Preparing For The Future Workplace

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

It’s no secret that the very nature of our workplaces is fundamentally changing.

Business transformation is never-ending, so embracing change and learning to thrive in an ambiguous environment is an ongoing challenge for everyone in the organisation. As leaders, we need to manage changes in partnership with people instead of dictating change to people.

The 38-hour work week, you could argue is already a thing of the past and across the globe, experts predict that the workplaces of tomorrow will be more flexible, collaborative and mobile, resulting in a vast majority working remotely on a freelance basis for multiple companies. And it doesn’t stop there we’ll also be paying employees based on the value of the business outcomes delivered, rather than hours worked.

These shifts, along with increased digital disruption will result in significant changes to business structure and practices, presenting both challenges and opportunities. From an individual perspective, there’s an increasing need for transferrable skills and a flexible work approach may also mean multiple jobs.

The businesses and the business leaders that thrive will need to confidently lead their people through an era of disruptive and accelerated change. The question is how do organisations and their people prepare for the changes of the workplace of tomorrow?

1. Traditional work structures and offices as we know them are fundamentally changing

According to the report ‘Freelancing in Australia: A National Survey of the New Workforce’, 30 per cent of Australians are already doing some form of freelance work and over half do so out of choice rather than necessity.

The ability to earn extra money, increased flexibility and having the freedom to control their own destiny are all key drivers in going down the freelance path. Of those surveyed, 59 per cent said technology made it easier to find freelance work, allowing them to work remotely and engage in the global marketplace.

We take our lives to work, likewise we work outside of work hours as well as inside it’s fully versatile in my view. As a leader I believe productivity should be measured by outcome, the way we live and work now has evolved and if organisations are to retain the best people, they will need to provide a workplace that is collaborative, flexible and mobile. Organisations need to create workplaces where people want to be in an environment which stimulates their thinking and most importantly empowers people to work and collaborate in the way they need to deliver business outcomes.

2. Multigenerational workforces

As a result of people living longer and retiring later, for the first time in history, we’re seeing a workforce formed of five generations. Each of these generations will have different values, engagement preferences and experiences. For the majority of organisations this presents both challenges and opportunities, as there will not only be increased diversity, there will also be disparate levels of experience.

Businesses that succeed will engage with, and utilise, the synergy of a multi-generational workforce and the diverse skills and experiences they offer. Skills such as great leadership and communication don’t fundamentally change; it’s how we apply them that does.

A businesses culture is what attracts and retains employees. By preserving what makes your business unique will also drive cohesion and inclusion.

3. Both businesses and individuals need to embrace change as the “new-normal”

With most organisations already undergoing rapid change, businesses and individuals alike need to adapt to changing circumstances and be proactive in fostering new skills. When people embrace flexibility, they’re often more highly skilled, more adaptable to fast-changing business environments and more agile.

Those individuals who are disruptors and challenge the status quo, those who are curious and have the courage to make things happen are the employees who will maximise the opportunities, be most rewarded by work and most likely to succeed. Businesses need to support this mindset by being dynamic, encourage collaboration and support flexibility.

These days, enterprising skills, namely innovation and entrepreneurial spirit and mindset, are just as important as technical skills. By embracing these skills, organisations and individuals alike will be well-positioned for success.

4. Embrace technology

Technology is changing the way we work on a daily basis and plays a critical role in the success of future workplaces. It helps to facilitate a global workforce by eroding geographical boundaries and providing the ability to interact almost anywhere at any time.

In fact, digitisation and technology are two of the biggest perceived drivers of occupational change in the next 10 years according to ‘Future Inc’, with technology having the potential to create new jobs in areas that may not have been thought of previously.

It’s clear that the structure and norms of the modern workforce is shifting. For every industry, success in the workplace of the future for both employers and employees will depend on the ability to harness and embrace the power of change.

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