Listen to: The Working World of 2030 – A Better Place by Stuart Neilson
By 2030, over 70% of the workforce will be comprised of generation X and millennials. The economic effects of COVID-19 will feel like a distant memory and work itself will be integrated into a broader holistic lifestyle .The working world will be thriving as human respect and kindness take centre stage.
But what of the journey? What will leaders and businesses need to navigate to make this vision a reality? In the short term the challenge of stabilising the global economy will need to be overcome, employers will need to create a safe environment for employees to return to work and millions of workers worldwide will need to be re-skilled. Office space will need to be repurposed with every organisation needing to find a way to successfully accommodate remote working. Leaders will need to develop new skills to cope with the pace of change, the rapidly changing demands of employees and customers and meeting sustainability targets.
Company structures will be much flatter and encourage rapid communication and decision-making at all levels. What has become known as ‘reverse mentoring’ will be common place, where the most junior employees mentor the most senior employees on matters of technology and generational culture differences.
COVID-19 will accelerate the pace of change in the workplace. It will bring about the enforced adoption of remote and agile working and will consequently reshape how companies communicate and use office space.
HR as a function will be playing an increasing leadership role in every organisation as it becomes the focal point for ensuring employee well-being and providing advanced remote working solutions. It will take the lead in creating and scoping new and relevant roles in the workplace. The following roles and job titles will be common place: Ethical Technology Advisor, Freelance Relationship Officer (Gig Economy Manager), Employee Well-being Manager, Robot Liaison Manager, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Work-From-Home Facilitator.
AI and Robots
AI will continue to develop and increasingly take on administrative tasks previously seen as the domain of humans. This development will create a continuous learning and upskilling requirement for the workforce who will be forever embracing and learning new skills to retain their employment. Companies will offer employees the opportunity to constantly retrain with the support of in-house training and remote learning platforms.
We will have learnt how to live with AI and robots both at work and in our family lives. Digital technology and innovation will advance at such a rapid rate that companies will need to retain incredible flexibility and agility. They will need to be constantly challenging what they do and how they do it to keep pace with the arrival of disruptive solutions. No industry will be exempt from the impact of technological disruption. In top-performing companies, innovation will be a constant behaviour and not a strategy.
Social conscience made compulsory
2030 will be the moment the United Nations measures the success or failure of their 18 Sustainable Development Goals. There will be varying degrees of success by country based on the amount of focus governments have given to the goals and the economic stability they have experienced.
Manufacturing companies will source both globally and locally to mitigate against the risks of supply chain disruptions caused by further pandemics and geo-economic disruptions.
The companies that survive will have embraced the importance of having a social conscience and will be led by compassionate leaders who truly care for the well-being of their employees and the state of our planet. Every company will be measured against KPIs that extend beyond the traditional profit and loss account. It will be a regulated requirement to meet sustainability targets and be annually audited with an Impact Assessment. Standards will be set, and global compliance guided by companies like B Corps, a global movement designed to support businesses who care about all stakeholders and who seek to help create a better economic system and world for everyone.
Generation Z and Millennials: the catalystfor change
The retirement of baby boomers and the transition to a working population dominated by values and beliefs of the Millennials and Gen Z will have a profound effect on many aspects of the working world. These highly tech-savvy generations will have high expectations of employers in terms of environment, access to latest technologies, constant learning, variation, and freedom to create their own work space.
The work pattern for many people will be to work wherever whenever they choose, with the onus on the completion of tasks and projects within a timeline rather than a 9-to-5 office existence. How this is achieved and where resources are located will become less important. This will give rise to a wider global talent pool and global sourcing. The flexible and short-term nature of job roles will mean employees will take ‘time out’ to pursue other life priorities and interests. Candidate selection will be helped by a worker rating system, based on how effectively the worker completed their last assignment.
Companies focused on attracting the best talent will invest heavily in promoting their brand and the services and support they can provide to the employee. They will tailor their employee benefits and support to meet the needs of their employees and make the working experience more rewarding. In-house crèche facilities, well-being support and fitness trainers will be commonplace.
As technology facilitates the ability to work remotely and robots become more common place, there will be a parallel focus on human interaction. Office space and ‘cave’ environments will be used to bring people together, and it will be possible to cut them off from technology ‘interference’ at the touch of a button or voice command. This type of environment will also be used as a high performance collaboration hub.
Leaders will have recognised the strong relationship between culture and performance and the difference that can be made by nurturing respect and kindness in the workplace. These behaviours will become increasingly treated as important KPIs in the operational execution of a business plan.
Successful leaders will have learned how to lead remotely and have a blend of skills with the ability to combine high empathy
with strong results orientation. They will fully embrace diversity and be great listeners with the authenticity to build high levels of trust. They will have an in-built respect for both people and the planet, ensuring their company remains highly agile and willing to constantly reinvent itself. Great leaders will understand the power
of data but also be able to make decisions quickly from simple insights.
A personal investment in self-awareness and a commitment to being the best they can be will be core traits. Long gone will be the dictatorial, command and control leader of the past who lacked empathy and only worked to their own agenda. This type of leader will have been driven to extinction by the new generations in the workplace who have refused to be led by fear and who demand so much more from their working lives and employers.
The good leaders will be in tune with global events and trends and always be ‘looking around the corner’ to predict future trends, threats and opportunities. They will always
be examining external events and factors that could inform their business, while simultaneously prioritising employee well-being. The phrase “best practice and talent does not necessarily sit within our four walls” springs to mind. Every employee needs to understand the purpose of the organisation and the important contribution their role makes, and the good leader will make this a priority. Good leaders will have successfully met the corporate sustainability targets that have accompanied the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and engaged their organisation in a new set of goals.
As business threats and talent emerge from less predictable sources, today’s leader will have to operate with a 360-degree antenna and open mind to every possibility.
In summary the great leader of 2030 will have the ability to ‘connect and inspire people’ of every generation, gender and background. They will have successfully found a way to deal with the mega trends that have affected the work place over the previous ten years including Generational Impact, Digital Acceleration, Climate Change, Globalisation, Humanisation, and Big Data.
For leaders to grow multi-dimensionally as outlined above, they will need to demonstrate they are ‘forever learning’, to invest the necessary time in self-development and to ensure this mindset is deep in the culture of the whole organisation.
We have every reason to look at the future of work with a high degree of optimism. The next ten years will be an era of enlightenment where social and human well-being learns to successfully combine with world of business. The working world will have learned the true meaning of embracing diversity and the power of human potential. It will have learned how to treat everyone with the respect they deserve. A new, more compassionate leader will emerge who cares about all stakeholders and, most importantly, the health and happiness of employees.
The working world of 2030 will make everyone feel valued, give people the opportunity to blend the priorities they have in life and create the platform to explore their dreams. What more could we wish for?
Leadership for a better future:
This is one of a series of 13 practical articles on leadership written by the Future Work Forum (FWF) for the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), an accreditation body for business schools globally with a membership of 30,000 management professionals. Our partners have contributed to a special edition of their Global Focus magazine.
About the Future Work Forum:
The FWF exists to explore the working world of tomorrow. It is a think tank and network of highly skilled experts who share a passion to create a better, more humanised workplace, inspiring a new generation of leaders.