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02 January 2020

HR leaders take note: social developments, digital business, consumer behaviours, emerging technologies and more will change how people work by the end of this new decade.

Current trends in business and technology show that the way employees work - where, when, why and with whom - will change completely over the next decade and bear little resemblance to work as it stands today.

CHROs need to be prepared, so we wanted to outline three of our ideas about the future direction of the workplace and how companies can prepare for it.

"We Working" will eliminate middle management

Currently, teams are comprised of a group of people pulled together by reporting structure or in an ad hoc fashion. Teamwork is therefore considered more of a behavioural necessity - to foster team spirit and collaboration - than a legitimate organisational principle.

However, in 2030, the complexity and scale of business objectives will demand the involvement of brain power and expertise across boundaries in more intricate ways.

Companies will therefore gravitate toward a new work philosophy we call "We Working". This philosophy involves designing small and flexible teams in response to fluctuating workloads, thereby shrinking timeframes, and creating intense flurries of information exchange and coordination. "We Working" will encourage businesses to create small, autonomous and high-performing teams that form, converge, act and dismantle as assignments change, fuelled by autonomy and trust among teammates. "We Working" reduces the need for nominated people managers to assemble teams and monitor performance.

Effective change leadership requires leaders to work with HR to invest in algorithms that identify worker skills and competencies, as well as modify worker profile tools to display portfolios of specialism rather than job titles. Leaders will also need to consider human capital management technologies to keep pace with talent demands and realities.

Continued upskilling and digital dexterity will outweigh tenure and experience

By 2030, the most high-value work will be cognitive in nature. Employees will have to apply creativity, critical thinking and constant digital upskilling to solve complex problems. The demand for digital skills has grown by 60% over the past several years. In today's digital economy, the demand for new ideas, new information and new business models that continually expand, combine and shift into new ventures and new businesses will increase. Employees must consistently update their digital dexterity to meet these needs.

For HR leaders, this means a growing proportion of jobs will require in role education. HR will have to establish and promote a continuous learning environment, knowledge acquisition and transparency across the company must become a part of the day-to-day operations. By experimenting with learning programmes, employees will have the opportunity to continually learn and upskill as the market dictates.

Extreme work changes will blur boundaries, businesses and buddies

Digital business, built on vast networks and ecosystems, will increase the distribution of work across communities of people and across businesses globally.

By 2030, employees will use avatars, language software, conversational interfaces and real-time dialect translation to work and speak with colleagues and clients across languages, borders and cultures, with almost no context or meaning.

In this kind of system - where people may not know one another - everyone will be rating each other on trust, competence and ethical behaviour, much as people rate buyers and sellers on purchasing platforms.

As the business landscape changes, successful leaders will use technology and information to build a hybrid workplace - physical and digital - that embraces the work styles of all their employees, not just those who are permanently employed or have strong digital skills. Leaders must consider the impact on the organisational values and culture while managing the influx of new and transitioning talent. They will need to be clear about critical roles, which need longer-term continuity and organisational knowledge, and distinguish them from other roles that may be filled by temporary employees.

So, as we're heading into this new decade, it is evidently time to think about how we can embrace whatever direction the future of work is heading, and planning on how we can all prepare for it. No one has all of the answers today but by enabling your current and future workforce to develop themselves and their skills, your organisation will be much better prepared for whatever the future brings.


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