The Future Of Work: The Big Changes Boards Need To Make Now To Be Ready

Darya Maksimenka
Mar 1, 2018 · 5 min read

By Alberto Loyola

We are experimenting an interesting time in world economic history and it centers around the future of work. The world is changing, and there’s no way around this global transformation.

According to the World Economic Forum, this fourth industrial revolution, is about empowering people, not the rise of the machines: “we stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. One thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society”. In this context, boards and investors need to be aware that this new global digital environment will improve people’s quality of life, redefine customer value creation, change how organizations operate, and transform job architecture, and skills.

For boards, this means that there is an opportunity to reimagine and redeploy talent in ways that create value for shareholders (beyond cutting costs), producing long-term gains in efficiency and productivity, but at the same time introducing a different concept of how to leverage customer experience, product innovation and collaboration, and assess AI to support sustainable growth.

The bottom line is boards, investors, CEOs, and business leaders need be aware of the impact of the future of work in order to challenge the way organizations design work, assess skills, and reset culture, while desiging the talent agenda to execute corporate strategy.

In this context, these are four aspects of the future of work that your board needs to have in its agenda:

1.People and Machines

In the age of AI, business growth will increasingly depend on people and machines working together. AI will leverage people’s capabilities as employees to help machines to learn and deliver cognitive work. This will not only drive collaboration, bringing synergies and efficiencies in the value chain but create new forms of sustainable growth. To succeed, organizations must design, source, and manage AI technology, workforce, and workplace to incorporate a strong understanding of which skills are critical to deliver business performance. This new automation age will require a range of human skills in the workplace, from technological expertiseto essential social and emotional capabilities. Hence, reskilling people to do more high-value work while refraining careers and designing new ways of working and learning will leverage people capabilities to work in a business environment where more work becomes automated. Lastly, C-Suite will need to rethink the right combination of talent, technology and the workplace to drive innovative products, services, and build costumer relationships.

2.Employees are becoming customers

According to EY, “Millennials have higher expectations for company culture, development, compensation and flexibility. 74% of millennials want support for their being able to work flexibly”. Furthermore, The World Economy Forummentioned in a recent publication, “4 predictions of the future of work”, that “today, more than 57 million workers — about 36% of the US workforce — freelances. Based on current workforce growth rates found in Freelancing in America: 2017, the majority of the US workforce will freelance by 2027”. This means that designing employee experience is a corporate priority to remain competitive in the marketplace. To explain this concept to your board, I will use a definition used by Forbes: “employee experience is sum of everything an employee experiences throughout his or her connection to the organization — every employee interaction, from the first contact as a potential recruit to the last interaction after the end of employment”. Hence, employee experience needs to bring the human aspect to the workplace, where organizations provide a physical environment to leverage team collaboration, a culture that engages and rewards and technology that provides tools that will make employee’s work easy to execute strategy. Lastly, inspired employees create inspired customers, who created inspired business results, and inspired employees are created by exceptional leaders, the foundation of the employee experience.

3.Artificial Intelligence to transform business

AI is transforming industries and markets around the world. Sensors systems, image recognition, and navigation algorithms are creating driverless cars and autonomous systems. Algorithm techniques, computing power and the availability of data are letting machines to learn by themselves to provide better predictions, discover new solutions and insights and leverage productivity. Retailers on the digital frontier rely on AI-powered robots to run their warehouses. According to Mckinsey, “by 2030, something like 16 percent of occupations would have been automated — and there would be impact and dislocation as a result of these technologies. It could go all the way up to about 30 percent. It depends on the rates of adoption, the nature of the country, the wage dynamics in that country, and the wage dynamics in the sectors in that country”. The message for boards is clear: AI will bring performance improvements, but the question is what does this mean for talent, jobs and work structures?

Business leaders need to partner with HR to develop organization and work design capabilities to find the human “value add” that would leverage customer experience, innovation and technology.

4.Disruption to jobs and skills

A digital workforce requires the reskilling and redeployment of labor. People need to develop new skills related to creativity, decision-making, persuasion, emotional intelligence, and innovation. These skills will become more valuable since machines amplify human abilities as they help people process, analyze, and evaluate the abundance of data to provide better predictions and develop algorithms to make life easier. New occupations will arise due to this digital disruption, making it critical to develop new skillsets that can adapt to this change and be pivotal for organizations. According to PWC, “It’s clear that automation will result in a massive reclassification and rebalancing of work. Some sectors and roles, even entire sections of the workforce will lose out but others will be created”. Adaptability will become an important factor for people, and organizations and governments have the responsibility to re-train people and create policies that govern the impact of technology and automation on jobs.

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