How to prepare for the future of work: 4 key steps

Tomorrow’s winners are strategizing today. Here’s how they’re doing it:

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

The term “future of work” is one of today’s hottest topics. A search for it on Google nets more than three billion results. There are countless research reports dedicated to helping leaders navigate the changes that this next chapter will bring. Top-tier universities have entire courses devoted to the subject.

That wasn’t always the case. Prior to COVID-19, preparing for the future of work wasn’t on most leaders’ radars. The working world was relatively predictable, so businesses prioritized scalable efficiency until the onset of the pandemic turned agility into the ultimate competitive advantage.

Today, most leaders recognize that disruption is a hallmark of our new world of work. They know they need to shift their operating models and embrace new technology to unlock the kind of agility that our next chapter requires. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what the future of work actually means and how to evolve your strategy accordingly.

What you need to know about the future of work

“Future of work” isn’t a meaningless buzzword; it’s a phrase used to describe any projection of how work, workers, and the workplace will evolve in the years ahead. It’s a topic that many C-suite executives are focused on, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

The pandemic demonstrated how fast things can change, underscoring the need for agile operating models. Now, every business is striving to embrace more dynamic ways of working so they can respond to whatever disruptions our next chapter brings.

Redefining work and reimagining the employee-employer relationship are at the heart of conversations about the future of work. Workers are calling for change and raising the bar for employers, as the Great Resignation indicates. Consequently, every element of the professional world is up for discussion, from the role of the office to the way work is structured.

Why organizations must become future-fit

The future of work is garnering so much attention right now because it’s becoming increasingly evident that the way we work needs to change. There’s a profound skills shortage, with predictions estimating that 30%-40% of all workers in developed countries will need to upgrade their skills by 2030. Leading organizations have begun taking action to prevent knowledge gaps from widening, with Amazon recently pledging $700 million to retrain 100,000 employees for higher-skilled jobs.

Simultaneously, businesses are grappling with limited talent supplies and hyper-competitive hiring landscapes. Research predicts that by 2030, talent shortages could result in $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues. Given this grim forecast, it’s easy to understand why so many leaders are looking for guidance when it comes to preparing for the future of work.

4 Steps you can take to thrive in the new world of work

Although there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the future of work, there is a handful of actions that leaders can take today to set themselves up for success tomorrow. Here’s how to get started:

#1. Put skills at the top of your priority list

Due to the impending skills shortage, it’s no surprise that HR leaders named building critical competencies as their top priority. Yet, when it comes to skill-building, all strategies aren’t created equally.

Many leaders mistakenly look at skills as an inventory problem and think the best approach is to build as many capabilities as possible. In actuality, skill-building is a dynamic process. Since business needs and employee ambitions will continuously change, upskilling and reskilling initiatives must be designed to keep pace.

This agile approach to skill-building is fueled by technology that captures both the demand of rapidly changing priorities and the supply of talent, which is where talent marketplaces come into play. The two-sided platforms provide full visibility into workforce skills, enabling leaders to identify potential knowledge gaps before they emerge and adapt upskilling and reskilling initiatives accordingly.

#2. Emphasize meaningful growth opportunities

Employees are no longer content with climbing one-size-fits-all vertical career leaders. Instead, workers are increasingly calling for access to meaningful career development opportunities that align with their sense of purpose and long-term goals.

As the hiring landscape gets more competitive, leaders must ensure that their people feel genuinely connected to the work they are doing. That starts with putting workers at the helm of their career progression. Dynamic career pathing tools have emerged as a key resource that presents employees with several directions their careers can take, based on their unique skills, experiences, and ambitions.

#3. Remove bias and barriers from the equation

Talent shortages are already threatening to hinder future revenue goals. In some organizations, latent biases will exacerbate this problem by preventing leaders from tapping into every employee’s full potential.

For a long time, external factors like personal networks and educational backgrounds swayed talent management decisions. Some employees got access to plenty of career development opportunities, while those from underrepresented groups rarely received a fair chance. That meant that employees with in-demand expertise were routinely getting overlooked.

Fortunately, the rise in talent marketplaces is leveling the playing field. The platforms mitigate bias and democratize career development by providing all employees with full transparency into the opportunities that your organization has to offer. Talent marketplaces also match people to open roles based on skills and experience, in turn opening leaders’ eyes to qualified candidates that they may have never considered before.

#4. Take advantage of next-generation technology

As leaders evolve their strategies and shift their operating models, they can’t expect the same set of tools to support their new initiatives. Instead, businesses must embrace new, disruptive technologies to prepare for the challenges their next chapter will bring.

When it comes to technology that will make an impact, talent marketplaces sit at the top of the list. The two-sided, AI-powered platforms unlock agility and democratize career development by dynamically aligning employees to relevant internal opportunities, such as projects, gigs, and full-time roles.

The businesses that will be remembered as tomorrow’s leaders are the organizations that are laying the groundwork now by preparing for the future of work today.

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