The nature of how we work and develop talent is forever changed at the hands of the internet, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics – and it’s only the beginning. What does this mean for the corporation forced to evolve with the times? According to the experts, the vision of the future of work will look very different.
- Horse of a Different Generation: In the very near future, Millennials will make up almost half of the workforce. Not far behind them is Gen Z, the folks who have never used floppy disks or developed film at Walgreens. Tammy Erickson, organizational behavior expert and adjunct professor at the London Business School, warns leaders to prepare their companies for the four – yes, FOUR – generations that they will be managing, all with different capabilities, values, desires and needs.
- Training Day: Onboarding new employees will see an increase in efficiency and productivity due to the expansion of competency-based education (CBE). This technology-fueled learning model currently employed in progressive K-12 and higher education institutions is slowly starting to catch up to corporate America. Michelle Weise, executive director of Southern New Hampshire University’s Sandbox Collaborative, wrote about the differences in training assembly line engineers at the Detroit “Big Three” companies versus Toyota in her book “Hire Education: Mastery, Modularity and the Workforce Revolution” (2014), co-authored with Clayton Christensen. Long story short, Toyota’s use of CBE resulted in more efficiency and fewer mistakes on the production line. Today and beyond, mastery and assessment will be the markers of success.
- Cultural Revolution: According to Andrew Keen, author of “The Internet is Not the Answer” (2015), as we shift from an industrial society to a digital one, our cultural behaviors are changing. We talk less and text more. Cell phones are as much a table fixture as forks and knives. The issue with these new behaviors is that our most primal survival tactic, human-to-human conversation, is severely compromised. MIT’s Professor Sherry Turkle, social psychologist and author of the bestseller “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” (2015), shows corporations how our regression from conversation – sending an email instead of picking up the phone – is damaging to our need to build robust, trusting relationships. Leaders of the future (starting now) must address the importance of the art of conversation at all levels in their organizations.
- The Sharing Economy: Startups like Uber and Airbnb add a whole new element to the future of work. Companies in this new system provide freedom from being bound to one employer or office, while allowing people to profit from their underutilized assets – everything from homes to power drills. How should incumbent organizations react to these newbies? In his recently published book, “The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism” (2016), Professor Arun Sundararajan of New York University explains that the sharing economy has blurred the lines between personal and professional activities, allowing consumers to capitalize on behaviors that used to be favors: giving rides, lending money or helping hang pictures. Established companies don’t have to completely abandon their core business model. But in a time when the theme of “access over ownership” prevails for the billions of people who use these services, they must consider the possibility – and value – of jumping on the “gig economy” train.
- New Tech City: The most fascinating territories in the digital revolution are the advances in virtual reality (VR), AI and robotics. Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford University Virtual Human Interaction Lab, says his VR technology can help build empathy, a necessary quality required for diversity training in the workplace (just ask the NFL). Professor Guy Hoffman of Cornell University, one of the world’s leading robotics experts, is working toward integrating robots into our everyday lives, at home and at work. And Kate Darling of the MIT Media Lab helps define the ethics associated with robots. Will they have rights? Very shortly, your office mate might just be a ‘bot named Velma.
We are not in for a Jetson-esque lifestyle any time soon according to Bryant Walker Smith, engineer and self-driving vehicle expert. But what we must prepare for is a different type of work atmosphere. People, roles and technology are changing – quickly. Is your organization ready?