I can barely browse through LinkedIn or Facebook, open a magazine (remember those?), or attend a conference/event where the topic of the Future of Work is not being debated, dissected and regurgitated out as sound bites. We churn through conversations on automation, AI and machine learning, the gig economy, re-skilling and up-skilling of workers, income stagnation, and more. We discuss how work will be organized, what organizations will look like, and how people will interact with each other within organizations.
It’s the future and it’s quite revolutionary.
While there are numerous shifts happening, when my thoughts turn to the future of work I focus on a few key areas as an HR professional. These are also, in my opinion, the things every HR professional should be thinking about:
- What jobs will exist in the future of work? In addition, which jobs will survive and which jobs will become obsolete?
- How will we connect people and jobs/people and employment? There’s got to be a better way than what we’ve been doing up to this point.
- What will individuals experience, day-to-day, while at work?
- For that matter, how much of what people do will be done AT work (i.e. an actual physical location)?
- How will the psychological contracts between employers and their employees change and evolve? Will the things we’ve come to expect, on either side, morph or vanish all together? There’s already been a general erosion, over the fairly recent past, in terms of guaranteed/lifetime employment and job security…so what is yet to come?
- What is the occupational outlook? What jobs/occupations will see a decline and for what jobs/occupations will we see a rise? (hint: it’s the jobs that require empathy, humanity and judgment)
- What skill sets will people need to have in this new world of work? How can we help existing employees adapt and develop the skills and competencies that will be in demand? How do we prepare students to be the next generation of workers?
- For those jobs that will rise in demand how do we ensure that wages are sufficient enough to provide a living wage? Many of these jobs (teaching, care workers, service) have historically been low-paying so how can we ensure the transition to the future does not leave entire categories of employees behind.
Is there uncertainty? Absolutely. Is there a bit of apprehension by those tackling some of these issues? Certainly.
There’s also enthusiasm in the midst of the ambiguity and change and I, for one, am somewhat eager to get the proverbial show-on-the-road. Some business leaders are embracing the shift; we see this every time we hear about a company trying something new whether it be Holacracy (meh), unlimited PTO (I want some of that) or providing extended paid parental leave. Note: let me remind you how sad that we have to applaud the offering of parental leave at all, let alone paid leave. The US remains one of the only countries in the world (the other two are Oman and Papua New Guinea) that do not offer paid maternity leave nor are businesses required to do so.
I agree with my friend Laurie Ruettimann when she says #LetsFixWork. I can’t wait for the future.
Viva la revolution!