Future of Work is NOW! What You can do to get on board.

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The ‘Future of Work’ narrative has long been about the shift toward automation and mass redeployment of labour. Add macro events like an aging population, technology disruption, climate change, global politics, and so on, and it makes for a complex future that favours cognitive, ‘human’ and tech optimising skills.

While we’re at it, traditional labour markets will shift from the ‘job for life’ paradigm to a reality of many careers in a lifetime, and the rise of freelance, contract and ‘gig’ work.

I think it’s fair to say that all those things (while not all fully there yet) are already playing out in the way that work is being organised, and disruption has become the norm in most workplaces around the world.

For those who are wondering “what do we do about it?”, below are practical things that you can do now to make successful transitions into the new reality of work where skills are the new currency!

As Individuals

Gone are the days that the organisation you work for is responsible for growing your career. With a view to the future, get these elements right to make the most of any investment you make into your own development:

  • Manage mindset. Work on building a growth mindset that sees opportunities for learning in everything you do. It’s about learning how to learn in different ways that enable development in the flow of actual work rather than attending a course for the sake of it.
  • Make a strategic development plan. Use feedback data, performance data and industry themes to create a development plan that leverages your strengths to build mastery in the ‘current’ work environment and provides opportunities to start experimenting in emerging skills and trends for the future.
  • Execute with discipline. Executing your development plan could include time-locking your calendar for specific periods each week, engaging a coach or mentor that can hold you to account, and sharing your work regularly with peers so that your development steps are visible to you and those around you.

As Leaders

As a leader*, there is a broader impact you can have on the development of others around you. Regardless of how the team is structured, aim to get consistently high performance from each person that also sets the team up for success in a disrupted future:

  • Get the culture right. In a future where more of the team will be made up of freelancers or contractors and cross-functional experts from other parts of the business, it’s critical to embrace an inclusive leadership style that creates the conditions for deep trust and involved dialogue. Be sure that psychological safety is embedded with accountability and performance. In teams that are more fluid and tenure is shorter, developing a culture where all members can bring their full self to their work will enable the capabilities of the collective to be known and harnessed.
  • Have a ‘team’ plan for development. On the theme of inclusive leadership, reduce the hierarchies and work with team members to co-create a ‘team development plan’ that leverages the unique talent stack of members, aligns to strategic goals of the company and incorporates sharing knowledge and capability growth in success metrics.
  • Execute the plan with discipline. Build in discipline and accountability for executing the team plan. Taking a co-creation approach, the accountabilities are best defined and set by the team members that contributed to the plan. If accountability is low, revisit the plan to make sure that it’s something the team are actually passionate about delivering (it’s okay to iterate here, often team members haven’t been involved in their own team planning to this level before, so they’re learning how to operate with more autonomy and accountability too!)

You may have noticed that the suggestions above aren’t that groundbreaking. They are just about creating the conditions for continuous learning, individually or collectively. In the current reality of work, individuals and organisations that master the skill of continuous learning are the ones that will stay close to their customers, innovate meaningfully and pivot where required.

*Don’t forget, you’re also an individual, so all the ‘As Individuals’ stuff applies to you too!

Lachlan’s commitment to helping people succeed in the future of work is driven by core values of inclusive leadership, strength-based growth, development for all, customer-led design, and deep relationships.

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