The future of work is already here – due in part to the massive disruptions to supply and value chains caused by COVID-19. The pandemic ushered us into a new, uncertain, and constantly changing world, replete with profound paradigm changes in business policies, how we think of the workplace, and how we manage workforces.
In response, businesses are rapidly adopting new technologies to adapt their workforce and work processes to cope with mobility restrictions and supply chain disruptions. Before the pandemic, many businesses were already ditching the traditional in favor of a digital approach to work. However, reactions to the global health crisis are further accelerating this shift.
Within the next couple of years, there will be significant changes in the way we work, precipitated by emergent technology, evolving paradigms of the nature of work, and an increasingly multigenerational workforce. Focusing on and prioritizing the following trends driving the future of work can help business leaders navigate change or transition more effectively, while retaining their competitive edge.
The impacts of global relations on trade, increased political polarization, and the shock effects of the pandemic are being most felt by businesses that heavily rely on international supply chains. To survive in such a landscape, savvy businesses are leveraging technological advancements that facilitate seamless, global communications in real-time. This has enabled the modern workplace to become a connected, virtual and boundaryless entity, resulting in a rise of globally managed work pools.
With the environmental, social, and economic challenges brought about by Globalization 4.0, savvy businesses are building and leveraging a geographically distributed workforce. As such, investing in the right collaboration tools can help business leaders form a robust technological foundation for their distributed workforce to work cohesively and successfully.
The Evolution of the Workplace
If working during a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that commuting to a brick-and-mortar office is not the only effective option for businesses and their employees. A UN study shows that nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, meaning that increasing population density could also make commuting to and from work a nightmare for most. Also, the restrictions on mobility and an aversion to shared commuting are additional factors that are making remote work a more viable option for many businesses.
A Gartner survey indicates that after the pandemic, 47% of business leaders want employees to work from home full-time, while 80% intend to allow employees to work remotely part of the time. With options like remote work or hybrid approaches likely to become almost as popular as working in a physical office in a post-COVID-19 world, leveraging workforce solutions that help inform such decisions is a wise decision for business leaders.
A Multigenerational Workforce
The multigenerational nature of today’s workforce presents both new challenges and unique opportunities for business leaders. With increased life expectancy and people retiring much later in life, workplaces can have employees spanning as many as five generations at any given time. Experts agree that a multigenerational workforce offers many benefits and can increase a business’ success rate, but in order to achieve that companies must be able to effectively manage diverse expectations, values, and workstyles in order to form cohesive teams and organizations.
Getting everyone on the same page, collaborating regardless of age group, and setting all employees up for success requires a deep understanding of how the organization works and a skillful adaptation of each generation’s preferences to align with business objectives. A potential challenge and risk for businesses with multigenerational workforces is the formation of communication gaps between different age groups/generations, which can significantly hinder both the effectiveness of an organization and employee experience. One way that companies are addressing this in order to foster a more cohesive workplace and drive these types of outcomes, is by leveraging a robust workforce analytics solution. In this particular scenario, workforce analytics can provide business leaders with continuous insights that reveal the existence (if any) of significant collaboration gaps across different generations of employees.
In one example where an organization used these insights to address the negative impacts of generation gaps, one of the largest multinational tech firms analyzed relevant data to inform decisions that would drive a better culture and performance. The company was able to objectively confirm the existence of collaboration gaps across different age groups, and also found that the communication behaviors of younger employees differed significantly from that of older colleagues, likely due to higher usage of collaboration tools and other digital technologies.
After validating the existence of generational siloes and a hierarchy-driven communication structure, the company implemented new processes where department managers and leadership are actively driving communication with direct reports and individual contributors. In addition to this, they plan to optimize their usage of physical office spaces to foster more organic interactions and increased collaboration across generations and different groups.
In another example, one of the world’s largest energy companies wanted to improve company culture and employee retention, and the overall workplace experience by better connecting newer and younger employees with longer-tenured, influential leaders. The primary focus was to improve collaboration between these groups in order to promote knowledge-sharing/innovation, job satisfaction, and growth opportunities for employees.
Using these insights the company was able to better understand how these different groups worked and identify where the most significant gaps were. The findings were ultimately used to inform real estate changes (such as location and seating assignments) to drive more organic interactions between these groups, as well as company-sponsored mentorship programs to better connect them.
As these examples show, it’s essential for business leaders to learn how to keep a multigenerational workforce inspired, fulfilled, and connected in order to harness their diverse levels of experience and talent to meet business needs.
Facilitating Scalable and Flexible Workforces with Digital Transformation
Technology has always played a major role in the way we work, and it will play an even bigger role in the future of work. One important distinction to make is that digital transformation isn’t about technology replacing the human workforce; it’s about digitizing how the workforce operates to help your people (and therefore your business) succeed.
Due to the ongoing changes to the global business landscape, exclusively hiring full-time or in-person employees may no longer make sense for certain regions or groups, whole businesses, or even entire industries in some cases. No matter the strategy, successful digital transformations require understanding how an organization works best and how systems, tools, and proper resourcing can help achieve and sustain this. This can also be especially relevant and valuable for companies currently exploring hybrid workplace concepts or more flexible workplace strategies post-pandemic. A flexible and scalable workforce is beneficial for businesses looking to thrive in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace, and digital transformation is the linchpin to making this happen.
A Greater Focus on Employee Well-Being
It’s helpful to rethink the metrics previously used to gauge workforce performance and productivity and focus on making employee well-being a top priority, especially as companies shift to an in-person, remote, or hybrid workplace culture. Organizations that ensure that their workforce is happy, healthy, and empowered to succeed while working from their location of choice reduce the risk of things like ‘toxic productivity’ or burnout.
There’s no way to infallibly predict the future of work as it will likely look different for every company, but keeping an eye on the above trends will enable businesses to adapt quickly and prepare adequately for the changes that lie in the next decade and beyond. As our new normal continues to evolve, organizations that invest in innovative cloud solutions will be better equipped to break down geographical barriers to collaboration and promote a healthy work-life balance.
The future of work will continue to be shaped by the influence of evolving factors such as globalization, digital transformation, a continued emphasis on well-being and work-life balance, and other emerging trends. As technology evolves and businesses adapt, the future of work is shaping up to be more connected, more collaborative, and smarter than ever before.