Three Scenarios for the Future of Work

A lot has been said about the future of work, but no one knows for sure what things will really look like. The best companies have constantly evolving strategies that incorporate talent management, human resources, and analytics. To start a conversation about the future of work, consulting giant PwC, led by technology sector people and organization leader, Toni Cusumano, created three different scenarios for the future of work, which they broke down into worlds. These visions aren’t to say that one scenario is better than the other, but rather to encourage organizations to consider what they would do if the workforce looked different and how they would adjust their strategies to stay relevant and successful.

The first world is the orange world, where small is beautiful. This world is run by companies that are broken down into collaborative networks of smaller organizations. Instead of huge conglomerates, the orange world is run by specialized smaller companies that operate on a low impact/high technology model with a goal to maximize flexibility and minimize cost. In the orange world, big businesses and corporations start to decline and are replaced by smaller, flexible organizations that provide workers with autonomy and a variety of ways to work. Instead of employees taking traditional career paths and staying with the same company for years, the orange world is ruled by a large contract workforce. This world is supported by PwC’s research that found that two out of five people believe traditional employment won’t be around in the future. The orange world is also reflective of the growing amount of Millennials in the workplace.

Another possibility is the blue world, where big corporations are king. In this world, organizations continue to get bigger and bigger and dominate the economy with big capitalism displays. Companies are driven by a quest for huge profits and market leadership, which forces them to compete for talent and resources with other giant companies around the world. In order to meet customer demand, these large organizations are constantly innovating and trying new things. Instead of offering employees the opportunity to work on a contract basis, the blue world rewards workers who stay at an organization for a long time with job security. Long-time employees earn flexibility after proving their service.

The last scenario is known as the green world, which is dominated by social responsibility. In this situation, the most successful companies are those that care and that have sustainable programs. Loyalty grows between employees and employers through ethical values and a strong work/life balance. This world is supported by findings that 65% of employees want to work for an organization with a powerful social conscious and by Millennials who tend to be purpose driven and have a sense of social responsibility that they want reflected in their employer.

The point of PwC’s exercise isn’t to predict which world will happen, but to encourage organizations to look at things through multiple lenses instead of maintaining their current worldviews. Companies can operate in different worlds depending on their industry, size, geographic location, and much more, but the companies most prepared for the future of work have plans in place and know how to tailor things no matter what color world they end up in and how things shift.

By keeping these three worlds in mind, your organization can be ready for whatever comes its way from the global economy.

What world is your organization in?

Jacob Morgan is a speaker, author and cofounder of The Future of Work Community. Subscribe to his newsletter or visit TheFutureOrganization.