Humanizing the future of work: What moves the dial.

This is the fourth and final installment in a series of four-write ups that takes a closer look at what it means to humanize the future of work. It is co-written by Hala Beisha, a transformation strategist with a focus on the human factor and based in Toronto and Natalija de Jesus, a strategic designer based in Munich.

Image credit: Laurenz Blickwedel

In this brave new world we have seen how intrinsic motivation and owning one’s career direction are the key to successful career iteration and longevity. This series examined a range of topics from the value of building trust, to why autonomy in the workplace matters. In this write-up we take a closer look at competency development and a number of the key forces impacting the future of work for years to come.

We found this quote by Thomas Friedman’s book, Thank you for Being Late. An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations to be particularly relevant: “There is a mismatch between change and the rate of change and our ability to enable citizens to get the most out of these accelerations and cushion their worst impact. The only way to retain life long working capacity is to engage in lifelong learning.”

The Bigger Picture

According to Klaus Schwab, advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, quantum computing and other areas are redefining industries and will continue to shape the world of work for many years to come.

The Value of Age Diversity

Strategies for the Inter-generational Workplace article highlights that members of the four generations currently in the workforce bring different influences and expectations to work. By understanding the areas of common ground, employers will be able to develop high performance workplace strategies. We need to remember that there is no one size fits all, and it will be up to each organization to lay out the groundwork for what that might look like.

Skills For the Future

The Institute for the Future identified a number of key competencies that will be in high demand in the age of AI and automation.

  1. Strong social and collaboration skills. Persuasion, emotional intelligence and teaching others will be more in demand than narrow technical skills, such as programming or equipment operation and control, according to the World Economic Forum, 2016.

  2. Situational adaptability. The ability to respond to unique and unexpected circumstances of the moment, as well as tasks that require both novel thinking and adaptability beyond that which is rote or rule-based.

  3. Higher level thinking. As smart machines take over routine jobs, there will be an increasing demand for those skills machines are not able to undertake, in particular thinking that cannot be codified, but is critical to decision making.

  4. Social intelligence. The ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions. Socially intelligent employees are able to quickly assess the emotions of those around them and adapt their words, tone and gestures.

  5. Cross-cultural competency. The ability to operate in different cultural settings. What makes a group truly intelligent is the combination of different ages, skills, disciplines, and working and thinking styles that members bring to the table.

The future may be uncertain and constantly changing, however one thing is evident. It is clear that now more than ever, organizations and individuals have access to a range of opportunities to grow, learn and iterate. Professionals looking to grow these nuanced non-technical competencies can choose to ask to work on stretch assignments, request to be included on interdisciplinary teams, immerse themselves in causes and projects outside of work that offer purpose and meaning. Organizations can also offer guidance to their employees on the best free online course to access, pad programs to tap into, real world design challenges that seek answers to complex problems, leadership labs and leadership coaching options. So the only question is. What is your next step?

Humanizing the changing world of work: A work in progress.

This is the first installment in a series of four-write ups that takes a closer look at what it means to humanize the future of work. It is co-written by Natalija de Jesus, a strategic designer based in Toronto and Hala Beisha, a transformation strategist with a focus on the human factor, who is also based in Toronto.

Image credit: Alvaro Serrano

Is a robot coming for your job?. This is a headline from a CBC article from February 27th of this year. The era of automation is here. A 2017 report by the McKinsey Global Institute found that 50% of the global workforce could be automated by 2055. And a 2018 study by the Brookings Institutesuggests that by 2040, 91% of jobs in the food preparation industry could be done by robots.

In the midst of all this talk about the rise of the machine, we want to take a moment to talk about ‘the human factor’. Our objective is to clarify and explain facts. Although the outlook for human workers seems dire, research suggests that people will continue to play an important role in the workforce of the future, as only 5% of the jobs have the potential to be fully automated.

Jobs, Meaning and Purpose

Automation might change the makeup of our workplaces, but the principles of human motivation will remain the same. We will still want to be fulfilled by our jobs, still crave meaning and purpose. Organizations now more than ever will need to figure out, implement and design enduring practices to maintain employee engagement and participation as our relationship with technology expands.

Why Engagement Matters

There is a growing trend in North America that shows that companies are investing less in individual employees, due to financial pressures and employee turnover. At the same time, according to the Gallup State of American Workplace Study 2016USD 480–600 billion a year is lost as the workforce struggles with low levels of motivation This is a scenario that has long term negative outcomes for both employees and organizations.

Two Complementary Frames

In this series of posts we share highlights of our work and research with a focus on motivation in the workplace. We take a closer look and explore how professionals and employees can take control of their career narrative, skills development and career iteration. This research is based on the authors’ Master Research Projects in fulfillment of the requirement for a Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University in Toronto, Ontario.

Our work offers two distinct yet complementary frames. One of the co-authored projects examines the role of the individual professional, their career iteration, and the trends impacting and shaping the world of work. The other project examines how organizations can optimize performance by activating motivation and, as a result, creating sustainable work practices and cultures.

This series is not meant to be prescriptive. It seeks to offers insights for inspiration and tangible takeaways to start meaningful conversations that can move the dial for both individuals and organizations.

Humanizing the future of work: Connecting the dots.

This is the second installment in a series of four write-ups that takes a closer look at what it means to humanize the future of work. It is co-written by Hala Beisha, a transformation strategist with a focus on the human factor, who is based in Toronto and Natalija de Jesus, a strategic designer based in Munich.

As mentioned in the previous write-up, North American employees are experiencing lower levels of engagement and motivation. According to the Gallup State of American Workplace Study 2016, USD 480–600 billion a year is lost due to these decreased levels of motivation. This is a large wasted resource.

Deloitte’s Work Environment Redesign report points out that shrinking natural resources, growing global competition and the demands of globalization are having a significant negative impact on companies’ bottom lines and forcing them to rethink the way they operate. There is one key strategic resource that remains untapped — human capital. Professionals within organizations have the capacity to energize the workplace and re imagine new solutions when there is direction and employees are challenged and connected.

We believe there are practices and structures that can be introduced both at the organizational and individual levels to amplify employee engagement, build connection and grow trust.

The Changing Role of Managers

Today’s creative economy is driven by innovation and competition. According to a Harvard Business Review Article What Value Creation Will Look Like in the Future, organizations need structures that support innovation at increasing scale. Fluid structures are required to help professionals develop networks of problem-solvers to adapt to changing customers’ needs and shifting trends. The author of the article points to a shift in the role of managers, notably “to oversee creative economies, ecosystems, and communities.” Managers need to manage innovation and continuously and solve problems quickly.

Why Trust Matters

Trust surfaced during our research as one of the key elements of a well-functioning workplace. It manifested itself through phrases like ‘my team has my back’ and ‘respect for my decisions’. Presence of trust, it can be argued, makes a difference between a great workplace and one with a revolving door. Our entire working lives are connected to the people we work with and for — our colleagues, clients, suppliers and contractors.

The Trust Index

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines trust as “a firm belief in the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something”. The countries that rank highest on the dimension of trust are all in Scandinavia, with the Danes being the most trusting in the world. In a 2011 survey by the OECD, 88.3% of Danes expressed a high level of trust in others, more than any other nationality, followed by Norway, Finland, and Sweden. To compare, USA is in 21st place out of 30 countries surveyed.

The Nordic Style of Management

Scandinavian countries consistently ranked as one of the top countries as it relates to quality of life, education, workplace training, language skills and remuneration according to the 2017 World Talent Ranking by IMD. The Nordic management style is quite different from the North American one. It was found that Scandinavians value collectivism, power sharing and participation. The Swedes, for example, have been called ‘The Japanese of the North’, as both nations seek harmony and mutual understanding, and try to avoid direct conflict. Overall, the Scandinavian Model is characterized by the desire for consensus, and the need to make decisions through a democratic process.

The Scandinavian style of management is driven by values, with the two main being care and trust. The primary focus is on developing, maintaining, and ensuring that team members have healthy and productive work lives. In other words, the pivotal strategy is to ensure that the culture or employee engagement is strong.

We believe that the level of trust in a society influences the workplace and contributes to the high performance across industries. Perhaps this lack of trust in the North American context partially explains the Gallup’s survey finding that USD 480–600 billion a year is lost due to employee de-motivation and loss of productivity.

So how you do you grow trust?