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Anna Muir | 19 January 2023

Leaping into the future of work

5 considerations for you to act on now (not in the future)

We believe that the future starts now. Our future selves and work environments are the result of what we are doing today. It is therefore necessary to be deliberate about the work we are designing and to understand why it is important. In a way, the future is the past – if we don’t take stock of what has previously gone on and what we’ve learnt from that, what we want to take forward and what we have to leave behind, then we’re missing a trick. The good thing is there are no experts on “the future”. We are continuously experiencing new thinking, new approaches, and the main advice we have is – embrace it! There are multiple contradictions out there and it is up to us as leaders to navigate those contradictions and identify what will have the most positive impact for the future of our people and our work.

What challenges are you currently facing in your business/industry? Will those challenges still exist in the future? How are you solving for those challenges?

We encourage you to stop and reflect on what is currently front of mind around the challenges that exist for you today and how those might show up in the future. We have five considerations for ways to re-frame those challenges to set you up for strong organisational performance now and into the future. In the words of the infamous Marty McFly “Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one”.

1. The future of work is human centred

You may see this as contradictory of all the research and investment into technology, however as important and game changing as technology is, we need to consider what it will and won’t replace. In your organisation are there roles that will be different in the future as a result of technology and how can you prepare your people for this? People can survive and thrive through change provided that they understand the rationale and are well communicated with.

Being human centred goes far beyond the human/technology dichotomy – it is about seeing employees as holistic people, whose lives are completely intertwined with work and cannot be separated. The appetite to accept this increased during covid lockdowns when we saw people in their home environments and were forced to acknowledge and support the unique challenges they experience outside of the office. In our changed world and into the future, we have to continue to be responsive to employees as whole humans, designing experiences that align with their needs and wants. How does this apply in your work environment?

2. The future of work has purpose

There is no doubt, and the research supports this, that the covid pandemic has driven people to think deeply about what was going on in their lives and what brings meaning for them. According to Gartner, this “Great Reflection” shows 56% of employees wanting to contribute more to society and 52% questioning the purpose of their work(i). It is an evolutionary need for humans to belong to groups and be connected by a common thread (purpose). People also want more meaning in their work, they want to understand that the work they do contributes to something bigger. This doesn’t mean that you need to go out and create purpose as an organisation, it will already exist, it just means that you have to be deliberate about articulating it well and connecting the dots for your people. How does your business strategy align to your vision and unique purpose? What makes your organisation different to others? How as an organisation do you define, communicate and deliver on your EVP (employee value proposition)?

We have developed an EVP model which enables you to consider what differentiates your business in a number of areas that are important to people’s experience at work. It is no coincidence that we have led with Purpose.

What is your purpose and EVP? We encourage you to articulate and communicate this to help future and current employees to connect with why they work for you. The EVP is only the promise though – you have to turn this into a reality and you need a clear plan for this.

3. The future of work is shaped by leaders

Leaders are the critical link now and into the future for how sustainable your organisational performance will be. Leaders should be accountable for translating the organisation’s vision, communicating the purpose, delivering strategy, guiding operations, creating culture, enabling people and living the values – no small feat! Whilst the individual nouns are important, the verbs are equally important. As a leader you can be pulled in multiple directions and it is easy to focus your energy on where you might see short term wins rather than balancing that time on longer term objectives. Remember that business is an infinite game(ii). How much time do you spend in each of these critical aspects of leadership? We urge you to consider what might be missing from your current leadership practice which will have a significant impact on the long term success of your organisation.

4. The future of work is what, how, why, when and where

If there is one thing that is definitive, it’s that our people have proven that there are multiple options for the way we work and people will continue to want options – just to be clear – black/white is not an option. We see the options as providing great opportunities to deliver work however it needs to be delivered and enabling people to do what is right for them. We ask you to pause the next time you find yourself thinking ‘we couldn’t do it that way in our business’ and instead think ‘what if we did it that way in our business’.

  • The way we work
    Hybrid, fully flex, contractors vs employees, communities, competing for resources vs sharing resources
  • How we work
    Designed around employees as humans, designed with employees ensuring many voices are heard
  • Why we work
    Choice, multiple skill sets, belonging
  • What we work on
    The jobs that exist today that we wouldn’t have comprehended in the past – people solving problems that exist in their world and are important to them – environmental, sustainability, economic stability – solving economic stability through sustainable environmental impact.
  • The value of work
    Fairness, quality, stability, inclusivity.

What ideas exist within your own people that you could leverage and help them bring about positive change in ways that work for them?

5. The future of work is curiosity

If we are not seeking different answers or ways of solving problems then we are not setting ourselves up for success. The minute you take on the responsibility of leadership is when you leave your expertise at the door. Your people will find the answers if you support them to do so. This means asking the right questions – asking any questions and not thinking that we know the answers. We recommend Adam Grant’s(iii) Re-thinking book and podcast where he challenges himself and others to let go of assumptions and be prepared to think differently. This is also extremely important for ensuring you are bringing diversity into the equation which is the only way we will solve the macro problems that will continue to exist in the future.

Experimentation, exploration, open mindedness and listening! How curious are you?

So keeping in mind that the future is catching up to us and what you do now will have multiple implications for future generations of employees - at this time tomorrow, what will you wish you had started doing today?

(i) “Employees Seek Personal Value and Purpose at Work. Be Prepared to Deliver.” The Gartner Research. Last modified January 13, 2022.

(ii) Sinek, Simon. "The Infinite Game”. Portfolio Penguin, 2019. 

(iii) Grant, Adam. "Rethinking”. 2021-2022. Produced by Cosmic Standard. Accessible via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and TED Audio Collective+. 

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