WTF: What’s the Future?

Our top 10 takeaways from Deloitte’s Stephen Harrington

With so many changes in the workplace, we’re all looking for answers as we plan for the future:

  • What will the workplace look like post-pandemic?
  • How can we help exhausted leaders thrive?
  • What skills will our future workforce need?
  • And so many more

At our recent event about the future of the labour market, guest speaker Stephen Harrington, Deloitte’s National Leader for Workforce Strategy and Future of Work Advisory, painted a picture of the kind of work we’ll be doing and what our future workplace will look like.

In his whirlwind talk, Stephen presented so many compelling ideas, it was hard to pick our faves.

Here are our top 10 takeaways:

1. Tap into human potential: To keep workers engaged, empower them to think outside the box, at least some of the time. Ask them to solve big problems without clear process paths (dynamic outcomes). Ask yourself: What are the big goals we want to solve? How do we release enough capacity to address them, at least part of the time?

2. Leadership will look different: To attract talent in this tight labour market, it’s not only about the company, wages or benefits. Leaders will need to highlight the quality of work, give employees a sense of purpose, and mobilize workers around common, meaningful goals. Going forward: Inspirational leadership as a capability will be increasingly important, especially with remote teams.

3. The “Great Exhaustion” is real, especially for leaders: We’re all tired. But we will especially need to think of ways to shore up the mental health and wellbeing of our leaders, especially if we expect them to learn ways of inspiring and leading hybrid teams, which will be an added strain.

4. Create a just-in-time talent marketplace: Talent wants to move and learn new skills. A full 87% of millennials ranked it as a top requirement in the workplace (vs. 69% of non-millennials). To increase retention and quickly get work done, enable existing employees to learn new skills, so you can assign them to the right jobs on a just-in-time basis. Then, consider bringing on skilled contract workers to quickly fill in any gaps. Future state: Organizations will have a tight core of skilled full-time workers, surrounded by a flexible cohort of part-time/contract workers.

5. Move away from outputs to outcomes: When possible, try to create a free-flowing, trust-based system that enables workers to organize themselves to get things done. It’s less about processes and more about the outcomes. Stephen says this model drives performance because the best performers will be motivated to constantly reach for better outcomes.

6. Address the skills gap: By 2025, the World Economic Forum predicts 40% of workers’ core skills will need to change. What can you do, especially since reskilling your entire workforce is not feasible and automation is applicable only for certain types of tasks? Suggestion: Look at your business strategy to understand what you want to achieve in the next 5-10 years. What skills will you need to achieve them? Tie those skills to roles and then assess whether you need to Hire, Borrow or Train (hire new staff, borrow staff from other departments or train existing team members).

7. Remote work is here to stay: Or, as Stephen says, “the horse has left the barn.” We’re not going back to the way it was. In Canada alone, 80% of those new to remote work said they’d like to continue working at home the majority of the time post-pandemic. Takeaway: With the increasing war for talent, organizations will need to try to offer greater flexibility and autonomy, to the best extent possible (even for those whose jobs require onsite work).

8. “Your hire is a laptop away”: While digital platforms can make it easier to find talent, they also make it easier for talent to find new opportunities. Big US tech firms are already offering remote work to top Canadian grads with no need to relocate and payment in USD. To compete for top Canadian talent, flexibility and benefits are key.

9. The gig economy is booming: And it’s not being driven only by part-time drivers. There’s growing demand among experienced professionals for freelance or contract work. Gig workers now represent more than 13% of Canadian workers, and more than a third of Canadian businesses employ them. To attract talent, Stephen advises employers to consider offering contract positions in addition to FTE roles.

10. The “Great Reshuffle” is challenging hybrid models: Workers globally are on the move—to new cities, new countries and new rural homes. Companies with hybrid models are going to have to make increasing exceptions to include and engage workers located far from the office.

As we continue to look at ways of optimizing the future workplace, we look forward to sharing further insights and ideas with you. We welcome your questions, suggestions or feedback—we’re all building the future workplace together.

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