The Future of Work – Making Business More Human

🕑 6 minutes read | Feb 24 2023 | By Lynn Whitney Turner, TTA Learning Consultant

Rethinking Strategy for Talent, Workplace, and Technology

As we begin to move past the disruption of the Pandemic and the fallout it has caused over the past few years, there is a lot on the minds of leaders.  According to the Fall 2022 Fortune/Deloitte CEO survey, “today’s businesses are constantly revisiting, rethinking, and reshaping many of the key levers that define their organization, such as talent, workplace, and technology models, as well as growth expectations.”

The past few years have tested our limits in every way.  Individuals and organizations have been pushed to look at new ways of doing business and getting work done.  Some have found success.  Others have struggled.  As a result, a re-evaluation of the current situation has been taking place both for individuals and organizations.  Some hard decisions are being made about how to move forward in this ever-evolving landscape.  While some would like to go back to what was, the future is now.

Change has been happening for a long time.  The only difference now is the pace of that change.   With the advancement of technology, the rate of change has sped up exponentially.  We are living in a world of VUCA, an acronym that came out of the military at the end of the Cold War that stands for; Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.

  • Volatility refers to the speed, magnitude, turbulence, and dynamics of change
  • Uncertainty relates to being in unfamiliar territory with unpredictable outcomes
  • Complexity refers to the multiple interdependencies amidst the global interconnectivity, and
  • Ambiguity ties to multiple perspectives and interpretations of various scenarios

While this VUCA world may feel overwhelming, causing stress and panic due to the various challenges we are constantly faced with, the best way to manage VUCA is with VUCA.  But what does that mean?  The flip side to dealing with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity is with Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Agility.  This flip side of VUCA must be built into today’s organizations.  For those that take the time to pause and build their core of VUCA, it can be a time of opportunity.  For those that do not engage through a regular strategic planning process with Clarity and Understanding about the Core of who you are (Mission and Purpose), what you stand for (Values), and where you are going (Vision) along with how you will get there (Strategy), a lot of time, resources, and energy could be wasted, missing out on various opportunities.

According to TAB (The Alternative Board), “operating without a strategic plan is like sitting in the passenger seat of your own business.  You see it accelerate into overdrive and pass one milestone after another.  Eventually, however, you helplessly watch as it swerves aimlessly, or worse, crashes and burns.  Strategic planning puts you behind the steering wheel.  It serves as a roadmap that defines the direction a company must travel, and that helps leaders prepare for potential roadblocks.  Companies and markets without this foundation and foresight are far more likely to get lost, stuck, or wrecked.”

Gaining Employee Insights Around Attraction, Retention, and Engagement

Part of the strategy will require talent and thinking about the future of work.  This starts with Understanding and Clarity around WHO you want to attract and retain for talent.

  • What skills are needed now and in the future?
  • Is there a cultural fit?

In today’s VUCA world, the talent required for, not only today but into the future will need to possess the following human characteristics:

  • Integrity – acting with honesty, fairness, and authenticity even when no one is looking and keeping commitments to others
  • Curiosity – a desire to know, learn and explore something outside our knowledge base
  • Empathy – being aware of/sensitive to other people’s emotions and an attempt to understand how they feel
  • Compassion – an emotional response to empathy or sympathy that creates a desire to help
  • Creativity – the ability to transcend traditional ways of thinking or acting to develop new and original ideas, methods, or objects
  • Collaboration – the action and commitment to the possibility of producing an outcome greater than one that would be developed in a silo
  • Constant Learning – the voluntary and self-motivated pursuit of learning new skills and knowledge on an on-going basis

Gone are the days when we learned a skill, performed it in our job, and then retired.  Because change is happening faster than ever, constant learning needs to be woven into our organizational culture to remain relevant.  Our future demands engaged and empowered people aligned to constantly learning new skills and knowledge.  Collaboration will be paramount to the future of work and this does not solely mean collaboration between humans.  Equally important will be the collaboration between humans and technology.  Like it or not, technology is here to stay and will be used to augment HOW work gets done.  Younger generations that have grown up with technology will expect nothing less.  WHERE and WHEN work gets done also needs to be thought out.  Flexibility and Agility are also required for the future of work.  Leaders need to be attuned to these various aspects to remain relevant and create organizational cultures that support these aspects to attract and retain top talent.

According to Qualtrics recent Employee Experience trends, 2023 is the year employees restructure their relationship with work.  Based off the past few years operating in surge capacity and experiencing job creep along with the current stresses related to labor shortages, supply chain issues, global crises, and economic instability, the top trends reflect very human needs to create a better experience.

  • Trend 1 – Values Alignment: Talent wants to be aligned with organizations that live their values.  It is not enough to have a plaque on the wall with attractive wording; talent wants to see the actions behind those words.
  • Trend 2 – Security and Certainty: These are top of mind for employees, especially amidst the current turmoil in the world with global crises and economic uncertainty.  In addition, for those that went over and above during the pandemic, the pay hasn’t matched the perception of their value.  1 in 3 employees feels their pay and benefits do not meet their needs or are indifferent.
  • Trend 3 – Burnout: For more than a third of employees, the potential risk of burnout is a harsh reality.  Almost half of the C-suite surveyed reported burnout symptoms.  Many have been busy responding to day-to-day challenges and thus not able to focus on other matters.
  • Trend 4 – Healthy Boundaries: Having operated in surge capacity over the last few years, employees are either dropping out or pushing back as this kind of effort is not sustainable.  When employees have a healthy work-life balance, 72 percent are willing to go above and beyond for their employers.
  • Trend 5 – Growth and Development: This is a fundamental employee need.  When financial incentives are not available, career and growth opportunities are a driving force behind Intent to Stay.

Forrester’s 2023 Predictions Report is advising leaders to “steer a steady course and avoid reactive moves in response to the headline of the moment.  While many HR policies and procedures are seemingly borrowed and adapted from decades of best practices, that well of knowledge could be a bit less valuable today and into the future.”  Moving forward, tap into your current talent by gauging employee sentiment.  Various tools, such as AgileBrain℠,  are available to help you take a temperature of your organizational culture.  By doing so, leaders will gain valuable insights to help their existing talent operate at their best.

Despite all the shifts taking place, the one thing that leaders must remember lies at the Core of every business and that is you are dealing with Humans and their basic foundational needs.  At the heart of the Future of Work, for Leaders to remain competitive will require a good understanding of the needs of your existing workforce, develop organizational Emotional Intelligence, and Making Business More Human.


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