To an extent, we're already living in the future of work. The pandemic has redefined the workplace and workforce for most industry leaders and C-suite execs. Today, workplace planning is separated into two distinct categories: pre-pandemic and post-pandemic.
The reason? Lessons learned during the pandemic have helped companies become more resilient and better prepared for future disruption. Despite this, there are still some things that will change. This guide should help you prepare for these.
Many C-suite executives, small business owners, and operation managers are stressed about what the future – 5, 10, and 15 years from now – will look like for their business. Most are not as concerned about viability as they are about relevancy. A business may still have utility ten years from now, but it could become redundant if it fails to maintain pace.
For most businesses, consumer spending and workforce availability will dictate the future of work. We're seeing cues for these shifts pop up in the form of the great resignation and consumers' desire for convenience in everything from same-day delivery to self-driving cars.
In essence, the future of work will require companies to be better for employees while being more convenient for the customer. Your business will have to become lucrative for employees' mental and financial well-being to attract top-tier talent and provide efficient service to create loyal customers.
The only way to do this will be to have workplace planning that embraces flexibility for employees and streamlines systems to deliver a superior customer experience.
Given that the future of work has begun – accelerated by the pandemic – we can ascertain, with great certainty, that many of the fundamental changes to work will be triggered by the workforce. Mckinsey predicts that gig workers will overtake traditional part-time and full-time employees, estimating that by 2027, 60 percent of the workforce will comprise freelance professionals.
Beyond the gig economy, the elements shaping the future of work will be artificial intelligence, automation, and globalization. The workforce will be more productive and located in every corner of the planet.
So, you've already established that understanding the future of work will be imperative to workplace planning and future-proofing your business, irrespective of its size; what next?
Next, you'll need to answer how the work is done, who will do the work, and when and where the work will be done -- in the future.
The rapid pace of adoption of new – disruptive – technologies means you will have less time to deliberate before you implement them. That's why it helps to have a step-by-step process that outlines what you need to do to prepare your business for the future of work.
Before you can begin developing operating models and future-proofing your growth strategies, identify the shortcomings within your business. It's these shortcomings that will leverage modernizing strategies.
A small retail business struggling to attract younger consumers, for example, could benefit from accepting several forms of payment, like Google Pay or Apple Pay, at their store. This idea, while simple, could instantly help a business reach new consumers and only takes a few minor upgrades to current systems to embrace.
That's because the future of work isn't elaborate. On the contrary, since automation and artificial intelligence are fundamental to directing the future, simplicity is the name of the game.
Therefore, understanding where your business will benefit most from embracing new technology is critical, as it allows you to create simple solutions. Knowing your deficiencies also ensures your business isn't succumbing to the latest craze in vain.
When you're ascertaining which shortcomings to address first, answer the following questions:
Does this process deviate from expectations?
What's the cause of the problem?
Why do we care about addressing this issue?
Not every problem is a future of work problem; rather, it's the ones that will help your business build resilience and spark growth in an ever-changing economic and digital climate.
Now, turn your attention to finding the tech and future work trends to solve current and potential issues.
Here, the key will be to adopt digital innovation proven to work. The SaaS tools you use, the automation you embrace, or the tech trends you utilize must be established.
Remember, the future of work won't be lucrative unless you use functioning systems. While it's great to be a pioneer or early adopter, workplace planning is not the time to embrace novel ideas.
Rather, you should embrace the SaaS tools that will solve your workplace problems, most of which will already be on the market to some extent.
C-suite execs and senior managers frequently cause their companies significant losses because they're pursuing speculative tech, the kind of tech that may have potential but is nothing more than hype.
Rather than pursue hype, pursue utility. Any tech you adopt should SOLVE a specific problem within your company. If you cannot articulate what tech is solving, it should not be adopted as part of your workplace planning.
As you begin to implement new SaaS tools and systems, it's vital that your workforce understands these and can operate them confidently.
Therefore, create a training schedule alongside your tech implementation timeline. Ideally, your core workforce should be trained on new systems before you launch them company-wide.
When creating these schedules, discuss the training requirements with a sales executive who can help you allocate enough time for a seamless adoption.
Intuitive tech like communication software and apps won't require as much training as core operation systems, data analysis software, and CRMs.
Furthermore, as the future of work will likely mean going global for many businesses, consider training on soft skills.
An integrated and international workplace will benefit from change management, cultural sensitivity training, and so on, especially if it is given to senior-level management.
To prepare for the future of your work, you should also ready your business for the future of recruitment. Millennials have long been regarded as the change agents of the modern workforce, while they are changing how companies operate, the most disruptive generation yet will be Gen Z – adults born after 1996.
These young adults, while vital to the future of your workforce, have grown up entirely in a digital age and therefore prioritize flexibility within the workplace.
This age group – that will make up 30 percent of the world's population by 2030 – is more creative, tech-savvy, and productive than the generation before them, but they're also more interested in personalization and flexibility than their predecessors.
Big paychecks and so-called "benefits" only go so far among a generation that prefers freedom. Therefore, when you're workplace planning for the future, consider how your company will attract this employee. Focus on answering the question: how will we win the war on talent in an era when critical skills will be far more sought-after and just as rare?
Although these steps help you future-proof your business to some degree, to truly be prepared for the future requires you to prepare your business for unexpected disruptions. COVID-19 was an excellent learning experience for most businesses, requiring companies to adapt to challenges at lightning speed. But, it also revealed that -- to be resilient --businesses need alternative processes established, an emergency protocol if you will.
Ideally, this protocol should address vital components within your business, preparing you for the Workforce.
In the future, it may not be a pandemic that disrupts your business. Instead – and far more likely – it could be an internet outage, violent protesting, rioting, a supply chain disruption, or a recession.
Preparing for these events by creating systems and alternatives means that when these challenges inevitably occur, your business is ready.
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