For the past few years, the topic of the future of work has continued to stir enthusiasm, fear and opinion within the business community. Most times, when the future of work is discussed, visions of Rosie dance in our heads. You know, Rosie from The Jetsons. We envision AI (artificial intelligence) handling our problems and making our work lives much more freed up and bearable. Rosie seemed to do that on screen. She had an arm appear with all sorts of tools – vacuums, brooms, hands to cook, wash dishes, dust. And all of this happened simultaneously. Just like what we think AI will do.
The news should probably be broken for you. Rosie was a cartoon. Real life doesn’t work that way. We would have drawn our hopes on the screens of life long ago if it was possible. Instead, we should approach this subject of the future of work from all that it’s meant to encompass.
Firstly, the future of work is partly defined by the talent force to handle it. This means that areas of learning management, skill development and process improvement have to be assessed and upgraded. The talent of tomorrow do not necessarily know what they don’t know either. If organizations are just banking on recent college graduates filling them in on what they should know, that is a recipe for disappointment. There is an inherent and internal responsibility for an organization to assess what trends it has to be ready for, what the competition is doing and what advancements are being made in product or service. Passivity is not a strategy. Attack the future of work.
The future of work is, also, about flexibility. How can work be done better, more efficiently and less micro-managed? Part of the answer lies in how the workforce can function. The contractor portion of the workforce may replace some internal workers through the natural phasing out of certain roles or tasks, along with the clearer desire of some staff to work independently (everyone’s an entrepreneur!). With work from home or remote work opportunities, our talent can succeed in new ways. Directed collaboration in areas of process and innovation through video chats or Slack communication are things we could not have been convinced of ten years ago (even five, really!).
But there is more to the workforce in the future of work then just flexibility. It’s, also, about equity. The impact of diversity and inclusion is a build up to equity, and the future of work demands it. The workforce needs more than mere representation; it needs equal participation. It’s not an accident that most equity-based teams succeed more than others (McKinsey) and that is because the effort is around impact rather than just a visibly diverse team. The future of work will have to lean on this truth; it will no longer be optional. And lest you think this is merely wishful thinking or an attempt at some Jedi mind trick, Forbes (and others) has been pushing impact through diversity, inclusion AND equity for some time and they’ve studied it.
It’s, also, clear that technology will have a vibrant place in the future of work. For those organizations just getting into mobile employee experience, geo-specific time clocks and live chat features on their website, you’ve got some ground to cover. The adoption of AI has begun, and while it all hasn’t worked perfectly, it’s worked enough to keep us refining it and seeking more. Those repetitive tasks are being off-loaded to “thinking” software to handle with more precision and predictability than we’ve had as people (yikes, thank you, Hal…I hope you know who Hal is).
The future of work will, also, require you to ask for help. You will need to spend more on technology, yes, but you will, also, need to spend on consultants. Look into resources to assist with the preparation needed. The future is coming. You can welcome it with open arms or be slapped hard by one of Rosie’s mechanical arms. Your choice.