The game has changed, and so have the rules

Global Human Capital leader Brett Walsh shares his perspectives following Davos

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As I prepared for my time in Davos, I spent some time thinking about what the biggest takeaways will be. Clearly, based on the recent buzz over the past year, the future of work and how to navigate it is on many people’s mind. The fact is that we are already living this future and to be successful in the next three to five years we will all have to embrace constant change.

Given this reality, I considered some key questions that could have a have a disproportionate impact on our society and organizations when it comes to the future of work.

How do we embrace change and disruption as a natural course of doing business and embed it in the daily decisions of our organizations and institutions?

The pace at which change is happening is accelerating. Part of what we need to do as leaders is demystify and remove fear from the word disruption and tell stories of how organizations are disrupting their business and the positive impact it is having on their business, people and customers. While numerous statistics suggest that today’s jobs are disappearing (e.g., Oxford University believes that 47% of the jobs we have today will be gone in ten years), we need to take a deeper look at what this really means. Instead of jobs disappearing, jobs today will be augmented in tomorrow’s world. For example, the job of a fork lift operator in a warehouse will be replaced with a robot and with that comes an increased number of jobs to manage these robots.

What are the few bets we can make today to safely test and pilot big bold ideas around the talent of the future?

It's all about experimenting safely and placing bets based on our understanding of where the future of work is heading. Firms need to think about how they can allow for a wider range of internal “corporate cultures” in response to changing customer needs, automation opportunities, or competition from agile, and technologically adept competitors. For example, if you’re struggling with how to handle changing customer expectations for single point-of-contact service channels, experiment with a loosely organized approach in a limited geographic area. In 2015, a global financial services firm shifted its organization to an “agile” model along the lines of Google, Netflix, and Spotify. They set up about 350 nine-person “squads” loosely organized into 13 “tribes” and no fixed structure. They report the new approach at this organization has already improved time to market, boosted employee engagement, and increased productivity. 1

How do we as employees, individuals use the democratized access to tools to take responsibility for navigating change? What is the commitment we can make on an individual level?

It is our responsibility as leaders to give our employees access to the tools and information required to re-skill themselves – we need to stop unplugging employees when they walk into our business. Employees should be excited about learning how to perform their job leveraging the technology of tomorrow instead of fearing that technology with replace their job completely. We’ve seen an increased interest and investment in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), learning networks, new education tools and corporate training. Venture Capital firms have invested over $1 billion in the "learntech industry” over the last 2 years, according to CBInsights. Ease of access to training will allow our employees to reduce their fear of disruption and create excitement about the future. Regardless of the tool, lifelong learning will become an integral part of work.

It is very clear that we do not have all of the answers, and our recently launched Deloitte 2017 Human Capital Trends report reinforces this, highlighting the fact that 83% of organizations do not feel ready to address the challenges raised by the future of work. Leaving Davos however, I felt energized by the opportunities we have ahead of us, both solving the challenges, and benefiting from the positive implications that the future of work will bring us.

  • While jobs will change, this will lead to new, augmented roles, where the value that a role brings shifts relative to its historical purpose. By remaining aware and forward-thinking, employers and the employees can reduce the impacts of this disruption by being proactive in how they plan ahead to meet their changing workforce requirements, and adjust how they source and engage their talent to reflect changing needs.
  • Thinking beyond the traditional structure, organizations can expand their network, incubate ideas and develop solutions more quickly and cost effectively than in the past. The rise of freelancers, the introduction of crowdsourcing platforms, and applying gamification can all have a major impact on how we solve problems. Combined with the rapidly expanding working age populations across Africa and Asia, and these tools can be used to provide access to work for new entrants to the workforce, and offer companies a new pool of talent to grow their business.
  • Advances in healthcare coupled with financial uncertainty has led to people extending their working years far beyond what was once the norm; providing ongoing flexibility and increased security is taking on increased importance in this context. While organizations will need to continue to increase investment in upskilling their workforce, individuals will need to take on greater responsibility in repositioning and reinventing themselves through lifelong learning.

In the coming months, we will be exploring many of these topics further as we've rolled out Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Trends report, which reinforces the fact that ‘the game has changed, and so have the rules’. To repeat, the future of work is here and we need to prepare our organizations to navigate through these changes. How we react will determine our success.

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