Reframing the Future of Work
What is the Future of Work? If you look it up, you’ll find numerous definitions and topics that fall under this theme, ranging from hot issues like hybrid working to the impact of artificial intelligence, and nearly everything in between related to work.
As so often happens with business buzzwords or phrases, the more they get used, the more popular they become, and the more diluted they get. Eventually, they just become convenient labels to attribute to products or events to garner attention, saturating every market along the way, and losing any meaning of their original intent. Finally, the public tires of it, the excitement fizzles out, and the concept is retired to the dustbin of business buzzword history.
The Future of Work (FoW), not counting earlier incarnations of its use decades prior, has had a pretty good run for the past ten years or so, outlasting most other business crazes. In fact, five years ago, it seemed to me that it was starting to run its course and I even penned a blog post titled, “Has the Future of Work Jumped the Shark?” (ironically, using another catchphrase to describe the situation).
If the FoW craze was starting to burn out at that time, the pandemic came along breathing new life into it and raising awareness to a whole new level. Many important issues about the way we work are now front and center within many organizations. These are important conversations that shouldn’t have required a pandemic to bring to the forefront, but nevertheless, I am optimistic about the current tone and direction. Although, when I see signs like the one to the right, I’m quickly reminded of how easy it is to co-opt ideas that begin with good intentions in the name of making a buck. (Paper notebooks are tools for the Future of Work? 🤦 )
With so many topics under the FoW umbrella, it’s no wonder it’s so hard to define and get one’s head around the whole picture, let alone for a company to address everything it encompasses. However, the FoW can easily be summed up by one word: Change!
Isn’t change what the FoW is really about? It’s an evolving set of profound changes in the way we work individually and in the way companies operate and organize, set against a backdrop of global mega-trends that impact the environment where all of this takes place. Too much change, happening too fast for most companies to adapt.
Instead of organizations trying to handle everything the FoW throws at them, they should learn how to handle change better. This doesn’t mean hiring a few Organizational Change Managers and applying one of the many methodologies out there to corporate initiatives, nor does it mean setting up a Change Management Center of Excellence and abrogating the responsibility for change by leaving it all to this unit. What I’m referring to is embedding change readiness as part of the culture. Change should not be something that’s feared or avoided, but something that is viewed as an opportunity and a necessary part of organizational and personal growth.
Change readiness takes the form of resiliency, flexibility, and adaptability — all traits that are needed for the FoW. It’s what I like to call being “Future-Fit.” By building these traits and incorporating change-ready behaviors and thinking from strategic to operational level activities and from leaders to the general workforce, your organization will be equipped to take on whatever changes the FoW brings. This is how you prepare for the Future of Work. Your approach to organizational change is your FoW strategy.
For more on this, including how implementing a Hybrid Working initiative (i.e., getting hybrid right) can spur your FoW strategy, download our Point of View document by clicking on the image below.