The new era of work: a moving reality. From early civilizations to the Industrial Revolution, work processes and the impact on an individuals’ life have drastically evolved. Today, according to Jacob Morgan (Forbes, 2013), globalization, technology and mobility are profoundly changing our relationship with work.
Those changes are not “yet to come”. We already entered a disruptive, fast-changing era where work codes and practices strongly differ from what the baby-boomers’ generation experienced and this is just the beginning. As Andrew Karpie puts it, “before 2025, the workplace as we know it today will be completely transformed” (Forbes, 2015).
What is this transformation about? How will our work habits be impacted? Across the literature, 5 fundamental and brand-new trends stand out.
1 – The obsolescence of the vertical corporate ladder
Several decades ago, a successful worker was a professional who managed to climb the corporate ladder faster than the average. Experts seeking to develop “hard” knowledge rather than transversal management skills would have less opportunities to grow. Today, professionals have more ownership on their career and can design their own ladder within a company. Joining a new team or business unit, or taking on a new function, is as much about professional growth as about corporate prestige.
2 – Flatter hierarchy, stronger empowerment
Authoritarian management styles are outdated. So are vertical hierarchies and frozen job mixes. More and more companies put effort in enhancing teams’ creativity and empowering individuals. Team trainings – like the MBTI (Myers-Briggs) – fostering awareness of each other’s personality type are blooming. Afterwork parties in trendy bars mixing managers and employees from all levels of responsibilities are the new traditional corporate Christmas gathering. The workplace is moving towards a new model where all good ideas are worth spreading, and where good management is about inspiring rather than controlling. Leadership is the new boss.
3 – The rise of the on-demand workforce
Generation Y transformed the nature of the relationship between employees and companies. Breaking with long-lasting relationships, Gen Y brought professionals with a strong desire for freedom and flexibility. This fueled the development of a skilled workforce with poor interest in committing to a company but willing to be their own bosses. Free-lancers websites such as Upwork are flourishing all around the globe.
According to Alex Chriss, vice president and general manager of Self-Employed Solutions at Intuit (Inc, 2015), “non-permanent workers such as freelancers are expected to comprise 43 percent of the [U.S.] work force by 2020”.
4 – The workspace virtualization
Greatly encouraged by technological progress, mobility and flexibility are the most visible signs of the transition we are going through. Internet, smartphones and the multiplication of communication channels pave the way for the virtualization of the workspace. Today, an increasing number of professionals can work outside of their office, enjoying more flexibility in their schedule. Digital nomads, a new rising category of workers, are the ultimate example. They are web developers, journalists, tech entrepreneurs working 100% remotely – all they need is a fast internet connection…and good coffee 🙂
5 – Hence a stronger need for personal branding
All 4 trends highlighted above create a stronger need for each individual to better advertise their qualities, spread the word about their achievements and showcase their talents. Whether considered exciting or intimidating, this trend will strongly impact our approach to the workplace. The ability to network, build communities, create momentum, share knowledge and generate team spirit will be increasingly valued as the workplace is getting more virtual, global, mobile and the need for physical interaction decreases.
Those new ways of working offer many advantages but also new challenges never faced before. The balance between professional and private life is certainly one of them. Senior managers will play a crucial role in fostering a healthy coexistence between work and leisure time, as the evolutions mentioned above foster stronger integration and as new technologies blur traditional frontiers between the two.