Future Work is Human

future is human
HI

Human Intelligent (HI) Workplace
Helping Leaders Help Themselves

February 6, 2021

I wanted to share some very interesting trends that these books tend to highlight. Trends that have existed or have presented either present day or future state of affairs and have implications for organizations and its leaders. The psyche of work is changing, and all of this was happening before Covid. The pandemic just accelerated the change. 

One of the things that has probably existed for some time but seems to be accelerating is that most employees are craving meaning and purpose in life, but few find such fulfillment at work. The expectations of today’s workforce are changing and yet most organizations have not kept pace with these changing expectations.  

In the book, Making Work Human,  the authors emphasize the importance of the humanity needed in the workplace (what a novel idea:). This book puts front and center the importance of emphasizing humanity in the world of work especially when a full-time employee spends almost half of their waking hours at work. Too many organizations continue to do the same thing and expect different results such as not paying attention to turnover like they should, yet it is estimated to cost employers almost $700 billion in 2020 and this was predicted before the pandemic. 

The authors identify the three pillars of working human as thank, talk, and celebrate. They highlight that “emphasizing culture over money through recognition, appreciation, and a culture of learning” can position an organization to have a competitive edge. That building a culture of belonging, purpose, meaning, and happiness is growing in importance for the changing workforce and workplace. 

In the book, Human Work in the Age of Smart Machines  highlights how the acceleration of technology will only bring to the forefront the importance of the human touch and the skills needed in the future workplace. The author highlights that today and going forward in “human work, technology will complement humans” not replace them. The increasing skillset need going forward are interpersonal skills like communications, collaboration, and critical thinking among others. 

If the past is any indicator the workforce of the future should feel optimistic. When the personal computer hit mainstream, it eliminated over three million jobs but created over 19 million.  All of these changes will be important on how organizations reinvent themselves for the future and ensure their workforce is helping them get there.

The Future is Faster than you Think  reinforces how technological change will accelerate and change the paradigm of work today and into the future and it will be on us sooner vs later. As the subtitle says converging technologies are transforming business, industries, and our lives. Changes that include AI, 3D, virtual reality, robotics, and others will create experiences that we are only beginning to see. These changes will impact a variety of parts of our lives that include transportation, food, entertainment, education, health, finance, advertising and many others. The changes will also lead to a (re)skilling up of the workforce, how we work, where we work, including work that probably does not exist today. While it might seem a little too science fiction, if we reflect on what has occurred since the pandemic, I believe we’ll realize some of these changes are not really too far out there.

2030  brings into a clearer picture where societies, countries, and organizations across the world will be in the next nine years and this decade. This will be upon us sooner than we think, and this can only be highlighted how long ago the year 2000 seems now, when back then the concern was what would happen to computers and the world when the world went from 1999 to 2000. 

The author highlights how the aging world is making “gray the new black”, and how there will be more grandparents than grandchildren, how society has “more cellphones than toilets”, and that women can and will make a difference. He claims that “if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters”, the global financial crisis could have been averted and how women will own more global wealth going forward. This book summarizes how this decade is a transitionary one and the organizations that adapt to these changes will be better positioned for the future.

Humanocracy  tackles the old age issue that most of us face or have faced in organizations, particularly large ones and that not only slow us down from making a difference but also frustrate us and this is bureaucracy. The authors make the case that humans are “not intended to co-exist in a bureaucratic environment” and that the focus should be first the worker, the organization, and then the impact instead of the other way around. 

The authors make the point that “instead of getting humans to serve the organization, this should change to enabling an organization to adapt to eliciting the best that humans can bring to the organization”. They go on to show how numerous organizations are making these changes and making a difference in creating organizations that are as creative and inspired as the workforce they employ.

I end with The Mind of the Leader  because while I have read many books on leadership and have even written one, I found this one to be well written, profound, full of great research, timely, and relevant. The second reason I include this book in here is because any opportunity for an organization and its workforce to adapt, change, and succeed will be driven by its leadership. 

Almost 80% of CEOs believe leadership development is critical for their organization’s success and many have backed this up with over $46 billion investment. Yet still with this importance and investment there is a disconnect. Almost 80% of leaders believe they are engaging their teams, while almost 90% of their workforce disagree. It is estimated that less than 40% of workers are happy at work, something highlighted above as needed. Less than 10% of leaders are found to be effective listeners and communicators and the worst case made is that almost 7 out 10 employees would give up a pay raise to see their boss fired. 

All of this was recently reinforced by a study by Deloitte where senior executives ranked “worker well-being” eighth and workers ranked this category third. Somewhat contradictory and alarming knowing what is coming in the upcoming future and how being happy and engaged is growing in importance. Some of this is blamed on promoting excellent analytical workers who lack social skills. 

All of these changes, challenges, and opportunities can be addressed by ensuring organizations and its leaders are truly engaging their workforce. That they are addressing work in a positive manner, especially since work is the 5th cause of death due to stress. That leaders are truly in touch with what motivates employees which is not necessarily money which turned out to be 8th in a worldwide study. What motivates todays’ and tomorrows’ workforce is autonomy, purpose, and mastery, along with showing appreciation of their workforce. This last one ranked first in a world-wide study of what potential employees were looking for in potential future employer. 

In summary, we know what will be needed going forward for organizations to be viable and successful. We’ve known it all along. The workforce of today and the future is looking to be treated with dignity, respect, engaged, and to work in an environment where the culture is an engaging, humanistic, focused on ensuring that we have a happy workforce (because not only does this create a competitive advantage, it is just a good thing to do). Where the values of the organization are not just words on signs around the organization, but truly modeled and lived. 

These books address the most expensive and invaluable resource that any organization can have and that is its human capital. These authors through their writings try to highlight what the future of work will or can be with a focus on its workforce, enabled through evolving technology. From a collective and integrated perspective, they all try to enlighten us all, that doing the right thing can be beneficial for all, the employees, its customers, its leaders, and in turn the organization, its bottom line, viability, and success (not the other way around).

The end, or really the beginning… 

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