Oh Boy, Here Comes the Future

Dungeness Beach, by Gareth Williams
Dungeness Beach.  Courtesy of Gareth Williams.

This emerging trends review by Josh Bersin from December 2016 provides some forecasts about work in the future. You’ll have to click past a pop-up screen from Forbes.com to get into it (be nice, that’s how they pay for it).

Bersin notes that business models are changing to adapt to new threats like Airbnb and Uber.  Meanwhile software companies are shifting to fee-for-service models, where you don’t buy Microsoft Office, you rent it.  A lot more things are touch-and-go.  Seventy percent of CEOs think that their core business model is under attack.  They are concerned they don’t have the right leaders or technology to adapt.

Bersin goes on to say that the company of the future, the “digital organization,” will need to reverse the pecking order of investor, customer, and employee.  The engaged and fully performing employee creates satisfied and returning customers.  Customers drive cash-flow and set up investors with success.  It is not really the investors who drive the business.  It’s the front-line staff causing business success or not.

To make this work, employees may need to develop hybrid skills.  They will need their current core skill fused to one other skill.  An example could be sales skill plus the ability to interpret the client’s business model, two abilities not always found together.  I have always thought that all of the cool stuff happens at the boundary between categories.  If you’re great at five random and un-related skills, that moment when you bring two strengths together can truly make you special.  If one such skill is your ability to take advantage of a new gadget or app, that’s in the mix also.

There is also a shift from “jobs” to “work.”  With jobs, there would usually be a job slot into which you place a person with a skill-set to conduct duties that are clearly defined.  Those of us who have worked with a lot of formal job descriptions know that they are just frameworks.  Job descriptions have a wooden walk, like intoxicated teenagers trying to sneak past their parents.  Yet real work involves a flurry of micro-skills, attitudes, connections, and organizational knowledge.  “Work,” by which we mean the actual work performed, is shifting more quickly as products and services change.  It is far more important to staff the business with general skills, capabilities, cultural fit, and the potential to get new work done in an environment of change.  And don’t forget those hybrid skills.

These shifts are dawning on CEOs as having a massive impact on how they will conduct business in the future.  And all eyes are on the human resources team.  In order to ensure individuals adapt to changes in skills, technology, and work definition, Human Resources teams have to be able to make it all work on the larger scale.  The way we design jobs, pay for them, ensure performance, develop skills, and adapt to new tools and models, will become critical for organizations that want to get ahead of the pack.

At least that’s what I thought he said.

2 thoughts on “Oh Boy, Here Comes the Future

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