What you need to know about the future of work

The Future of Work Community recently held a Future of Work Forum to help individuals recognize how the workplace is changing, what they can do to embrace these shifts and how they can evolve to stay relevant in the coming years.

The forum came up with a number of different things business owners need to keep in mind regarding the future of work:

1. People analytics will gain in prominence. Although it is a relatively untapped practice at the moment, the use of wearable technology is becoming more popular and will help to advance this - as will the gathering of employee-related big data and new inventions, like smart employee badges; as more insights become available, more organizations will adopt people analytics.

2. HR and IT will combine forces. In fact, both these departments are already starting to build stronger relationships than in the past as each realizes they cannot function properly without the other. Businesses need to understand that encouraging the two to work together will equate to better business outcomes in the future.

3. Employee/employer relations will never be the same again. The use of freelancers and the ability of employees to take on numerous roles within an organisation mean the relationship between the two will be drastically different - it has already evolved significantly within the last five-to-ten years.

4. Experience should be given priority. Business leaders need to ensure they create a working environment employees want to spend time in; they cannot assume that people need to show up at the office, for example - they need to actively make it the place to be.

5. A business needs to emulate a laboratory, not a factory. Organisations need to be experimental and test new ideas to further the business and maximize the experience of employees.

Unleashing Human Potential and the Future of Work

Following from the recent 'Creating New Ways to Work' conference in New York, HR professional Lenny Sanicola recently offered his thoughts on the event and what key messages company leaders should take away from it.

Writing for the Huffington Post, Sanicola explains that the event, hosted by Virgin Pulse, included a range of discussions and presentations on how the workplace is evolving and how organizations should adapt their processes to meet these changes.

From workplace culture - which was noted to have a a profound impact on employee engagement and, as a result, overall business outcomes - to human behavior and alternatives to managing tasks, below are some of the most important takeaways. In the face of increasing technologies and automation, companies need to put the human element back into the workplace. They must create meaningful work within a human environment, promoting respect, purpose and equality - all of which start with strong leadership. Employers must focus on holistic wellbeing strategies, taking into account staff's physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial needs. This will enable them to be more efficient at their jobs, and more engaged. Bosses should encourage growth and help individual team members to progress their skills and abilities. They should provide the necessary tools to make this possible, and offer incentives for success along the way. Alongside growth, allowing workers to have a genuine work/life balance will be crucial to both the attraction and retainment of talent. Organizations will have to be ready to adapt as workplace processes continue to change and technology plays an even greater role in everyday working life. They must think beyond traditional hierarchies and management models, finding ways for employees to manage themselves. Finally, Richard Branson brought home the message that employees are the secret to any business's success, and should be treated that way. Appearing in a video call, he told delegates: "If you can put your staff first, your customers second, and your shareholders third, effectively in the end the shareholders will do well, the customers do better, and your staff will be happy."

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What the on-demand workforce of the future may look like

We know that the nature of work is changing, as are the skills required by professionals across a range of sectors; but what will the future workforce actually look like?

The Biz Journal website recently looked in more detail at what we can expect from the future workforce. The article points to findings from a number of studies which predict that in just five years' time, some 40% of the workforce will be made up either freelancers or independent contractors.

This means that teams will be made up of more workers who work in so-called 'gig-based' roles, with their tasks and responsibilities varying according to what projects need doing at that time.

This trend for more flexible working has largely been driven by wide-scale mobile adoption, allowing workers to access nearly any corporate information and communication from their smartphones.

As David Hale, CEO of Gigwalk - a business app for managing distributed workforces - explains, "Smartphone adoption in America is about 70% - and as that increases, you're going to start seeing more work performed using mobile devices. This is going to happen very quickly over the next five to eight years."

What's more, as increasing numbers of people conduct more of their roles from remote locations and mobile devices, they will expect their employers to keep up with the trend, evolving their business operations and processes to enable an on-demand workforce to work not only more flexibly, but more effectively, too.

With services such as Uber and Instacart becoming recognised across the globe, some may think that gig-based employment is only for those who work in low-skilled or labor-based roles.

However, a Gigwalk survey found that 71% of its users were qualified to graduate or college level.

One reason why it tends to be highly educated people working in these roles, says Hale, is that these individuals tend to be more comfortable using technology. But, "as this gets more ubiquitous and it moves down the curve, the education levels are going to even out a bit."