With the year coming to an end, it’s time to look forward to 2023 and beyond.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone could have fully predicted the events that unfolded since 2019, but that doesn’t mean attempting to predict the future of business is futile.
As Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.”
As we step off Eisenhower’s metaphorical tracks and look into the future, it is important to remember that progress has been made despite the setbacks many companies have experienced over the last few years.
The corporate responsibility movement has grown and prospered, work-life balance has become more important, and corporations are increasingly expected to affect positive change in society. It is apparent that the corporate world is moving forward and striving to improve with every passing day. I anticipate that this trend will continue in 2023 and beyond.
My Top Nine Predictions for the Future of Work
An increase in remote and hybrid working models. Sixteen percent of companies already operate fully remotely. Unfortunately, many employers are fearful of embracing remote and hybrid working models as a result of unsubstantiated mistrust. These models will become more popular as employees continue to push for them and prove that they are trustworthy. In the future, employees will no longer be restricted by location requirements, allowing them to work from anywhere in the world. Hybrid work models are currently popular, but this will be their natural successor.
More flexible hours. More than half of US employees have indicated that they would prefer flexible working hours. We are moving away from a system where companies dictate working conditions in favor of one where employees determine them. Therefore, flexible hours are expected to become more common. It is a good thing, too. A flexible work schedule allows employees to work when they are most productive, rather than when they are required to. This is a win-win situation for all concerned.
More four-day work weeks. Since many consumer products businesses rely on walk-in customers, some companies may not be able to implement flexible hours. Future workers may expect to work four days a week if flexible hours are not possible. More than 200 companies, including Kickstarter, Yelp, and Amazon, are currently trialing four-day work weeks. How quickly four-day work weeks become mainstream will depend on the outcome of their trials.
A growing emphasis on wellness. Employee well-being is already a top priority for many companies. For example, Asana offers its employees three nutritious meals per day as well as executive coaching at no cost. Microsoft’s CARES program provides free counseling to individuals and families, and Intuit reimburses employees for mindfulness and meditation classes. These companies are not overachievers, they are just ahead of the pack. Future businesses will likely embrace employee well-being programs, and those that already do will increase their offerings.
An increase in the use of artificial and autonomous intelligence. Some companies, like Netflix, already use AI to recommend content to their users, while others, like Alibaba, have integrated it into their customer service functions. Eventually, AI and autonomous intelligence will fill more roles traditionally filled by humans as they become more complex and capable of handling more technical challenges. Rather than ending the role of human employees, this will change the role they play within companies and encourage them to develop new skills and competencies, particularly soft skills and leadership skills.
ESG and CSR will become non-negotiable. Many stock exchanges require ESG reporting from listed companies, but there is little oversight of CSR and ESG for private companies. I predict that more countries will enact legislation requiring ESG reporting and CSR involvement in the future. According to my observations, Gen Z and Millennial workers will also expect their employers to participate in CSR and ESG initiatives. As a result, employers will have to invest more in ESG and CSR to remain competitive in the talent market. In addition to this, consumers have indicated that they are willing to pay more for sustainable products, which will further drive this trend.
The importance of DEI initiatives will increase. The most recent Reykjavik Index yielded unsatisfactory results. Only 38% of Japanese and 41% of German respondents said they would feel comfortable with a female head of state or CEO. However, women are not the only group still fighting for equality. Nearly half of LGBTQ+ employees have experienced discrimination at work, and 24% of Black and 24% of Hispanic employees in the US have experienced workplace discrimination. I predict, or rather I hope, that we will remedy these issues sooner rather than later in order to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace in which historically disadvantaged groups will hold more senior leadership positions.
More reskilling and upskilling. The role of employees will change as companies embrace digital transformation and artificial intelligence. As a result of talent shortages, companies will have to reskill and upskill their existing employees rather than find external candidates. Over the next few years, I predict that many well-established roles will change forever and the people currently filling them will be upskilled or reskilled so that they can continue to play a role in the company. While it might seem far-fetched, this trend is already underway. According to a survey conducted in 2020, 68% of companies invest in reskilling/upskilling in order to deal with organizational changes, and another 65% invest in training on new technologies.
The role of leadership will change. In a world where work is increasingly automated, more employees are working remotely, and more focus is being placed on ESG, CSR, and DEI, the role of leaders will undoubtedly change. The leaders of the future will champion the company’s mission and story to such an extent that employees’ proximity to their manager will not determine their motivation. The leaders of the future will also give their employees a sense of purpose and belonging through diversity and inclusion in the workplace and support for ESG and CSR initiatives. I believe the future of work is bright, but current leaders must develop new skills in order for it to become a reality.
How to Prepare for the Future of Work
To thrive in the economy of the future, companies will need one trait above all: flexibility.
Companies will also have to invest in continuous learning to remain relevant, not only for employees who may require upskilling or reskilling, but also for management at all levels.
The future success of your organization depends on its leadership. Having the right people in the right positions will ensure that you are able to anticipate the changes your company will need to make.