, in insurance AI applications are able to calculate life premiums from photographs of the insured person more accurately than an underwriter – an entire occupation which started in the 1600s now threatened by selfies.

AI is making great strides in financial services, agriculture and medicine – the view that AI has a near term future is picking up with $500 million invested in AI applications in 2016 in insurance alone.

In his book ‘The Future of Work,’ Jacob Morgan argues that:

Many organisations are struggling to cope with changes in the way work is evolving. The world of work is rapidly changing while they remain stagnant. The longer this goes on, the less likely employees are to be engaged at work and the harder it will be to attract the top talent.

However, for those organisations that explore and think carefully about the implications of the future of work, there is a great opportunity to take the lead.

So, what should your company be looking to do now to ‘take the lead?’

Here are some ideas:

Develop a very strong Employer Brand (what it’s like to work around here) and let employees and prospective employees know all about it

Why

  • Attracting and retaining good staff will become much harder in the future
  • Staff will only work where they ‘want’ to not where they ‘have’ to
  • Candidates will be able to find out if the company matches their aspirations much easier – Employer Brand is becoming much more transparent (Glassdoor, career sites, social media).

Example Actions

  • Clearly define the company’s Employer Brand
  • Start at the first contact a potential employee has with your company – map the recruitment and selection processes as part of the Employer Brand exercise
  • ‘Advertise’ your Employer Brand so key messages are clear – for example, careers page on the company web site, social media, recruitment collateral
  • Aim to make sure work is seen as an ‘experience’ e.g. innovative work environment, consumer grade technology- and not a chore
  • Consider flexible working arrangements
  • Work fitting around life – not the other way around
  • Shared values as compelling reason to work at the company.

Set goals to be an award-winning company in areas such as sustainability, environment and ethics – making a strongly positive social and environmental impact

Why

  • Clients and staff will be increasingly drawn to sustainable companies in the future
  • Research shows that millennials value sustainability and working for companies that have a social and environmental conscience
  • There’s lots of disillusionment around after the financial crisis about unethical business practices
  • Highlight employee work life balance, ethics and doing the right thing.

Example Actions

  • Embark on initiatives to increase employee health and well-being
  • Volunteering in the community and with charities – strongly encouraged as part of staff development and contribution
  • Make sure the company fully supports social and environmental projects
  • Think through and set sustainability targets / publish progress
  • Introduce environmental best practices – encourage suppliers and clients to follow your lead.

Heighten the focus on Employee Development (even more)

Why

  • Research shows that employee development is becoming even more important as the nature of work changes and advances in technology speed up.

Example Actions

  • Give an even higher focus to employee development – but in widest sense; for example, so that employees understand how technology is changing their industry: (AI, robotics, latest innovations)
  • Set up internal innovation hubs where staff can work on developing their understanding of technology and its application to the workplace.

Think about how you can improve your approach to developing a diverse workforce

Why

  • Attracting and retaining staff will become harder
  • Research always shows that diverse companies are higher performers in key areas such as team work, customer service and financial results.

Example Actions

  • Flexible working
  • Family friendly policies
  • Target career returners as part of recruitment policy
  • Set targets and publish diversity results – this can drive focus internally.

Resolve to Strengthen Leadership Development when planning for 2018

Why

  • All the research shows that staff will become more and more overwhelmed in the next few years due to changes in work and technology and that ‘genuine’ leadership skills will be in great demand
  • Culture will become even more important to attract and retain staff and leadership is a prime ingredient
  • Millennials want to work with leaders they can respect.

Example Actions

  • Increase spend on leadership development; particularly ‘softer’ skill areas
  • Put people in staff leadership roles who have capability and skills – not ‘next one in line’
  • Use profiling before making leadership appointments
  • Ensure leaders are highly effective in mentoring and coaching more junior staff.

Get comfortable working alongside the ‘gig’ economy

Why

  • PWC research shows that as people become more used to flexible working, ‘contract and freelance employment will be on the rise further
  • Full-time jobs will start to become obsolete over time as people get used to flexible working
  • Portfolio careers will become even more the norm.

Example Actions

  • Examine models to attract different kinds of employee
  • Look at new reward systems – for example, ‘project related bonus schemes’
  • Identify ways to recruit freelancers, associates and part-time staff
  • Think about the best ways to manage ‘contingent’ workers.
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