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The world was changing quickly BEFORE COVID-19 and now as a result of the pandemic, organizations are changing faster in the last few months than they in the past few decades. We are having to rethink the technologies we use to work, how we design workspaces, where employees work, how we lead, and even what “work” means in general.

The infographic below highlights some of the major changes we are seeing and will continue to experience over the coming months and years (feel free to share or repost the image with attribution).

Employee engagement to employee experience

For many years we have collectively focused on employee engagement with minimal results, something I talked about in my HBR article a few years ago. That’s because engagement is the cause and experience is the effect. Employee experience is the combination of three environments, culture, technology, and physical space. The future of work is creating an organizations where employees actually WANT (not NEED) to show up.

Hard skills to soft skills

Writing, reading, math, and technological fluency have traditionally been priorities for organizations around the world while the typical “soft skills” such as emotional intelligence were not. Today, we are seeing that it is perhaps these soft skills that matter most…especially during times of stress, crisis, and tragedy. Soft skills = the new hard skills.

140 of the world’s top CEOs identified a specific set of 9 skills & mindsets that are crucial for leaders to master. Learn what they are and hear directly from these leaders by downloading the PDF below.

Set hours & location to flexibility

Especially with COVID-19 we are seeing employees work whenever and wherever they can in order to get their jobs done. Work is not something you go to, it’s something you take with you wherever you are.

Managing to coaching and mentoring

Instead of telling others what to do, leaders must believe that their job is to help create other leaders…even if they are more successful than they are! As I talk about in my new book, The Future Leader, leaders must be like lighthouses that guide others to success and safety.

Humans act like robots to humans work with robots and AI

Show at the same time, wear the same thing, do the same work, eat at the same time, leave at the same time… rinse and repeat. Sounds like something designed for robots (except they don’t even need to eat!). We created jobs designed for robots but decades ago we didn’t have robots so we used humans instead. Now, we finally have technology that is able to do the jobs designed for it to begin with! Humans must be augmented by robots and AI to focus more on the creative and strategic aspect of works – not pitted against technology.

Process-centric tasks to strategic focused tasks

This goes hand in hand with the one above. We must move away from focusing on processes and steps to unlocking our true potential and focusing on the things that makes us unique. Creativity, complex problem solving, imagination, thinking big picture. These are all things unique to humans. A process centric tasks is equivalent to putting together pieces of a puzzle but whereas strategic focused tasks are equivalent to solving a mystery.

Hierarchy to flatter structures

Instead of the traditional hierarchical model, organizations must adopt a more flattened approach where anyone can speak with and interact with anyone else. There is no longer any justification for keeping people from interacting and engaging with each other because of their seniority level. New collaborative platforms are making this especially easy today. Break down that pyramid.

Static workforce to dynamic workforce

Over the past few decades it was assumed that you are either an employee or you aren’t. Today (and more so in the future) we are seeing a very dynamic workforce where organizations have full-time, part-time, gig-workers, contractors, and a constantly changing and evolving workforce.

Factory to laboratory

Factories are linear and are all about the status-quo, avoiding failure, command and control, and repeatable processes. Laboratories embrace failure, use data, experiment, and are constantly challenging the status quo. Organizations must be laboratories if they wish to thrive. This means challenging convention workforce practices and ideas that have been around for decades.

Move for a job to move for a job and life

People are no longer putting all of their eggs in the “job basket.” Things like quality of life and purpose and meaning are now what employees care about just as much as, if not more than just a paycheck. This is why employee experience is so crucial.

Work-life balance to work-life integration

Gone are the days of just working 9-5 and assuming that anything that happens before 9 or after 6 is “personal time.” We are already starting to see this big shift to work-life integration with COVID-19 where you bring your life with you to work and your work with you to your life. This is the new normal.

Knowledge is power to perpetual learning is power

Knowledge is a commodity. To be the smartest person in the room all you need is a smartphone! Instead, what is far more valuable is your ability to learn new things and apply those things in different environments and scenarios. Learn how to learn!

Long-term employment to focusing on projects and tasks

Pensions don’t even exist anymore. The assumption that someone is going to stay at your organization for a decade or more has been challenged and instead we are seeing employees stay a few years at most before moving on.

Pen and paper to digital everything

COVID-19 has been making this a reality for many organizations around the world as employees are being forced to work remotely using digital platforms and technologies. Believe it or not, most companies are still very much lacking in digital transformation efforts.

Decisions based on intuition to decisions based on data

For many decades, strategic and important decisions were made based on gut reactions and intuition. In the future leaders are going to have access to unbelievable amounts of data and the insights that comes from that data. This means no more guesswork. Leaders will be able to combine their intuition and judgement with data insights to make the best possible decisions.

Retire at 65 to retire when dead

With life expectancy increasing and people staying in the workforce even longer, the notion of retiring at 65 is obsolete. Instead of politely asking your older workers to retire, keep them on as advisors, coaches, and mentors to the next generation of workers. Their insights and experiences are invaluable! All of us will have to reinvent ourselves several times during the course of our careers.

One workspace to a spectrum of spaces

Open spaces or closed spaces? Both of those arguments miss the point. It’s not about one or the other. Instead organizations must focus on creating multiple workspace options for their employees so that they can be most productive and engaged depending on the work they are doing, this of course includes flexible work.

This is what the future of work looks like and we are already seeing these changes happening today. Leaders around the world have a choice to make. Are they going to help shape the new world of work or are they going to cling to the past…the “old ways” of doing things? I see tremendous opportunity on the horizon for the bold and courageous leaders out there…if they take action.

140 of the world’s top CEOs identified a specific set of 9 skills & mindsets that are crucial for leaders to master. Learn what they are and hear directly from these leaders by downloading the PDF below.

If you enjoyed the article and want more content like this here’s what you can do:

1. Subscribe to The Future of Work Podcast where I interview business leaders around the world each week.

2. Grab a copy of The Future Leader which has been endorsed by the CEOs of MasterCard, Best Buy, Oracle, Audi, Unilever, Domino’s Pizza, Ritz Carlton, Kaiser, and Marshall Goldsmith. It explores the most essential skills and mindsets for future leaders.

3If you are or want to be an entrepreneur then my wife and I just launched a brand new podcast on how to Be Your Own Boss, called the BYOB Podcast where we share what we did and how we did. You can subscribe to that here.

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