The future is a place where everything ends and everything else begins. It’s the place from which we wake every morning and we want to see again every night in our dreams. As a writer for the Learning Wire blog, I have often mentioned the future as a central point for organizations to focus on – and with good reason. An organization has to live in the future as much as it does in the present, because if not, it is bound to enter into a situation it won’t be able to handle – and fail at being what it is, an organization.
On March 17 of this year, Jacob Morgan will present the keynote at the CrossKnowledge Talent 2016 conference in Paris on the Future of the Workplace. An author, speaker and futurist, famous for his business review at Forbes, hosting The Future of Work Podcast, as well as founding the Future of Work Community, Jacob is famous for his innovative forward thinking outlook on the world of work, and most of all – for his consideration of the impact of the entry of millennials on the market. The word futurist seems right on point; his latest book, The Future of Work, describes how he sees the workplace of the future develop itself and the ways organizations have to adapt to this evolution. He spreads these ideas, co-endorsed by many of the most prestigious CEOs in the world – including Schneider Electric and Whirlpool – which are not only ground-breaking, but represent the arrival of a new era for all employees, leaders and organizations. As such, let us introduce you to the future of your workplace.
The Future of your Workplace
Now, this idea of organizations planning for their future is surely familiar to you. What is, however, is the way to approach the future and most of all – what is the work of the future. The first notion that you will probably think of is that technology – and you are right. Technology is, as has been mentioned in several previous articles, one of the key points on which the future work will rely. However, the change in corporations will be much more significant. What do you think of when you hear the word “work”? Does it equate to burden? To an activity for which one receives money? An exchange of tasks against capital? The 20th century, as described by Morgan, built its economy around the notion of robotic employees and productive firms. However, the arrival of the millennials and their internet inspired behaviors makes it harder and harder for companies to hang onto that notion. Work should no longer be about accomplishing tasks, but rather about doing fulfilling work with passion.
The one game-changing factor that most organizations are already facing is the arrival of millennials on the market. Indeed, new employees will require organization to adapt. Adaptation will range from physical – one’s desk, the people one works with, the organization of the workspace, the food available – to cultural perspective – the influence of the values of a company, the interaction between people, the influence of competition on an employee’s daily work life – and finally, to the technological environment, referring to the tools employees use every day to get their jobs done, to interact with others. Understanding how those three environments influence employees’ lives is increasingly important, especially as workers become more and more independent.
Yes, you heard correctly. I did say independent. Indeed, Morgan describes the ongoing trend of new entrepreneurs working freelance for organization as autonomous or self-sufficient workers. What one might find particularly interesting is how he explains this ongoing trend by using 7 simple principles: a flexible work environment, customizing one’s own work, sharing information, using new ways to communicate and elaborate, ability to become a leader, shifting from a knowledge worker to a learning worker, learning and teaching at will.
Quite understandably, the newfound autonomy and self-reliance of the future worker will have a serious impact on the role of leaders and managers. To retain future talent, meeting these requirements will be mandatory to be competitive. As such, we must urgently understand how managers should shift their role from “an all-powerful-knowledgeable-superior” to what I would call the “glue” of a team. Of course, that is not going to happen tomorrow. But some things can already be done, like embracing one’s own vulnerability, pushing autonomy and decision making down instead of assuming employees need to push information up, or creating positive employee experiences.
These are all part of being a “glue”, an enhancing and solidifying element for the team. Managing will not be about being the shining face of the team anymore. It’s about understanding each individual of the team and supporting them in their role, to bring out their best potential and creativity. It is not about quantity anymore, but rather quality.
Quite understandably, changing the role of both employee and manager will mean that ultimately, the structure of the organization will itself be the – lucky – victim of reinvention. As it turns out, many companies have already taken a step in this direction: whether it is Mariott choosing employee well-being as their main value or Zappos and the adoption of a Holacracy. What these companies have mostly understood is that the fleeting nature of Millennial employees will mean that they have to make a choice: will they be the new Uber of their industry or will they stick to a traditional all-employee organization? By integrating to their business agenda into the new ethics of the world, many organizations will be able to advance to this new era in which we already exist.