The traditional career model, which Robert Owen first formulated at the beginning of the 20th century as “eight hours of work, eight hours of relaxation and eight hours of rest”, still exists today. Over 100 years later, the workforce is much more diverse and the needs and requirements of employees have evolved. But for far too many employees, instead of “Welcome to the future of work” it feels like “Welcome to the portal – your password has been declined”.
To attract and retain this diverse workforce, companies need to move away from a rigid structure and develop a new career model that uses relevant and personalized data for individual workers and their needs.
Instead of the age-old model of getting in at a single desk or workstation at 9 a.m. and leaving at 5 p.m., it is far more relevant to understand that we have a life outside of the workplace that doesn̵
COVID-19 has forced us to find ways to circumvent such issues and although some companies have struggled to maintain normal business, such as the travel industry, those who can work from home have had to do so. However, changes and opportunities that arise from the dark days of the pandemic will forever change our behavior in both our professional and personal lives. Far from “tele-shirking” the reality is that wherever WiFi and business apps are offered, the door is opened to one of the most futuristic places where the future of work will take place.
Forward-looking managers don’t miss our physical presence – as long as we deliver the goods. The explosion of cloud computing-based functionality, used properly, makes us more productive than our colleagues in the office. Our tools accompany us when we are ill or in health – from the home office to the bedroom to the sofa.
This is not just about working parents, but anyone with needs outside of the workplace that require attention – such as those dealing with chronic illnesses or aging parents. Ultimately, flexible work options must be tailored to the individual and his or her needs. Likewise, other workers unaffected by such concerns may prefer this flexibility and even see performance benefits from being able to set their own schedules rather than expecting them to function optimally on a set daily schedule in the workplace. It is important to be fair and flexible with all employees, regardless of their circumstances, so that the needs of certain people are not prioritized, which will only lead to hostility within the workforce.
This can be achieved, among other things, by employers promoting an open dialogue about non-traditional working arrangements with employees. The easiest way to get this information is through regular surveys, so organizations of all sizes can analyze their employees’ data insights to ensure that work-life balance can thrive.
New methods of measuring performance
It makes little sense now to measure productivity in hours, as intelligent machines can do repetitive and traditionally time-consuming tasks much faster and more accurately. This gives employees the opportunity to focus on value-added tasks instead, as we work with machines to improve the way tasks are done. Work is also becoming increasingly knowledge-based and variable, but this, too, can make it difficult to measure performance.
We also believe that this will lead to new jobs in the future, especially in the HR department. Case in point: the development of performance management. It is likely that in the next few years we will see the advent of human network analysts as an essential human resource department. Why? The traditional organizational chart says little about how work is actually done and represents a hierarchical system that is not appropriate for the future of work. Using Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) systems, Human Network Analysts provide insights into a wide variety of issues, including inclusivity, burnout tendencies, and the way people with different work styles or personalities work together. With data-driven insights, companies and employees can break down restrictive structures and processes and quickly bring the right employees together.
While all of this may sound great, privacy and ethics concerns are paramount, and it will be vital for roles like this to adhere to the highest ethical standards as they work, as well as innovating and building on existing privacy frameworks to continually meet the standards to increase – at the core – are people-centered.
Career growth in every direction
While not without perks like standardizing pay, companies may try to abandon a linear hierarchy to instead allow for smoother movement between roles that is better tailored to the skills of the employees. Rather than looking at careers within the silo of a job function or role, employers should view them as a collection of roles that evolve over time. Businesses – and employees – should encourage career change, not view it as difficult and risky moves.
Moving to a new environment with smoother movements can lead to productivity benefits when new challenges are accepted and interacted with people from different backgrounds. By facilitating such a movement, companies can ensure that innovation is the cornerstone of their business.
Shift the mindset from “jobs” to “tasks”: we need to change the working language. Businesses should focus on reinventing this by dividing job roles into tasks and skills. The employees could then switch from task to task without getting stuck in the outdated fictional boundaries of a job.
Shift the working days from 8×5 to 10×4: During the great work-from-home experiment COVID-19, work can take place anywhere, anytime and not just in a day. The compromise looming – recognizing the fluidity of work, but also the need to keep it from eating us alive – is the four day week. Ten hours a day, four days a week. Some structure but more time unearthed. A digital sabbath means that every weekend is a long weekend.
Encouraging internal mobility: A fluid movement between tasks requires a much broader breakdown of the organizational structure, facilitating internal mobility between projects, teams and departments. Not only does this provide an opportunity for individuals to find work that is more meaningful and suitable for them, but it also makes more business sense because employees can offer their skills and knowledge across the company rather than being limited to one team.
Matchmaking company with the right talent
The democratization of opportunities is central to a flowing and integrative career model. Rather than relying solely on human decisions, organizations should also use data to direct people to the work that best suits their ambitions, goals, and personal purposes. This more objective approach to development creates a superior employee experience and makes it easier for companies to attract and retain diverse talent.
For example, Gloat offers personalized dashboards for each employee and displays relevant job vacancies based on the individual’s current skills and aspirations. The users of the platform recorded a measurable increase in the number of employees who work in collaborative, high-performance networks. higher employee development, engagement and satisfaction; and increased workforce capacity and productivity.
Companies can implement a data-driven approach to match employees with job roles by taking a number of processes into the company. For example, increasing transparency with employees through regular and easily accessible communication and ensuring that every employee has access to information about internal mobility options.
As both life expectancy and retirement age continue to rise, people entering the world of work today may aspire to careers that last longer than 50 years. During this time, the workforce becomes even more diverse. These inevitable trends make it more important than ever for companies to override the mismatch between career models of the old world and the workforce of the new world.
Data is a key tool that will ultimately help bring focus to the center of this new world of work that it belongs in: people. By focusing on creating data-driven, fluid, less hierarchical, and objective career structures, organizations can intensify their efforts to promote diversity, inclusion and belonging at all levels of the organization.
- Robert Hoyle Brown, vice president of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work