Talent management: preparing for the future of work

The future of work is fast approaching. Use these guidelines to increase your talent management efforts and not get left behind.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) continues to disrupt many industries with artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning (ML), to name a few, the world of work is changing at lightning speed. Indeed, the concept of a “job”, which was created by the First Industrial Revolution, may well be significantly altered by the Fourth. But what exactly does this mean for talent management and the futures of work in your organisation?

How will the fourth industrial revolution affect talent management in workplaces?

1. As innovations in cyber-physical systems enable more “gig” work and entrepreneurship, the notion remains that routine jobs could be replaced by automation. However, systems change slowly, and every preceding revolution has created more jobs than it destroyed.

We’ve already seen a growth in 3D designers, ML specialists and rogue biohackers, and can expect even more jobs to be created than we have yet to realise.

The opportunity to harness new technologies in innovative ways and create new job categories that require diverse skills and abilities is great for established and emerging organisations in South Africa. Not only does it open opportunities for job creation but also for career development.

2. Remaining employed by a particular organisation for a long time is not a guiding factor for millennials and Generation Z who seek employment that fulfils their needs for money, freedom, career development, skills development and social justice.

According to Forbes, these generations are more critical and demanding of their employers and wouldn’t hesitate to leave one organisation for another that offers less pay but has better sustainability policies and opportunities for career advancement.

In addition, the gig economy – a free-market system where independent workers are contracted over a short term – and entrepreneurship are rising steadily. Enabled by digital platforms, individuals can now be part of the national and global economy without the need for proximity. Many millennials have already opted into gig work and its related benefits over fixed employment.

So how best can your organisation prepare for the futures of work and accompanying talent management concerns? These four trends are already shifting the way innovative global companies are working.

What talent management strategies can be used to prepare for the future of work?

1. A new approach to company policies

Often, employees want to propose innovative solutions to problems, however, company culture and organisational systems prevent them from either voicing or applying their proposals.

By re-evaluating processes and systems, organisations could create fast, dynamic and creative spaces that encourage freedom, and the skills and abilities to fail forward and apply critical and design thinking. This especially includes how people perceive the options they have.

Meals for all dietary requirements at the cafeteria, bathroom facilities for all abilities and gender identities, remote work options, flexible work hours and how staff are allowed to dress and decorate themselves and their spaces, could potentially make or break their levels of engagement and innovation.

2. The Public Lab

With the rise of social media, company operations, values and work processes were put under the public spotlight.

As Trendwatching’s “The Future of Work” report identifies, consumers are increasingly attune to key information about large conglomerates. And in the 4IR, consumers’ expectations will be to experience almost every aspect of a business or brand through participation and absolute transparency. Enter the age of what Trendwatching calls the Public Lab.

These are innovative spaces and experiences that expose a brand’s work and staff to public view. In Tokyo, cosmetics brand Shiseido opened its Global Innovation Center where visitors can create their own cosmetics, see inside the company’s research laboratories and purchase limited edition products. In South Africa, Sealand has opened up a concept store where shoppers can be involved in the creation of their own sustainable products.

3. A diverse, informed workforce

In a fast-changing world, where technology is not the only thing impacting our lives, talent management within an organisation is imperative. Organisations must look at upskilling their staff in terms of agility, anti-fragility, creativity and innovation.

Although many employees are truly creative and innovative, others firmly believe they are not. Mentorship programmes and other workplace experience workshops could enable creativity, complex problem solving, agility, change and rapid innovation across all departments, not just the creative ones.

However, these skills and abilities are complex in themselves and will take time, exercise and layers of engagement before any benefits are seen. Organisations that do not invest early could potentially also exit the market early.

4. The network effect

As digital transformation encroaches on every aspect of our lives, more and more individuals are opting to enter the gig economy, performing temporary or freelance jobs that allow them flexibility and freedom.

According to Statistics South Africa, temporary employment in Mzansi rose from 2.6 million in 2017 to 3.9 million in 2018. And while the negative (loneliness) and positive (increased productivity) effects of this shift are numerous, the gig economy also presents a concern around access to mentorship.

Trendwatching suggests future mentorship programmes should harness the power of networking, with mentorship services that help staff and freelancers cultivate their skills and abilities while enabling their career development. Already, we’ve seen a rise in communal office spaces for remote and freelance workers in the form of WeWork, Venture Workspace, Cube Working Space and Spaces in South Africa.

In the 4IR, these coworking spaces move online with start-ups such as UK-based Leapers already offering a Slack-type community for freelancers while US-based Quilt launched an app to facilitate connections between professional women to help them host gatherings outside their homes.

The University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development (USB-ED), in collaboration with the Institute for Futures Research, offers a series of masterclasses to develop participants’ capacity to resolve complexity, do design thinking, develop scenarios and implement strategy within their organisations. A great course is Innovation and Design Thinking. This will allow you to learn and understand innovation that supports your business strategy and implementation across all areas of your organisation, taking into account the importance of customer-centric design and collaborative thinking.

Doris Viljoen is a Senior Futurist at the Institute for Futures Research and faculty at USB-ED.

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