A new research report pinpoints five approaches essential toÂ empowering the ever-changing workforce.
By J. P. Gownder
The future of work isnât something that happens toÂ companiesâitâs something leaders intentionally createÂ for their companies and their own careers. The futureÂ of work is a constellation of innovations that combinesÂ technology with culture and processes to deliver valueÂ to customers. Itâs imperative for organizations to deviseÂ a future of work strategy, because customers acrossÂ all areas of the economy are raising the bar on theirÂ demands: They want better, faster, and often-changingÂ solutions to suit their wants and needs.
A new report from Forrester Research, The AdaptiveÂ Workforce Will Drive The Future Of Work, asserts thatÂ leaders have a big task ahead of them when it comes toÂ the future of work. Executives must build an adaptiveÂ workforceâone that is based on a delivery model thatÂ allows the company to more adeptly pivot its operationsÂ and even its fundamental business model in the faceÂ of changing customer needs. There are five key actionsÂ leaders must take in order to be successful in the futureÂ of work.
- The adaptive workforce will be “burstable.” Full-timeÂ employees will be complemented by two sources. OneÂ is the talent economy, which is driven by contingentÂ labor coming from contingent workforce providers andÂ on-demand temporary contractors. The second is theÂ automation economy, in which artificial intelligenceÂ (AI), automation software, and even physical robotsÂ complement human labor. Both of these approachesÂ allow organizations to rapidly flex their resources upÂ or downâthat is, they can âburstâ when needed.Â Burstability is a key dimension of adaptiveness, allowingÂ companies to grow or shrink rapidly in response toÂ changing market conditions.
- Reporting structures will be less hierarchical.Â Traditional corporate organizations are extremelyÂ vertical and siloed. An employee starts working inÂ one organizational function and continues to doÂ so throughout their entire career at the firm. AsÂ the workforce changes, a new role will emerge:Â A âbotmasterâ will manage bots in the financeÂ department and can move to do similar work in HR,Â contributing to the organization while also learningÂ new skills in the process.
- Teams and personnel will be composable. SwarmÂ teams, which assemble employees from cross-functionalÂ groups to destroy silos, drive innovation, and solveÂ problems, exemplify the adaptive workforce. TheyÂ can be assembled and disassembled as projects areÂ completed or as conditions evolve. Companies likeÂ Daimler are expanding the use of swarm teams toÂ become composable in order to configure a team toÂ solve a particular business problem.
- Technology will underpin the adaptive workforce. BothÂ the talent economy and the automation economy relyÂ on technology. Technology allows companies to find theÂ right human talent and connect to them wherever theyÂ are in the world in real-time. The growth of automationÂ means that human workers are increasingly workingÂ side by side with robots. And technology will createÂ âclearing housesâ for work tasks that can be picked upÂ by full-time employees, talent economy workers, andÂ bots alike.
- Psychological and sociological fundamentals will beÂ prerequisites to success. The underlying culture, skills,Â and organizational structures of a company will makeÂ or break these future of work efforts. Why? For newÂ technologies to successfully transform a business, itsÂ people, leaders, structures, and values must all beÂ aligned. Individual employees must have the mindsetÂ and skills to be able to work in an automation-infused,Â technology-rich, fluid working environment. But today,Â most workers arenât ready. For example, the researchÂ finds that only 21 percent of global information workersÂ agree with the statement, âI know when to questionÂ the results of an automated technology.â
Each of these trends requires HR leaders to play anÂ increasingly important role in driving future of workÂ strategies. HR disciplines like learning and development,Â change management, recruitment, and cultureÂ initiatives will underpin the success of these initiatives.Â Business and technology leaders will have to bring HRÂ to the table early and often to ensure the new adaptiveÂ workforce is brought to life.
J. P. Gownder is a vice president and principal analyst on ForresterÂ Research‘s CIO team.