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How to prepare for the future of work

The phrase “future of work” is enough to spark fear in the hearts of employer and employee alike. 

But, let's not freak out. Here's how we can all use these changes to our advantage.

by Jo Foster
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The phrase “future of work” is enough to spark fear in the hearts of employer and employee alike.

Companies worry they won’t be able to keep up with the rapid changes. Employees mainly worry that the robots are coming for their jobs!

And this is partly true. Automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to displace workers with non-cognitive, routine jobs. On top of this, companies will engage more and more employees on a part-time, project basis.

But, rather than freaking out, we can all use these changes to our advantage. Here’s how to get prepped for the future of work:

Reorganize.

Organizing your team by function or location makes sense in the industrial world. But not so much in a future, knowledge-based realm. It’s no longer about filling a position, it's about getting a job done.

Ultimately, it will make better economic sense for businesses to organize teams by project, have fewer full-time employees, and tap into other part-timers as needed, hiring and paying by project rather than by the hour. This latter idea is known as the gig economy.

The gig economy may sound like a terrifying change for employees, but it can actually work to their advantage. They can become true experts in their field, working on diverse and different initiatives that will ultimately keep them inspired and fulfilled.

More than this, companies will actually have to work harder to show why employees should want to work for them, rather than the other way around.

A new workplace.

Reorganization stretches to our physical and digital workspaces.

The research shows that the highest-performing teams (and leaders) are those that are the best connected within and across their company.

Future organizations will need to create collaborative physical and digital spaces to facilitate people-to-people collaboration, fostering support, creativity and creative problem-solving.

Invest in your high potential employees.

Hard truth: automation is coming for the routine jobs. And artificial intelligence is coming for the professions.

BUT! While tasks are being automated, the “essentially human” parts of work will become all the more important. Empathy, communication, persuasion, adaptability, creative problem solving and strategic decision making will be more valuable than ever.

These powerful new tools are replacing jobs as we know them. But they will ultimately help create a plethora of new and exciting jobs we might not even be able to imagine right now.

In a nutshell, human employees will need to become creative problem-solvers, which provides a new challenge for businesses: these people tend to be harder for companies to find.

Consider the human skills your company needs to succeed in the future. Identify those skills in people you already have and help them realize their potential now.

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll need to start prioritizing those essentially human behaviors over knowledge or experience. This is pretty much a complete paradigm shift, so it’s best to start early.

Make way for the millennials.

Fact is, the next generation of employees works pretty differently to the generations before them. And they’re not going to change.

Millennials will make up around 75% of the global workforce by 2025. So businesses must adapt to the millennial mindset now. Millennials tend to favor flexible work arrangements, the ability to have their ideas heard and do what they love.

Research also suggests millennials remain passionate about a project for around three months. All of which actually makes them perfect for the emerging gig economy.

Disrupt or be disrupted.

We’ve already started to feel the effects of the digital disruption – the immense change new digital technologies are having on traditional products, processes and models of business across almost every industry.  

Digital technologies can have a tremendous positive impact on productivity, employee engagement, and customer value… for those companies willing to adopt them.

It’s really a case of disrupt or be disrupted. Future businesses must dedicate resources to digital innovation within their own markets, to avoid being crushed.

Inspire and motivate your team.

It’s little secret uncertainty sparks fear. Key to future business success will be creating work environments where your people feel inspired and excited about the future, rather than freaked out.

Help your employees to think creatively and pour new and innovative ideas into your company. Transparency, individual roadmaps, flexible work options, offsite days and team incentives are just some ideas that can help foster a productive, successful human team.

This includes gig economy team members. Keep them involved in the culture of your company by way of newsletters, frequent updates, face-to-face or skype catch-ups, or rewards for saying yes to the next gig request.

Plan and manage the workforce transformation.

Given the scope and scale of impending changes to work, workforces, and workplaces, it is critical to developing a “future of work” roadmap.

This combines plans for the overall business, as well as the HR, IT, procurement, and finance sectors. The plan should include an actionable view of talent, training, communication, leadership, culture, and organizational impacts.

The future of work may seem a little (okay, a lot) overwhelming. But with the right ideas, the right people and the right data, your business can leverage the myriad new opportunities available, and ultimately move forward into future stronger than ever.

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