There are many views on how to anticipate and prepare for the “workforce of the future." From doomsday scenarios where vast numbers of jobs are automated to viable concerns regarding the persistent skills gap that plagues so many industries, apprehension regarding the face of tomorrow’s workforce is high. Moreover, with the growing labor shortage, emerging wage pressure and AI-driven innovation coming to so many sectors, it’s become increasingly difficult to navigate hiring strategies today, let alone tomorrow.
In many ways the workforce of the future is already here. It’s defined by a persistent sense that the way things are being done today, may no longer work in the near future. Disruption is here to stay and it’s created a relentless focus on doing things more effectively and efficiently. Yet, what so many companies are finding is that the task of finding ways to “do things better” is really an evolving process that takes shape over time. It’s not a zero-sum game. Rather, it incorporates both human talent and incremental innovations in technology.
One thing is certain – today’s environment is anything but static. It calls for boards to take different approaches in terms of evaluating ongoing investment in people and processes. Here are some key considerations:
Instilling a Culture of Innovation & Diversity
• At the forefront, boards are collaborating more with management to effectively define the company’s culture. Beyond seeking specific expertise and skillsets, companies need to foster an open-minded environment that promotes innovation and diversity among all employees and at every level. Supported by the right tools, employees should be encouraged and rewarded to continually look for avenues to do things better, regardless of their position in the company. This requires a more open and direct dialogue between management and employees, as well as regular interaction across all teams and functions.
• The combination of the labor shortage and skills gap calls for boards to put a priority on employee training programs. Companies have to provide new and longstanding employees with ongoing opportunities to learn new technologies, which may reduce turnover and related costs. In addition, boards have to ensure their companies make ample room for contract workers, who can bring great value to an organization in exchange for various levels of compensation and workplace flexibility. There are many talented professionals who choose not to work full-time or align with one company. Don’t make the mistake of not utilizing their energies, skills and insights.
Tapping the Experts
• From a business model standpoint, boards have arguably never been faced with the current level of decision-making that comes with evaluating technology and how it impacts their organizations. Boards have to continually assess more holistic investment paths that influence entire business ecosystems. This requires an ongoing education process and increased exposure to industry thought-leaders. Among other measures, directors need to connect with influential experts and invite them to speak to their boards and management teams, plan trips to innovation centers in Silicon Valley and attend major technology conferences to learn about innovation trends first-hand.
Assessing Technology Investment
• Directors should also consider developing a transparent innovation scorecard to monitor technology progress. With so many paths to evaluate, a benchmarking system will provide clear insights into company vulnerabilities, including what the competition is doing in terms of hiring, outsourcing and technology investment. This system should be accessible to operating leadership and supported by the right incentives to foster ideas and solutions. Grant Thornton’s Insight Exchange serves as a helpful platform for engaging with peer networks and sharing best practices by industry group.
Leveraging Thought Leadership
• It’s wise for organizations to affiliate with local universities, trade associations and think-tanks. Engaging in symposiums, hosting internships and contributing to industry white papers serve as branding exercises. Beyond offering the right incentives and benefits, attracting the right candidates in such a competitive market can only be enhanced by being visible and influential in credible circles. Even if a candidate decides to pursue employment elsewhere, the visibility of your company as a thought leader will keep you in the game. Status is a good thing especially in an environment marked by rising wages and increased competition for talent.
The workforce of the future has arrived. The relentless pace of disruption requires different ways of thinking in terms of assessing technology and attracting, training and rewarding talent. The task of finding ways to “do things better” should be an engrained focus at every level. Change is often incremental, but nonetheless dramatic. It can be managed with the right mindset and culture. The workforce of today incorporates both human talent and the right solutions in AI, robotics and machine learning, among other technologies. The biggest risk is remaining static.
About the author
National Managing Partner, Markets, Clients & Industry