What Are You Doing To Prepare For The Future World Of Work?

Nobody is questioning that the workforce is changing at a rapid pace, but what do organisations need to do ensure that they are prepared?

We put this question to a group of HR professionals at Cape Group’s HR Technology Forum last Thursday. To begin we asked the group what are the biggest workforce challenges facing organisations in the next few years. Key challenges raised included the:

  • An ageing population: with older workers reaching retirement years, how do organisations manage skilled labour shortages and retain knowledge?
  • The flexible, global, mobile and virtual workers: what are the leadership skills required of the future manager?
  • Increasing immigration: how do you manage an increasing cultural shifts in the workplace, when there are statistics that around one in four people are now born overseas?
  • Expectations of Gen Ys: while it is a generalisation, the Gen Y tend to have a low desire to stay in a job too long, are frustrated how technology is used and accessed in the organisation, how do organisations provide them with a greater flexibility in the way they work?
  • Advances in technology: are we staying up to date and leveraging technology to reap the business benefits? Are we using technology to its full capability or are we restricting ourselves due to risk requirements?

Who Is Responsible For Managing Workforce Challenges?

People have been discussing the future of the workforce for a while. YouTube clips on ‘Shift Happens’ have been around for over five years (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdvo5FlRqmM). However, are organisations taking any steps to address future workforce challenges? Some believe that changes need to be driven by the CEO and board of executives. While successful change is usually driven from the top, many executives find it difficult in understanding the need. In addition, some executives have a traditional mindset and often are two to three generations away from their actual employees. They do not see an urgency to leave behind traditional work practices. This is particularly so in highly risk adverse industries (e.g financial services). So without leadership support then how do we prepare for the workforce changes?

There is a strong role for HR and OD practitioners to play in driving this change. HR and OD professionals will require strong strategic thinking, influencing skills and an understanding of business to be able to communicate to executives the business benefits and consequences of falling behind. Executives will need to realise there are opportunities to better leverage technology, foster innovation driven by diversity, develop talent, incorporate social media into people practices and make better use of data.

Organisations need to be developing concrete succession plans and introducing ways to capture knowledge to prepare for an ageing workforce. They need to be looking at the capability of their knowledge management systems and looking at different ways that they can better utilise older workers. For example, some organisations are beginning to utilise them as experts and introducing part time options as a way to transition to retirement.

The increasing demand for flexible working will mean organisations need to introduce attractive flexible working policies and develop ways to manage an independent workforce. Leaders need to be able to manage virtual, flexible, mobile and offshore teams. The workforce is becoming more diverse so good leaders need to ensure they have inclusive work practices.

It is both exciting and scary when we start to think about the future possibilities in the way we work. If organisations want to prepare and drive this, one of the first places to start is to identify the workforce capability they need for the future. The leader of the future is going to need to be innovative and agile, and be inclusive of their diverse workforce.