The Future of Work and Learning – The 2020s : Utopia or Dystopia?

Research shows we are conditioned to think negatively 70% of the time – largely in ways that express our fears; something we don’t want or are actively trying to avoid.

As we leap further into an uncertain world – forever changed by jittery markets, rapid digital transformation, disruption, hyper competitive marketplaces, shifting cultural landscapes and the end of the ‘job for life’ – it’s only natural to be daunted by our own position in the evolving workplace.

Yet there is much to be optimistic about if we’re open to change and the exciting new opportunities that present themselves with it. I will be delighted to present a the ATD Global Perspectives seminar in May on our research into the key areas important to future success, through building a workforce fit to win.

While conducting our research, we interviewed many professionals and leaders across Business, HR and Learning. This reinforced much of the research but also exposed differences within regions, markets and based on cultural norms.

Interestingly, despite some differences, there were 5 common themes that were reinforced time and again, as organisations prepare their businesses and workforce for the future.

1, Be ready

We are living in the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – the advent of sophisticated automation and the information age. We have transcended the ‘electronic’ era and are firmly in the digital. This revolution is not about to happen…it’s happening now. Yet too many companies fail to accommodate new technologies and new ways of working. This is understandable, what with the pace of change being quite overwhelming, but companies can make incremental changes to ensure they exploit the latest technologies and systems to their full advantage. Digital transformation is here to stay and this is one area exposed in our research which too many organisations, worldwide, are not tackling quickly enough, with the right research and in an efficient way.

2, Embrace social technologies and experiment

Social media has taken over the workplace like nothing else. Many people are aware of its existence and will probably use some platforms socially, such as Facebook or Instagram, in their personal lives. Yet when it comes to using social technologies and media in the workplace, many leaders are unsure just how it fits into the vast scheme of things. The point here is to experiment and learn. There are countless new ways to connect, to market and to be educated. There is likely something out there that could really make a difference to your place in the market, but you don’t have to succeed immediately. What we absolutely must do is experiment, learn internally and externally and act.

3, The old ways are no longer the best

There remains in 2018 much talk of Gen Y / Millennials and how companies should respond to their needs to engage them in the workplace. Gen Y Millennials represent a generation that has grown up with the Internet who don’t necessarily fit the narcissistic and lazy stereotype they are often tainted with (the ‘Me’ generation I feel is a dangerous, sweeping generalization). Instead, Millennials are challenging the old ways of working and adapting to a whole new working landscape; one devoid of 9-5 and top-down management. Rather than pandering to Gen Y – as their elders often feel pressured into – the most successful companies are finding new ways to work cross-generationally and embrace diversity. And this is yielding some very positive results.
In fact, it will become even more important to “flatten out” the cross generational debate as we welcome GenZ into the workplace within the next 2 years and, in many worldwide markets, define how to utilise and benefit from an aging population of ‘sliver stars’ who are ready to commit for longer and  contribute more.

4, Think positive

It is so important for Leaders to build motivation and clear direction for the future. It inspires positive thinking and commits hearts and minds. Consider the start of this post – many people fail because they frame objectives in a negative way (“we cannot miss our target this month” etc.)
As we navigate the 2020’s workplace, a positive mindset makes a huge difference, at all levels, and learning how to motivate your workforce so that they embrace change is paramount in any modern organisation.

5, Adopt new ways of learning

More agile working methods, ongoing business transformation, disruptive new competitors and more, mean we need to LEARN more. New knowledge, skills and behaviours to help us compete, collaborate, communicate and win. Corporate learning needs not just to evolve but I would argue requires a mini revolution of its own. We only have to look at the Education sector to see how learning can be different. The school classroom of today is flipped completely to focus on building knowledge remotely through online student working groups and then in the classroom to apply the learning to real cases, projects and challenges. Learning strongly through peer-to-peer collaboration and action.

Transforming HR and learning for the digital era is the single biggest challenge facing many human capital professionals. What is more important is to find the right blend of solutions that suits your organisation, personalises learning to new levels and impacts growth – of the business, our leaders, our managers, our teams and individuals.

After all, in the increasingly digitized world of business, one could argue that the human touch is more important than ever.

I am looking forward to taking you on a journey to the future of now – which, of course, is now! Through our research to establish how the landscape is looking our there and to some organizations who are taking brave, bold steps to transform and win differently in their markets. The somewhat portentious Chinese saying has more resonance now than ever before. “May you live in interesting times”. Many may not know but this saying was actually a curse. Interpret that as you will!

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