Four Truths of the 2020s Workforce We Should Embrace

Today’s post comes to us from advisory board member Alexandra Levit, author of Humanity Works.”

When faced with the notion of artificially intelligent employees and individually customized career paths, it’s easy to get overwhelmed — especially after a pandemic period in which day-to-day survival was paramount. However, this time of transformation is an exciting one in which to lead an organization, and here’s why you should look at these four workforce truths as opportunities rather than developments to be feared.

Truth One: Machines Are Our Partners

Right now, many of your employees use basic chatbots to accomplish basic work tasks such as scheduling meetings or searching for pertinent information online. But, as computing gets more powerful, intelligent machines will become more sophisticated members of your team. Thanks to advances in deep-learning artificial intelligence (AI), our machine partners are increasingly able to recognize images, understand language, and hold conversations.

Thanks to advances in augmented and virtual reality, employee training is becoming richer and more cost-effective, and smart devices will shortly be able to ascertain how and when your people are most productive and the tasks on which they are best suited to focus. These smart devices will also understand your strengths and weaknesses as a manager and will be by your side, for example, to provide guidance on how to deliver criticism to a direct report.

Truth Two: We Structure Agile Workforces

In the new world of work, the organization that can do the best job at customizing a job and schedule for a high-potential employee will have the best shot at retaining that employee.

You will also have the advantage of a large contract workforce at your disposal. Because of our ability to communicate and collaborate seamlessly across the globe, organizations no longer need to control full-time resources and work will become increasingly task based. As a talent assembler, you’ll never be stuck with labor you don’t need. Instead, you will bring on specialized teams to complete projects as needed.

And, you can say goodbye to unnecessary overhead. The proliferation of virtual work and the mobile office means that, as the century progresses, many organizations will not have a company-sponsored physical office but instead will lease chains of interconnected hubs with various space-access arrangements.

Truth Three: We Emphasize Creativity

As a leader, it will be up to you to help your people develop skills that will keep them marketable as more jobs are automated. These abilities are often non-routine and relate to discovery, innovation, team building, and interactions that require the unique human touches of diplomacy and empathy.

Your employees will need to build new competencies that allow them to work side by side with intelligent machines — and fix them when they’re broken. You’ll guide them in exercising their intuition as they derive meaningful insights from large quantities of data and use available technology to create simulation and gamification apps to motivate team members and customers.

Truth Four: We Are Conscious About Technology Usage

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. labor productivity fell dramatically by 7.5% in the first quarter of 2022. That’s the largest drop in worker output per hour in 75 years.

There’s no doubt about it — technology has saved the business world’s bacon during the pandemic period. A variety of technologies were introduced, from collaboration and simple-task automation software to advanced machine-learning applications, to do more work, more quickly. So, why aren’t workers more productive?

Rather than helping to decrease the overwork epidemic, technology has contributed to it. Thanks to the smartphone and the cloud, we can work anywhere we want, at all hours of the day and night. It’s simple to keep working when it might be more beneficial to give your brain time to recharge. And, during quarantine periods, in fact, it has been essential to operate like this.

Unfortunately, as a result, workers are overloaded with technology options. Your use of cloud-based analytics engines will be key in assessing what’s interesting and necessary to an individual knowledge worker and will help them organize incoming information into relevant categories or topics, such as customers, products, services, or projects. By designing our technology systems to be more palatable with how the human brain works best, we will decrease mental strain while increasing productivity.

If you’ve been in the workforce a while, much of this is new, and some of it will inevitably make you uncomfortable. But, instead of waiting until next month or next year to embrace these trends, be proactive. As a leader, you’re in exactly the right position to create the near future of the work that you’d like to see.