The Future of Work is Already Here

Spoiler alert: The future of work is about humans, not technology.

After a whirlwind few months of travel to TED, Unlikely Allies, and House of Beautiful Business, where I’ve participated in countless conversations on the future of fill-in-the-blank, I’ve confirmed one hunch in particular:

People are scared about the future of work.

And some will say for good reason: Nearly half of the current jobs are at risk of automation or artificial intelligence.

As more and more people potentially find themselves out of work, concepts like a universal basic income will continue to gain traction. The thing is, while universal basic income solves for basic survival needs, it won’t solve for our timeless human need: one of belonging and purpose.

For those of us lucky enough to exceed the threshold of universal basic income today, we are already faced with the question: What do we value most? More money or more meaning? As humans, we have an innate drive to create and thrive. But designing our lives in line with what matters most isn’t always easy.

So, rather than fear for the future, let’s focus on what we can do today.

How might organizations become a tool for connecting individuals with their personal purpose? How might organizations serve as vehicles for bringing our purpose to life?

1. Celebrate qualities that make us uniquely human.
As we begin to redefine the concept of work and the role it plays in our lives, for many people, this also means a redefining of their sense of self. Where does that leave those who define who they are based on what they do?

Encourage people to build and hone skills that help them stand out from their peers, drive the change they wish to see, and do what machines can’t. Traits to value are creativity, emotional intelligence, empathy, leadership, inspiration, and connection to the arts—this is the magic that makes us uniquely human.

2. Reward people for clarifying why they do what they do.
At an organizational level, leverage this moment to begin setting a new standard for work, where a personal drive for purpose is hired for and rewarded.

With the world changing at lightning speed and with so much of the future being uncertain, people need to articulate their own mission and vision for their life and career. Doing so will provide them a North Star to march toward as the market and the world shifts around them. Imagine the benefits your organization will reap from having employees whose purpose aligns with your organization and, as a result, are truly invested and engaged.

3. Encourage cross-sector collaboration.
I believe that everyone needs to contribute to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, which is why we work across public and private sectors with everyone from The Rockefeller Foundation to NGOs like Doctors Without Borders to heritage brands like Mattel.

Each of these types of organizations can create positive change in different ways, and we need all of them, in many cases working together through game-changing public-private partnerships.

4. Get clear on purpose.
The only organizations that survive in the future will have a strong purpose.

Millennials aren’t the only ones demanding to work for a company that’s purposeful and driving social as well as business impact. We’re already seeing these generational values blurring in our work with clients in the corporate sector, but also with nonprofits and philanthropy. Every year we see more and more employees—from boomers down to Gen Z—designing their career paths to do good and do good business.

We talk about this concept of aligning the whole organization around purpose. In other words, how might every aspect of your organization reflect its greater purpose, from hiring and manufacturing to business operations and environmental implications? Just imagine the multitude of benefits that truly engaged employees will bring, from retention to innovation to overall morale.

So, get clear on your purpose, and performance will follow. You’ll prepare your organization for the future, whatever it may bring.

Interested in talking more about employee experience? Drop us a note.