At the heart of the future of work is one thing that cannot be ignored: people. Regardless of technological advances, globalization, or economic shifts, companies will still need people in order to succeed. As leaders, part of the key to positioning your organization to capitalize on talent and embrace the shape of work to come is to understand two things: the future workforce itself, and the nature of how technology will change the way people work.

First let’s talk about the future workforce. In recent years the primary focus has been incorporating Millennial and Gen Z workers into more dominant and influential roles within organizations. These generations have grown up fully immersed in a digital world. They bring expectations and ways of relating, both to one another and to the work itself, that are different and challenge most traditional workplaces. However, the generation blend that makes up the workforce is not the only shift that requires our attention.

In their recent article “Forces of Change”, Jeff Schwartz, Heather Stockton, and Kelly Monahan of Deloitte share that, in addition to the changing demographics, one of the biggest trends shaping our workforce is the rise in “off-campus” and “off-balance sheet” workers (e.g., contractors or transactional remote workers). The way we fulfill our talent gaps and needs may look radically different now as new and evolving staffing strategies and alternative work arrangements are likely to become more prevalent and strategically valuable.

Alongside the workforce and the talent that composes it, technology is re-writing the rules of work as well.  Most studies indicate technologies like AI and machine learning will change how problems are or can be solved, thus ushering us into an era where work is truly augmented by technology. Rather than wholly replacing jobs, we will experience more collaborative work between talent and technology, or rather, true human-machine partnerships. Technology will not just provide efficiencies, it will extend human capabilities for solving problems, evaluating data, and acting on information.

These changes in the basic nature of work have many implications for organizations and require leaders to contemplate what the future could entail, including but not limited to:

  • Challenging assumptions – reimagining work structure, organizational roles, staffing models, and advancement paths
  • Sourcing or growing diverse talents and skill sets – tapping into higher levels of critical thinking, cognitive, social, and soft skills
  • Elevating the change competency – creating greater organization agility and helping employees be more resilient and adaptable
  • Building great managers – coaching, growing, and supporting employees to celebrate strengths, promote engagement, and create affiliation
  • Promoting creativity and innovation – reengineering workflows and processes, cultivating opportunity identification, and allowing for experimentation

While different companies will collide with these changes in work at different times in the future, now is the time to assess your success in these areas and build capabilities to succeed in an era of augmented work. It is the time to contemplate the art of the possible – what we need and how we work. By doing so you will position your organization to capitalize on the most significant lever in the future of work – the people.