Hello Leader,

The lesson 2011 taught us all is to be surprised by nothing.

The difference between market leadership and chapter 11 is the ability to attract and retain the best people. With rapid change accelerating, leaders must develop practical strategies to recruit, develop and collaboratively engage five generations in the workplace. This has never happened before, so coalescing these generations at work in the dynamic environment ahead presents extraordinary opportunities and challenges. Companies that are not prepared to meet these opportunities risk their viability. In this KEY you will discover five forces shaping the future of work.

Listen to a unique podcast: The Future of Work - How to meet your organization's challenges and win. Please forward this KEY to friends, family and associates.


Aviv Shahar

The Future of Work

Here are five forces that will shape the future of work and the workplace:

Work on Value

To thrive in the new environment, organizations will have to realign the entire workforce to focus on value. The fastest way to bring about this change is to get all managers and employees to rewrite their job descriptions. Instead of defining your job by required tasks or activities, define your job by the outcomes you create and the value you generate for your clients and key stakeholders. Instead of focusing on "what you do" at work, focus on "whom you serve" and "how you improve their situation." Organizations ready to embrace this realignment will be resilient, agile and unstoppable.

Work to Learn

To attract and retain the best people, organizations will design work environments that offers continual learning experiences. Good speakers know that "If they are laughing, they are listening." Good managers know that as long as "they are learning and developing they are engaged, improving and will continue to create greater value." Learning must be inseparably integrated into work. A career path must be designed to prepare and build knowhow and leadership readiness. Too often today's success is tomorrow's trap, preventing new development and arresting innovation. Instead, success and accomplishments must become stepping stones for learning.

In a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, we come to work to learn how the world changed today, how we must adapt, what new work is needed and how we can lead and shape the future. As most manual and repetitive operations get automated, and machines, computers and robots increasingly take over what people used to do, work will be redefined as adapting to a changing world and innovating how we respond in a meaningful way to create value.

Imagine a workplace in which people show up excited to learn the new adventure before them today and thrilled to develop new skills. Future skills we all will continue to develop and refine include: conceptualizing and codifying; data analyzing and insight generating; communicating, listening, coaching and bringing out the best in others; judgment and intuition; problem solving and decision making; and relationship building and collaborating with co-workers and clients. We will come to work to learn and to mentor others in this process. Look to experience an expanding variety of knowledge-sharing and learning formats. We all will expect and be expected to engage in lifelong learning.

Flexible Work

To retain top talent, enable best performance and encourage higher creativity, organizations will design flexible and boundary-less work. Traditional offices and nine-to-five schedules will be displayed in museums describing how people used to work. In the now always-on, connected and mobile world, people no longer separate "work" and "life." Since your mobile device has become your office, the personal and the professional are now increasingly a meshed reality. Work meets life and life meets work everywhere. Smart companies already embrace this trend and organize their systems to support the greatest freedom and versatility for their people. Flexible work enables the global workforce to connect and collaborate. Flexible work will be even more critical as the global talent shortage becomes increasingly acute. To attract, engage and develop talent, imagine your teams working from everywhere, anytime, with each person coordinating his or her schedule to flow to the place of need and opportunity. Contributing value will define what work looks like; the place, time and structure will become secondary while agility and speed of response will rule the day.

Work as Volunteer

To create and sustain the necessary high engagement, organizations will help employees find and work in their passion zone. Heavily structured command and control workplaces will not unleash the creativity and engagement needed to thrive in the new and challenging business environment. Like the best cause-driven non-profit agencies, so too will private companies need to engage the workforce as volunteers, recognizing that motivation is an essential inner property. More people will expect to find their vocation at work and choose work that meets their passion and volition. With social networking and technology taking center stage, participation and engagement are the currency of the future. Employees will expect to have unique opportunities to participate and engage. Your clients and customers will expect to be able to participate with you to help improve your product, service and experience. To engage five generations at work and foster collaboration of people across vastly different interests, knowledge and life experiences, you will need to cultivate an entire organization peopled by those who show up, step up, and step forward to contribute and to learn.

Work on Purpose

We are all working in this life to discover what we love, what energizes us, and the purpose we are here to serve. We all want to feel that what we do at work matters, that we make a difference. The untapped potential is not in getting people to put more hours in a day, but in allowing people to bring forward their creative energy and authentic voice and passion. Dignity and self-respect are found as you find yourself able to work on things you care deeply and feel passionately about. Serving a cause as a peripheral issue is no longer sufficient. People will expect to work on purpose. The "What am I here for" and "Who I serve" needs to align and connect with their personal sense of purpose and with the organizational vision. Profit is the byproduct you are rewarded with. The purpose of work is to create meaning and connectedness. People will come to work to connect with others who care about similar things. Imagine the workplace as a theater where people create value and make meaning by connecting in ways that serve and improve all stakeholders. That's the definition of work.

Now it's your turn. Turn the key. Work on value. Turn work into a flexible and rich learning experience. Build a community of volunteers who thrive on fostering inspired participation. Create a purposeful future that will make you and your people succeed with pride.

© Aviv Shahar