To say it’s a different time in the world is an understatement. As we all collectively grapple with what this global pandemic means for us — as humans first, but also as professionals — there are often more questions than answers. There is no playbook for the current situation or future of work.
Though businesses and professionals are uncovering new challenges every day, they’ve worked to rebuild organizations that can survive in a disrupted global marketplace. Five trends are emerging that will further alter the social agreement between employers and employees as the future of work is reimagined and rebuilt.
Efficient organizations were built on creating processes and standard playbooks for managing each part of the business, creating efficient operations, and supporting a highly controlled workforce hierarchy structure.
In the past, there was a heavy dependence on a centralized business model. Decisions were guided from the corporate headquarters, the equivalent of command central. Centralized organizations gathered information from frontline workers to help inform the decisions made by the leaders in the corporate office. The process for decision making was often costly and took a long time to gather the information needed to create an action plan forward.
Centralized organizations have experienced more significant disruption during the pandemic. Leaders now realize there is a need to become a more decentralized organization. A decentralized organization gives increased decision-making authority to frontline workers to make decisions based on the market needs instead of mostly headquarter needs.
Leaders are beginning to reevaluate every part of the organization to determine where each component needs to be on the centralized vs. decentralized scale. Harvard Business Review believes that the issues created by the current pandemic will “hasten the progress to more decentralized global value chains.” To become a resilient organization, companies will have to change the way their organizations have historically done business.
People are still a vital component in the global value chain. However, the future of work in a mostly decentralized organization will require a different type of employee role. The future of work will reward frontline workers that have high contextual intelligence paired with an ability to acquire new knowledge and apply that knowledge immediately.
Korn Ferry reported that 85 million jobs would go unfilled by 2030 at the cost of $8.5 Trillion. They concluded, “Much of the shortage is based on simple demography.” At the time of the report, there was no clear path for addressing the changes in population demographics and the shrinking access to top talent.
The pandemic changed everything. Companies went from an attitude of, “it would be too hard to scale remote work” to 74% of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) looking to make more jobs permanently remote.
As leaders in the C-Suite embrace the move to a larger number of remote workers, Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) now can change their recruiting approach to fill jobs that have lingered open for increasingly extended periods. With remote work initiatives, hard to fill positions could be reclassified as boundless jobs, with no time zone or geography restrictions.
The seeds have been planted to pivot to a distributed workforce. The trend will continue as companies go through an accelerated digital transformation, and the skills gap widens. The future of work will be a digitally connected distributed workforce, which increases employment opportunities for professionals.
Even before the Pandemic, MIT was predicting the end of middle managers in the traditional organization as their jobs become automated. However, people cannot just be replaced by machines or artificial intelligence.
Gartner TalentNeuron data “shows that 49% of all job postings by S&P 100 companies in 2018 were for just 39 roles. More than one-quarter of those critical roles are in technology functions, and the demand for them extends to virtually every industry.” Traditional roles are giving way to superjobs that combine multiple skills that are not typically found together in a job description.
Superjobs are unique in another way. These new roles lean heavily on technology to expand capabilities to handle increasingly complex roles. With this comes a blurring of the lines of traditional siloed roles into global roles that cross several disciplines and divisions.
As corporations morph to include a more distributed workforce and an increase in superjobs, a different type of leader is needed for the 21st Century. LinkedIn says the top hired soft skills in 2020 are:
The future of work will require hiring people who have demonstrated these top soft skills.
We are living in unprecedented times for companies. Increasingly rapid digital transformations in the way business gets done has caused a widening misalignment in the workforce hired and the workforce needed. According to Scott Engler, VP, Advisory for Gartner, “The need for critical skills has never been greater. But labor market and talent data suggests that many companies have unwittingly built the wrong workforce to drive their future — and continue to do so.”
The pandemic changed the complacency and slow reaction of many companies around addressing this continuing misalignment. Companies quickly realized that their normal processes, though very useful in normal circumstances of yesteryear, needed to be adapted to the new normal that digitalization and disruption were bringing to life.
Companies will continue to pivot toward a fluid workforce. Accenture defines a fluid workforce as a team with a highly agile skill set in a world where digital transformation and flexibility rule. Creating a fluid workforce will be at the core of the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) strategy.
Agile teams require constant evaluation and realignment of team member skills. The focus on building agile teams will lead to an increase in leasing freelancers versus buying talent that will become permanent employees. The future of work will continue a trend of leasing freelancers over investing in large permanent workforces.
Deloitte believes that, “reskilling has become a growth imperative for organizations, many of which have seen positions go unfilled for months or years for lack of the right talent to fill them.” The trend of unfilled positions will continue as corporations try to address the need for 1 billion workers to be upskilled.
According to a report prepared by the World Economic Forum, Boston Consulting Group, and Burning Glass Technologies Leads, there is only a business case for the private sector in the US to reskill 25% of workers expected to be displaced by technology into growing job fields. There is not a business case for creating large scale training programs for the majority of the workforce.
Gone are the days where job titles and skills were relatively stable, and it made sense for companies to invest in extensive training programs. Upskilling and reskilling will be an ongoing process that will not just be a moment in time. The future of work will require people to take personal responsibility for their own skill agility.
It is really quite simple. You will have to choose what type of mindset you will adopt; that of the denier or the learner. The Future of Work belongs to the learner.
Which will you be – the denier or the learner?
A leader has the responsibility to embrace the change and guide their team through this change, achieving the ultimate goal – improved productivity through technology and increased value-add to the enterprise through data-driven decisions. – Judy Romano
CompTIA’s analysis of federal employment data showed that U.S. companies had approximately 918,000 unfilled IT jobs for a three month period last year.