The future of work will never be the same as pre-coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) conditions. Current indicators and several studies already point to the “hybrid” model of work in the future, i.e., employees working remotely between 25 percent and 75 percent of the time, as highlighted by a recent Accenture Future of Work Study 2021.
We will witness the expansion of contingent works in the future, as part of companies’ move to streamline costs. Performance management systems of organizations need to be tweaked, to consider the increase in contingent workers and the transition to remote work. Organizational complexity likewise complicates career development, reskilling programs, and organizational structures.
Remote work will likewise propel faster adoption of automation and artificial intelligence, and accelerated growth in digital customer interactions.
These trends emphasize the urgent call to action that I have been harping on – the need to upskill and reskill workers. Since the skill gap that we witness today will only grow accelerated in the future, companies need to upskill and reskill their workers because the skills required in the workplace of the future will be simply not available in the market.
What competencies are required among workers to master the work of the future?
At the core and the most important competency is empathy – the capability to understand and feel what others are experiencing. Health care workers, educators, customer service agents and the other future jobs outlined by McKinsey require empathy, especially during and post-Covid-19. Companies need to put empathy at its core to understand emerging customer needs to create better products and services that meet these needs. Empathy is likewise needed to better understand colleagues in the workplace in order to improve their conditions and the processes they go through, which brings us to the second work competency – collaboration.
Collaboration is where two or more people or organizations work together to realize or achieve a goal or project successfully. Nowadays and in the future, collaboration is mostly done virtually which requires the skill in using collaboration tools.
Collaborating online brings a lot of benefits to organizations and “sometimes better than face-to-face,” according to a recent Harvard Business Review reported. “By solving distance problems, it enables newly diverse teams” to be part of projects. Moreover, “by solving communication problems virtual collaboration allows us to work together in ways that tap into a broader set of skills and capacities.”
Even collaborating with customers is an exceptionally powerful force behind the success of many top sellers. In fact, “according to 731 corporate decision-makers, ‘Collaborated with me’ was the number two factor of the 42 studied, most separating sales winners of major sales from second-place finishers (second only to ‘Educated me on new ideas and perspectives’),” John Doerr and Mike Schultz wrote in their 2014 book Insight Selling.
The third competency is flexibility, i.e., adapting to the new ways of working. This requires the openness to learn new skills and creating a comfortable and conducive work area at home. This competency plays a big role in helping you to be more productive.
The fourth competency is time management. This is not a brand-new competency but especially needed during the new normal era. Time management plays a big role in helping you to be more productive. You need to be creative in managing time, e.g., when you have to manage time between house chores and homework. Work and break time must also be kept as these can affect your work quality.
The last competency is complex problem-solving, or the ability to identify and solve ill-defined problems. As the work of the future will present new scenarios involving processes, technologies, and customers, new problems will emerge which will require workers to solve. This competency is composed of three sub-competencies that are all important.
One is critical thinking, which is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue to form a judgment or conclusion. Another is creativity, which is the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to turn new and imaginative ideas into reality. Last is data analytics, which refers to capabilities in analyzing and modeling a large volume of data, be it structured or unstructured for decision-making in business.
These competencies are all important for an organization to effectively adapt to the work environment of the future and ensure productivity among workers. They can be learned and acquired through reskilling and upskilling. The greater challenge is how fast can companies adapt and retool their workers now and for the years ahead.
The author is the founder and chief executive officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm.He is a Fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.