The ‘Future of Work’ is a phrase we can’t escape. For more than five years it’s been a topic of intense focus and speculation from CEOs to the frontline.
While much of the discussion has focused on disruptive economic and technological forces, such as diversified international trade, AI and automation, that will change the way we work, few have been talking about how the people are changing.
A physical workplace manned by a predominantly permanent, full-time workforce, that delivered consistent revenue and predictable profit margins has been the traditional business model for most organisations. While it may have worked for so many for so long, it won’t anymore.
Leaders must address the fact that the face of today’s workforce looks significantly different to a decade ago, with up to five generations of employees all now working under the same roof.
While all employees are unique in their ability and skill set, there are a few characteristics that unite many of today’s workers.
Let’s take freedom and balance for example. For most, money is no longer the be-all and end-all; many of today’s workers care more about flexibility and work-life balance.
While the perception of what equals flexibility differs from person-to-person, the majority of employees know that their jobs could be done from anywhere; all that’s needed is a good internet.
Equally important is control and motivation. Today’s workers want to be the masters of their own destiny. There is an emerging proportion of the workforce emerging who are curious and ambitious individuals, driven to build a successful career for themselves. These workers want to do better, be better, achieve higher and make an impact on the world around them.
It’s clear that the workforce is evolving; the desires and attitudes of Australian employees are changing. The roles of today’s workers are multi-faceted and evolving constantly over time.
While workers crave both control and balance in their careers, some leaders have been less than enthusiastic to embrace this new way of working; partly because many are still married to the concept that work is a place, not an activity.
Leaders can no longer view their employee’s participation in the workforce with a ‘status quo’ attitude but must learn to embrace new career structures.
This idea is not to be balked at, nor is it to be feared. Doing nothing could do more harm than good, and maintaining a business-as-usual perspective is no longer enough for a workforce that is demanding change.
Businesses that have already embraced change to create sustainable, agile workforces are attracting high-quality talent, unlocking hidden potential, fuelling innovation and, most importantly, driving productivity and business growth.
Originally published in The Australian.
Stephanie Christopher is CEO at The Executive Connection, the world’s #1 CEO network with over 22,000 members in 16 countries.