The ‘Workplace of the Future™’ is often associated with disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robotics and IoT, filled with promises of how it will positively revolutionize the way we work. As exciting as all of these technologies are, the journey towards the realization of the future workplace must first begin by fundamentally understanding the people that technology must serve. Put another way, to truly build the ‘Workplace of the Future™’, companies must invest and strategize also on how to build the ‘Workforce of the Future’.
If organizations consider the changes that the future workforce will likely demand of the workplace, then they will be better placed to consider what tools are most appropriate to attract and retain the best talent.
The Workforce of the Future
Organizations need to understand their future work environment as it relates to people – it is more than just about the economies of scale, but rather the economies of skill. In the future, we predict that organizations will need to rethink how they source the right human resources for their business critical needs. Specifically, we foresee that they will struggle to find the skills you need in a single person. To address this challenge it will be critical for organizations to have internal programs that are able to recognize those skills in their current workforce and consider how it can be leveraged or grown for new business needs. The enablement and leveraging of those skills to their highest capacity is as critical as hiring new people with those skills from the outside. Perhaps even more so.
As seen in the media today, many organizations are talking about their strategy in attracting and retaining Gen Y or Gen Z employees. However, it is dangerous to focus on this alone. While it is estimated that 50% of workers will be “millennials” or Generation Y (Gen Y) and up to 10% will be by Generation Z (Gen Z) by 2020, organizations must consider a digital culture that embraces transformation and the needs of a multi-generational workforce. To manage and get the most out of that multi-generational workforce is no easy feat, but it will be critical for future proofing an organization.
Notably, figuring out how to integrate these different generational groups is evolution, catering to one or a subset is revolution. Most companies evolve from what they were, to what they are becoming. Having a daring, yet practical approach – evolution – is more likely to yield success. Regardless of the generational subsets, there are several things to consider when thinking about the future employee. Every role, whether it be in sales, engineering, finance, or administration, will require technical skills combined with a consultative mind set; in addition to their subject matter expertize to be effective in the Workplace of the Future™.
As a result of these dynamic needs, organizations will have to consider how to develop training for the future diverse workplace. The future workforce will be / are alreadydigital natives. And organizations have to consider differently what technologies they will demand to ensure loyalty. We see increasingly that workforces are determining whether they will work for a company based on how innovative they are / the technology they use. Coupled with this, millennials will need to be engaged / taught new skills using non-traditional tools – think YouTube, micro-learning media, not classroom or multi-day sessions. And to retain talent long term, organizations will have to rethink how they motivate their workforce. What motivated previous generational workforces (i.e. money) will not be the driving factor for future employees. Many employees of the Workplace of the Future™ will care far more about the ‘softer’ factors such as their role and how it impacts the wider world around them.
Apart from skills, there are important attributes that make up the workplace of the future, regardless of the department they belong to. Everyone is looking for hungry, humble, willing and able, but I would suggest the most overlooked and critical attribute each member of the workforce should have is curiosity. Curious people ask why and challenge the status quo. They are less likely to let barriers influence what they think is possible. Being curious makes everyone on the team better and as a result, everything we do for the customer is better. Curious people SOLVE problems by CREATING solutions.
You cannot have a culture of innovation without a culture of curiosity.
So What, Now What?
Before embarking on an exciting journey to revolutionize your workplace, consider the people that technology must service and support. Remember, it is all about an evolution, not revolution. From baby boomers to Gen X, to Gen Y and now Gen Z, your workforce strategy should encompass all. Before we know it, we will be back to the beginning of the alphabet (Gen A’s). That’s evolution. The same is true in how they learn, how we train them and what attributes we look for in the workforce. Even technology and the Workplace of the Future™’ is more evolution than revolution. What is disruptive today, will be a commodity tomorrow and something new will take its place. Those that prepare for, plan and are able to predict the trends, both in the Workplace and the Workforce of the Future, will be the companies that stand out and thrive.