Henry Ford and Tony Robbins are two of the many people known to have used the quotation “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got”. This has long been the mantra of those who have encouraged others to change their personal work ethic. However, today I feel “If you do what you have always done, you will get less than you have always got” is more appropriate.
The world of work is changing and now smart employers are looking for people who are willing to take risks and move away from their comfort zone. As the rate of change drastically increases, being adaptable is becoming equally as important as being reliable. In the past decade we have seen a significant change in how we live our personal lives thanks to high speed and widely available internet, mobile devices and new business models which focus on resolving our personal pain points as opposed to simply selling products. Our consumer lives are great and getting better every day especially for millennials and gen Z who have grown up with technology.
So what does the near future look like from an employee’s perspective?
The NTT DATA Information Society Trends highlight the increased power of the individual, as businesses need to become more customer focused to increase lifetime value and encourage loyalty. There will also be a similar shift by companies to attract and retain a millennial work force who are happy to move jobs and who are looking for real opportunities to drive positive change and do more than simply picking up a pay check each month.
This article will look at what I see as some of the key trends which will change the way we work; this list is not exhaustive but aims to highlight some key and prominent trends. I will discuss the impact of empowered employees, how teams will work remotely, how changes in ways of working will impact the office of the future and touch on what the implications of AI will be on the workforce of the future.
Increased employee power, in the same way we have seen for consumers, results in people who don’t simply want to execute their superior’s plans but who want to take charge and play a key role in value creation. As technological advances increase the pace of change, being adaptable and an ability to quickly understand and respond to evolving value chains is becoming more important than experience and understanding how to maintain the status quo.
Companies which continue to be based on rigid hierarchies, rules and specialism separation will fall foul on two fronts: first competitors offering a more flexible and empowering environment will steal the best employees and second, these competitors will be able to out manoeuvre traditionally structured businesses in the market place.
In the future we will see traditional professions being left behind by a workforce which is not title focused, but who want to use and develop specific skills which can be adapted to new challenges as part of a portfolio career. It’s clear to see that today’s business challenges are very different to the ones which were faced even five years ago. Smart employees know that to have a successful sustainable career they will need to not only be able to solve today problems but have the ability to address to the new challenges and opportunities which will be presented in the future.
How teams and organisations will be located is an important aspect of future ways of working. Remote working is now broadly accepted, and many organisations are now benefiting from the use of globally dispersed teams. However, increasingly prevalent practices like agile, and design thinking emphasise the importance of face to face meetings, breaking down formality and encouraging regular communications.
The growing number of collaboration software tools show how companies have identified and are looking to capitalise on the need for regular communication. This solution to the co-location problem also brings with it new challenges, organisations will have to be conscious of the risk of employees feeling disconnected and apply increased efforts to making people feel part of a community; otherwise competitors will be able to poach their best people by offering the opportunity to be part of a team and a relatively small pay increase.
The Office of the Future
Workplaces will evolve to facilitate these new ways of working. When Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the Facebook HQ in their first live video, it was clear that the values of equality, openness and collaboration had been physically manifested in the building. This doesn’t only represent new design trends but how offices will adapt to organisations moving from hierarchies where management direct orders to the factory floor to collaborative environments where the newest employee may be able to see the solution to the company’s biggest problem.
There are also multiple benefits of having a modern and inspiring workplace. As the impact a single employee can have on a company increases, so will the arms race for the best people. A great working environment can have a significant impact on employee retention, again we will see organisations which undervalue their physical space and employee experience lose out to forward thinking competitors. Salesforce, Apple and Uber are all updating their headquarters at tremendous cost to attract top employees and represent their companies’ values
Artificial intelligence has become a prominent theme when looking at how our world will change. It seems unlikely that entire industries will become devoid of human involvement and run by AI, cognitive systems or machine learning, as human’s will always want at least a degree of oversight. However, AI will remove labour intensive tasks, allowing us to focus more on aspects of work which require a human touch. Strategy, creative problem solving, establishing and thinking emotionally and “outside the box” will be the key skills needed by the employees of the future to work in parallel with AI which is able to take on work which is manually intensive, prone to human error and simply not fun.
AI will also create new jobs which previously did not exist. If effective design and development steps have been followed, traditional programmable applications are most fit for purpose on the day they go live, this fit reduces over time as people and processes naturally evolve, however the converse is true of AI which improves over time as it is formally and informally “trained”. Training and teaching AI how to be more human and solve specific challenges will be a job of the future, as machines can handle huge amounts of structured data and number crunching, soft human skills will need to be taught to AI to make it a serious value proposition beyond being a big calculator.
The points above highlight a small number of the many changes which are already impacting the way we work. This point of view has evolved based on my own experience and researching the topic from a variety of perspectives.
At NTT DATA UK the future of work has become a hot topic and changes to the ways of working and the work place of the future are put into practice;
- Our consulting teams are split by disciplines which create smaller communities which can be both agile and creative, empowering employees and preventing the feeling of being just a resource but rather that I am somebody who has an active role within the community.
- Training and knowledge sharing are emphasised which benefits our clients by equipping consultants to draw upon their own experiences and to leverage the wider experiences of our peers.
- We also look at how new technologies, tools and ways of working can be used to innovate both internally and with our clients, building on the experiences and lessons learnt from projects in new engagements and establishing best practices.