There's no doubt that work is changing--how we do it, where we do it, and what we do is different now than it was just a decade ago. In order to attract the best employees and stay current with trends and technology, organizations need to understand the evolution of work and adjust their own practices accordingly. Here are just a few of the ways that work is changing.
From employee engagement to employee experience
Companies used to think that if they could give employees a few perks, it would boost their engagement scores. Today, forward-thinking companies have realized that engagement is temporary, but building employee experience where employees feel valued at every step of the journey is much more sustainable. Instead of simply engaging employees, organizations are aiming to improve the employee experience by catering to employees' needs through flexibility, transparency, office perks, and improved company cultures. I explore employee experience in its entirety in my latest book.
From hard skills to soft skills
Hard skills aren't as important as they used to be and have been replaced in many cases by softer skills. Hard skills, especially relating to technology, are constantly changing, and the most important thing is to know how to keep up with trends and advances. The idea at many organizations is that if a person has the social and leadership skills to fit in with a culture, they can learn the hard, technical skills on the job.
From set location and hours to flexibility
Modern employees are all about flexibility. They want to set their own hours and work whenever and wherever they can do their best work, no matter if that is at home, at a coffee shop, or at the office. With technology to stay connected, employees can now work nearly anywhere they want and on a schedule that fits their lifestyle.
From manager to coach and mentor
Managers are no longer overseers who simply make sure the work gets done; now they act as coaches and mentors to their employees to help build their careers and the company as a whole. Managers check in regularly with employees and work to guide them in the right direction instead of forcing employees to do whatever they think is best.
From humans acting like robots to humans working with robots and AI
Some employees may feel like robots with monotonous tasks, but that work in many cases is now being replaced by robots and giving humans a chance to work alongside AI and new technologies. Repetitive tasks like data entry or order processing are being replaced by machines, giving humans the chance to work with these machines and focus on growth and the bigger picture. Workers can now leverage robots and AI to streamline processes, increase efficiency, and grow their businesses.
From process-centric tasks to strategic and creative tasks
The old way of thinking makes work a puzzle where employees are focused on the process to get the right answer. Everyone who does the puzzle will end up with the same results. In the new way of work, tasks are more like mysteries. There are clues and hints along the way, but it will look different for everyone and allows employees to use strategy to find the best results. This new approach to tasks helps employees be more creative and think outside the box to find the best solutions.
From hierarchy to flatter structures
It used to be that all organizations were hierarchal, with employees at the bottom looking up to the managers and executives at the top. Information trickled down, and lower-level employees did just as they were told. Now, organizations are becoming flatter, and managers are often at the same level as their employees. Instead of information only flowing down from the top, it moves throughout the organization and gives everyone a say.
From static workforce to dynamic workforce
Technology is contributing to a dynamic workforce that is constantly evolving to match new advances and solutions. Workplaces used to never change and had basically been the same for centuries. Now, things are evolving, and employees are changing right alongside. Organizations and employees need to be agile and ready to move based on changes in the industry.
From companies acting like factories to companies acting like laboratories
Innovation is key to driving modern success, and it often comes naturally as the organizational structure is changed. Instead of offices just being factories that pump out products or services, they are now more like laboratories where employees can experiment, try new things, and find the best new solutions to problems. Successful laboratory companies have cultures of innovation and welcome experimentation and failure.
From moving for a job to moving for job and life
Today's employees consider more than just their careers when they consider where to live. Many employees won't move for a new job unless there is also hope for a better life, especially with more jobs that welcome telecommuting and flexible work schedules. Work plays a big role in employees' lives, but it isn't the only thing they consider when making life changes.
From work-life balance to work-life integration
Many employees, especially millennials, have moved from work-life balance to work-life integration, where there isn't a hard division between personal and professional life. With integration, employees are free to be themselves at work and no longer have to hide their personal lives when they are at the office. Employees spend so much time working that it just makes sense that the personal and professional sides work together.
From knowledge is power to perpetual learning is power
How employees are trained is also evolving. Gone are the days of being able to show up with a diploma from a good university and automatically get a job that would last the rest of your career. The key today is to be able to constantly be learning--instead of knowledge as power, perpetual learning is power, and being able to find answers and continuously build skills can lead to success.
From long-term employment is norm to focusing on projects and tasks is norm
Employees in large part have gotten rid of the idea of working for the same company for their entire careers and instead focus on individual projects and tasks. A growing number of employees work as some sort of contractor where they are only signed on for certain projects. This allows employees to bounce around and gain experience in a number of areas and companies to build the career they really want.
From pens and paper to paperless, digital, and connected everything
Technology plays a huge part in the modern workplace. Instead of just having a computer or the right system to work on and get the job done, technology is now more integrated into everyday work and helps drive innovation and growth. Employees no longer rely on writing everything down with pen and paper--today's workforce is connected and uses digital technology for much of their work. Paperless technology allows employees to communicate and collaborate no matter where they are in the world, which opens up realms of new possibilities.
From intuition-driven decisions to data-driven decisions
Data has never been more important. Managers used to make emotionally based decisions, but that has been replaced by a wealth of data to drive strategic internal and external decisions. There is now data available on everything, from consumer trends and buying behavior to internal employee performance and attendance. A growing number of companies are using data analytics to make internal and external decisions that are more scientific and accurate than simply going with their gut.
From retiring at 65 to retiring when your dead
The old notion of climbing the corporate ladder until you're 65 and then retiring is long gone. Today's employees work not just because they have to--they work because they want to and it is a part of who they are. That means that many people have no plans to retire at 65 and instead plan on continuing their side hustles long past standard retirement age.
From one workspace to a spectrum of workspaces
With new technology and increased connectivity, employees can often work from virtually everywhere. That means that there's not just one office and place to work. Even within workspaces, there are often myriad office options available, from open spaces to conference rooms and private offices, for employees to choose from depending on their tasks. It's no longer one size fits all for workspaces; now it is about providing options for employees to make their own choices.
Every aspect of work is evolving, and staying on top of changes is key for future growth. The companies that can adjust to the work evolution will be the ones who are most prepared and competitive in the future of work.