The term ‘Future of work’ has been dominating all the discussions related to the way we will live and work in the future. It has particularly gained prominence during COVID-19.
So, what is the future of work, and how is it different from the way we work today?
Deloitte defines the future of work as “The growing adoption of artificial intelligence in the workplace, and the expansion of the workforce to include both on- and off-balance-sheet talent.”
It essentially means that future workplaces will leverage more technologies such as AI, robotics, and automation to bring in a change in the way we work. McKinsey’s Global Institute Report states that more than 30% of the activities associated with the majority of the occupations in the US will be automated.
Unlike traditional work, the future of work will be technology-driven, lack fixed hierarchy, and will have a workforce that will cut across different generations.
However, technology will not be the only driver of the future of work.
The only way employees can thrive in a fast-paced future of work is by adopting the following skillsets.
Every company has its share of challenges and problems. Critical thinking enables employees to resolve them effectively. It encourages teams to identify the problems, come up with solutions, and implement them. Critical thinking focuses on problem-solving rather than arriving at unsubstantiated conclusions and judgments. To promote critical thinking in the workplace, employees will have to make it a part of their work. One way to begin is by focusing on smaller problems first. That will boost confidence and encourage employees to take up bigger issues.
Creativity and Innovation
What sets companies like Amazon or Netflix apart from their competitors is their ability to innovate continuously. Unlike traditional workplaces where the focus was on following procedures and working mechanically, the future of work is more flexible and creative. A workplace that fosters curiosity, creativity, and innovation can keep employees motivated and inspire them to design new strategies to stay ahead of the competition. Innovation and creativity cannot be acquired overnight. Employees have to take efforts to make it a part of their work. Companies need to create an environment that boosts these qualities. Employees should be able to brainstorm new strategies to ensure that innovation and creativity do not get side-lined in regular work. Initiatives such as intrapreneurship could be established to encourage employees to come up with innovative solutions to solve some of the pressing issues.
Collaboration helps employees across different locations, teams, and skillsets to come together to achieve a shared goal. It capitalizes on of each team member’s strengths, so they can think together as a single unit and come up with concrete solutions and ideas to solve problems. To cultivate collaboration, employees should work with an open mindset, encourage others to share ideas without any inhibitions, and cross-collaborate with members of different teams. A collaborative culture helps employees to stay motivated at work and grow as an individual. Collaborative tools can help employees to exchange ideas and work together irrespective of their location or time zones.
Flexibility and Adaptability
The future of work is no longer about sticking to a particular job until retirement. Employees need to don multiple hats, learn several new skills, and be willing to work in different roles throughout their careers. They should be willing to learn and adapt their working style to changing situations. They must learn to be out of their comfort zone, accept new challenges, and be flexible enough to start from scratch, if necessary. They must be willing to accept failures, learn from those, and move ahead quickly. A company with a flexible and adaptable culture will be more responsive to the changes in customer needs and cater to it quickly and efficiently.
In traditional workplaces, leaders were more focused on the outcome of the task, bottom line profits, etc. They believed in a rigid hierarchy and impersonalized relationships with co-workers. Today’s leaders are more transparent, inclusive, and focus on building a strong team that encourages each other to achieve goals. Their relationship with their team exudes trust and confidence. To cultivate leadership skills, leaders will have to learn the art of listening actively rather than just give out orders. They must communicate clearly, be transparent, become a part of the team, and set an example by showing a willingness to improve daily.
Business situations will constantly change, as proven by current pandemic, climatic changes, and the proliferation of technology. Proactive employees will stay a step ahead and be prepared to solve these problems. Instead of waiting to react to the challenges, they take pre-emptive measures to address those. To become proactive, employees must develop foresight, learn to anticipate problems, and be prepared to resolve it. They must acquire an analytical bend of mind to recognize common patterns that exist in the business and use them to solve future problems. They must avoid reacting impulsively during an unforeseen circumstance. Employees who are prepared for the unforeseen are the ones who can help companies tide over difficult challenges and keep it ahead of the competition.
Accountability and Responsibility
Every company desires to work with employees who take ownership of their work and its outcome as it makes the employees responsible and mindful of the way they work. A lack of accountability and responsibility in the workplace makes employees complacent, disengaged, and demotivated. The only way to deliver better work is by making each employee accountable for their job. Employees can define the goals they plan to achieve to stay focused. Managers can set key metrics to measure their accountability and accuracy of work. They can also encourage employees to use tools to assess their progress and improve the quality of their work. The future of work calls for efficiency and accuracy in work – both of which can be achieved only if employees take responsibility for their work.
Technology may take some of our jobs, but it is the soft skills that make us more humane. Apart from learning new technologies, the workforce of today must also acquire the other skills mentioned above to stay relevant in their work.