This is a question I found myself asking – Where can I, where do I today, and where do I want to fit in with the work related to the future of work? That led me to a deeper, underlying question: What exactly is the work related to the future of the work?
In trying to make sense of the answer, I started to map all the places I have seen emerge as reasons for dialogue and where people are most participating in the conversation. Here’s the map I arrived at:
While I’m sure there are gaps, here’s a breakdown of each area. As you review, do these areas resonate with you? Do you see where your work fits? What’s missing?
Big Focus #1: To Make Business Thrive and Grow Profit
Ahh, of course, the constant business imperative: to grow business. Whether working in a business that’s been around for a century or a fast-paced start up, the big question is “How are we going to survive and thrive in this fast changing, disruptive world?” For some, it’s wondering how to evolve products and services for a digital age; for disruptors, it’s continuing to be seen as leaders on the edge. What is the work and capabilities related to the future of work in this arena? Here’s two big ones I find as primary movers:
- Bringing in New Technologies Seamlessly – This involves a highly concerted effort between engineers, developers, designers, and change managers. The dialogue is around AI, VR, automation, augmentation, the cloud, and more.
- Innovation in Face of Disruption – Whether silo-ed as a “futures lab” or the purview of the leadership team, capabilities like learning culture, strategic foresight, inclusion (which I believe is linked to innovation) and futuristic thought leadership are vital to develop.
While a large part of the workforce is dedicated to maintaining operations of the business, each organization needs to evaluate what part of current operations will play a role in the future of their work. Are the processes going to change? Is what is being done altogether going to change? What part will people play? What part will technology play?
Big Focus #2: Helping Organizations Leverage and Leave Room For People in the Workplace
Long title. I see a body of people working hard to understand what the value of talent is in the future and how to unleash potential. Many of these people have a home in Human Resources or Organization Development. Many are leaders who care about the legacy they are leaving behind. I see myself in here somewhere – having done some work in it already as well as dreaming of other possibilities. This includes work in the following areas:
- Organization Design – How will we shift our organization structure with new job arrangements a la the gig economy? What is our accountability to these freelancers and contractors in terms of their well-being and benefits? (Maybe the second is a question I personally wish was being asked more!)
- Talent Management and Development – How are we making sure our existing talent will be capable not just to operate today, but for the new jobs of tomorrow? Is it morally, ethically, and practically viable to rely on new workforce with the talents already? Or should we be investing in upskilling existing workforce, how much, and when?
- Future of jobs – What are the jobs of the future? This includes conversations around work crafting and job design.
- Outplacement – What will we do differently than what we have done historically as innovations leave talent and potentially – communities – behind?
Big Focus #3: Helping People Capture Their Own Humanity
I see a flood of articles, self-help, and leadership resources growing on helping us make better choices around our relationship with technology. Most notably in my feed is Ariana Huffington’s platform Thrive as well as many educators and young generation influencers warning about the harms of life in a digital technology world. This is a realm I’ve been working on significantly — specifically exploring our subconscious digital habits that lead to burnout, lack of productivity and lack of general happiness. In this area, I see influencers, coaches, therapists, psychologists as those with key capabilities and emerging work.
This area of work has impact not just on individuals, but dysfunctions that can translate to the team level and the broader organization level. For example, are people expected to reply back to an email within the moment of receiving it? What organizational pressures are being exuded on individuals and shaping the culture? What choices could people make differently and consciously to reshape their own productivity and engagement? These are just a few key questions I’m sitting with.
Big Focus #4: New Organizations That Tackle Complex Trans-Org Challenges
Lastly in the future of work, I see a continuous conversation around the massive challenges that face humanity: environmental, overpopulation, resource scarcity, global economics, geopolitical power, sustainability. In the future, the need for organizations to shift their focus from internal benefit to partnering with one another is growing. Leaders in this space include those that serve as backbone governance organizations such as:
- Community organizers
- Non profits
So Where do I …and You… Fit in the Future?
I wanted to share this exercise to help provide some clarity into the complexity of this body of conversation we call “the future of work”. I believe that maps help us see the playing field and should be living pictures that widen and narrow, erase and emerge, as time goes on.
What are your thoughts on this map? Did you find it helpful and if so, in what ways? I’m so curious, where do you see yourself fitting? What kind of work are you doing in this area?
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I am a two-time TEDx speaker, author, and organizational development consultant. I focus on helping leaders question the assumptions of the Industrial age and re-imagine their workplace culture for today’s Digital age. Whether it’s a particular challenge in learning, inclusion, productivity, engagement, retention, or otherwise, I am leading dialogue that makes us think about what’s really going on here, what do we want to see, and how will we make that happen. — Crystal Kadakia