Four Big Shifts in Work

We see four big shifts happening that will drive the future of work; decentralization, continuous learning, personal experiences, and increased pace of change.
February 17, 2022 · 3 min read

Hierarchy gives way to autonomous teams

The nature of work is changing from a mechanical, process-driven model to a flexible, team-based model. If the former was defined by a top-down command-and-control model of leadership, the emerging one will be defined by small autonomous teams moving from project to project, while optimizing for speed, trust and innovation.

Moving towards a project and team-based framework means organizations can get more creative with how they assemble talent. Flexible work arrangements and contract workers are now all potential pieces to the puzzle, as long as they can contribute to the successful outcome of a project.

The work we do is becoming much more about.. the work. It will matter less and less when and where it gets done, and more and more how it gets done. This will impact how we measure performance and talent, and result in a greater emphasis on soft skills that enhance the well-being of teams: empathy, trust, creativity.

This seems to be an evolutionary response to our modern world's velocity of change, particularly in regards to technology. To survive and thrive, organizations will need to counter uncertainty with flexible autonomous units that can iterate and identify creative solutions to nuanced problems.

The Pursuit of New Skills & Continuous Learning

Given the rapid pace of change, there will be a constant need to develop new skills. As technology continues its advance, digital skills are increasingly core components of quality jobs. We're seeing what happens when there is not enough emphasis put on upskilling; just look at the skills gap in high-tech fields.

Over the long term, continual upskilling will be a core feature of 21st Century Talent. This is an innate idea for modern talent, and the organizations that foster robust learning environments will have an opportunity to create more loyal and resilient contributors. They will also have more available talent to fill in gaps when employees leave.

Further, by creating affordable avenues for learning in-demand and emerging skills, companies can create a more inclusive workforce across the technology industry. Modern talent values growing their skills and capabilities, and will stay longer at organizations that take a more dynamic and agile approach to developing and assessing talent.

Flexibility, Freedom & Purposeful Experiences

The pandemic forced organizational leaders to grapple with a concept that was largely foreign to them, but obvious to modern talent for quite some time; in our tech-enabled world, physical location and traditional working hours don't matter. What matters most is the work.

In addition to evolving expectations about where and when work is done, modern talent is also looking for more meaningful and purposeful experiences. Essentially they are looking for work-life integration, and they are willing to experiment and create new types of career structures in order to find it.

Modern talent cares about things like organizational values, continuous learning, diversity and inclusion, and will vote with their feet if they don't feel like their ideas are supported.

For modern talent, 21st Century work will not be defined by climbing the ladder, but rather by stitching together projects that present meaningful challenges and opportunities for growth.

Increased Pace of Technological Change

There's a common saying that every company is now a tech company. This will continue to ring true as we leverage technology to augment nearly every facet of our lives.

The emergence of the metaverse will likely change how we work in fundamental ways, and the speed of technological development will require us to learn and adapt in step. As we increase our reliance on technology, it will be critical for teams and organizations to promote empathy, creativity, and collaboration.

Autonomous teams that build trust, move fast, and put a premium on innovative thinking, will be in the best position to succeed.

We live and work in a constantly accelerating state of rapid change. This can be overwhelming at times, but I believe it also presents an opportunity to organize our work in ways that are more creative and meaningful.

If we do it right, the work we do in the 21st Century could be the most productive, inclusive and purposeful in history.