The future of work: 10 workplace trends headed your way

Written by
Linda Sharkey

02 Feb 2016

02 Feb 2016 • by Linda Sharkey

Leaders need a strategy for dealing with the forces that all organisations must confront if they want to build and maintain the next-generation business. 

Historically, as the centuries have turned, there have been sea changes in the nature of work. Think of the shift from the Dark Ages to the Age of Enlightenment, or from the agrarian era to the industrial era. It’s no different in this century. We’re transitioning from a skill-based workforce to one made up of knowledge workers, and we’re seeing our existing paradigms being turned on end.

My forthcoming book Future Proof, is co-written with leadership development expert Morag Barrett, will demonstrate why practices from the industrial era just won’t cut it anymore. At a time when worker expectations are massively changing and employee engagement is at an all-time low, leaders must rethink their entire employee contract.

The future of work is not tomorrow. The future is today. Here are the 10 key forces that will drive the 21st-century organisation

The new frontier of the brain. Neuroscience research has changed our understanding of motivation, what drives people to excel at work, and the role of leaders. Leaders need to apply brain-based leadership practices and get results.

The impact of technology. Thanks to the internet, the workplace has become incredibly agile. It’s easy to communicate instantaneously with all corners of the globe and more difficult than ever to hide from integrity breaches and mistakes. 

Breaking down bias. Bias has always played a role in the workplace, but nobody’s ever really talked about it. Not only should you start the conversation at your company, but you can actually harness the power of unconscious bias and use it energise everyone in your organisation.

Values as organising principles. Competency models and skills assessments are the models of the past. Values and leadership will determine whom you hire, reward, and promote. How can you make your values real in your organisation?

Culture is king. It used to take a back seat – but now organisational culture is front and centre. Your culture makes you either a “hare” or a “tortoise” in a land where hares are a must. You need to keep your culture constructive, relevant, and in focus.

Relationships: why inclusion is essential. In this interconnected world, it’s critical to build relationships if you want to survive. I’ll give you models and tools for cultivating relationships in order to tap radical innovation.

Heart is at the center of organisations. The heart, and not the mind, is what drives human performance. The 21st-century employee needs to feel valued, respected, developed, and care for. Build heart into your organisation.

The massive demographic shift. A demographic time bomb is about to explode. The baby boomers are retiring; the millennials have different expectations and beliefs. How will you develop the next generation of leaders?

Purpose as an essential driver. We’ve moved from “What do I want to be when I grow up?” to “Which problems do I want to solve?” How can you tap into the motivation and enthusiasm of the emerging workforce?

The new organisational structure. The career ladder is no more. Welcome to the career lattice, where success moves sideways, up, and out to new opportunities.

This is the age of radical innovation, fueled by galloping technical advances that will become mainstream before you know it. Are you ready?

Linda will be speaking about the 10 workplace trends at ASHRM’s Beyond HR conference on March 2nd.