From careers to experiences

Future of Work insights

At an event with my team earlier this summer, I was shown the picture above for the first time. My former colleague, Anna Beyer, put the image on a big screen and pointed out that whilst they had focused on one potential change, the creators of the picture had completely missed another. The caption and image have both been so excited about the idea of men taking helicopters to work, they completely missed the changing tides of gender balance and women no longer being de-facto stay at home parents with male family breadwinners. To me, this encapsulates a lot of the challenge we face when predicting and planning for modern career paths. Sometimes bigger, more hyped potential disruptions, can completely over-shadow the real, more important ones on the horizon.

To avoid making this mistake, our Future of Work agenda looks in fine detail at the societal and technological forces that are impacting businesses, and offers themes of what businesses can expect to see more of going forward. Our research has identified not just 2-3 billboard changes to plan for, but seven themes of disruptive change which everyone should be considering. One of these is change in the nature of a career.

According to our HC Global Trends Report, nearly half of all organisations surveyed feel that reorganising to facilitate 21st century career models is important to them. However, less than ten percent are actually in the process of doing so. With profits and prosperity on the line, businesses don’t usually drag their feet about getting ready for the road ahead. The challenge here is a particularly complex one, as with the sheer amount of disruptive change impacting on organisations, it is hard to know what to focus on first. Organisations don’t want to mistakenly invest their time and money installing a helipad on the roof when what they’ll really need tomorrow is a nursery in the basement.

With that in mind, I wanted to share my thoughts on the nature of the 21st century career, focusing on the elements that we can say with confidence are going to matter in the future:

Think of people development like a Pinterest board, not a podcast feed

Colleagues at our Digital Immersion events earlier this year talked about how the half-life of skills is decreasing. This means that with new technology bringing new role requirements and new business models bringing new priorities, the rate at which we need to retrain ourselves is faster than ever. From the Gen Y new joiners to the experienced baby-boomers, everyone needs to be thinking about what else they want to bring to the table in future, and how they can get the skills to do so. As a result, people’s development is less fixed, as we pivot to the changes in individual circumstances more often, meaning much of the previous standardised development planning no longer fits today’s agile workplace.

Previously, we would design learning experiences with the same logic as a podcast feed. Look at someone’s title, and you’d expect to see a related set of chronological experiences, all focusing on a similar theme, with a clear inter-related progression. The learning journey of tomorrow looks more like a bricolage process, where seemingly unrelated experiences and interests are woven together to create a unique collage of what excites and matters to them, the way someone might collate separate content on a Pinterest board to create a unique whole.

What excites me most about this is the innovation potential it offers. Much research has been done on how bringing together disparate ideas is a catalyst for creativity. For example, were someone to take their experience as a data architect, combine it with experience designing marketing campaigns, then apply it to a role designing talent management, we are likely to see a wider variety of novel, innovative solutions to today’s business challenges.

There are still some skills you can rely on for the long run

Skills are like friends. You should expect a fair few to come and go, but you can rely on a select few come rain or shine for your whole life. Your work ethic, your creativity, your integrity and your emotional intelligence, are always going to be of value. Organisations facing huge amounts of change, feeling unsure of what they can anchor their people development around, would be well served to go back to basics.

Putting the focus on virtues which are universally beneficial is not only a safe bet, but it’s also inclusive. People might not be able to choose whether they are a great project manager or a particularly thorough account manager, but they can choose to go the extra mile on a task, or to try seeing problems from the perspective of others. This approach enables everyone to think about what they can bring to the table, and how they can develop skill sets which will always come in handy.

People and organisations need to be ready to embrace failure

We should expect a bit of turbulence over the coming years. As we adapt and embrace the opportunities digital and cultural change offer us, we will likely get elements wrong a few times along the way. Like an inventor experimenting with possible concepts, we will collectively try out a few ideas that lead to dead ends and solutions that don’t go as planned. However, many great inventions were found by accident, and maybe solutions were landed upon simply through having the determination to keep trying. Neither of these outcomes are possible, if we view failure to be an outcome we avoid at all costs.

Organisations should be creating environments where their people feel comfortable going out on a (reasoned and researched) limb once in a while, and be forgiving if they don’t get the outcome they want. The only thing more dangerous than try something new and failing in the 21st century, is to stay still and do nothing at all. The companies that are not able to give their people the opportunities to mess up are going to eventually become victims of their own lack of failure.

Finally, open up your mind, and organisation, to who really works for you

Once upon a time the only people you considered to be contributing to your organisation’s success were those on the official company payroll. As explored in my colleague Rob Whelan’s blog earlier this summer, the landscape looks very different day. Contractors brought in to solve a problem for a few weeks, organisations offering complementary products and services to what you provide, and customers who will utilise your offering and discuss your brand on social media, are all contributing to your success. Ignore them at your peril.

We are seeing an increase in the amount of people who work side jobs, or through the enabling power of new technology, have unpaid hobbies contributing to industries and consumer choices, such as Wikipedia and Tripadvisor contributors. You may not be their employer, but their career, experiences and lifestyle are interconnected with your organisation’s success, and your interactions with them need managed in a considered and deliberate way, much like you would with your regular employees. Getting this right unlocks a wealth of untapped creativity, enthusiasm and knowledge from a willing and engaged pool of contributors.

I’m proud of how much we do at Deloitte to ensure people can have the career and experiences they want. Last year’s move to join forces with colleagues across North-West Europe means our ability to collaborate and offer new cross-border projects for our teams has never been better. Furthermore, new platforms like Facebook Workplace have enabled us to hear more about the work going on around us, further increasing our potential to decide on development and directions that suit us as individuals. I’m excited to come to work knowing I can have the experiences and career that I want here, even if I don’t get to ride a helicopter on my way in!

What can we do more within Deloitte to help you have the experiences that matter to you? What would you like to do, but don’t know where to begin? Let me know, and thanks for reading.

FoW Insights
FoW Insights
Future of Work
Future of Work
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