by Meg Crosby
According to Deloitte Consulting, Millenials will be 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Yes, read that sentence again. Their presence as a majority is not the only change we will see in the workplace in the coming 10 years. Here are four other trends we are keeping an eye on.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the renowned Stanford University School of Design, or “D-School” for short. This think tank is re-thinking how we interact with our surroundings and looking at spatial innovations in corporate settings, classroom settings, and even in our homes. One common theme cuts across all categories — flexibility. Everything at the D-School is modular and on wheels for easy movement. Each work space comes with a set of furniture that can be configured in multiple ways to best suit the user’s need — whether that may be an individual work space, a conference setting, classroom, etc. Of course, all spaces are tricked out with the latest technologies and mobile devices, too. All of you recovering cubicle dwellers from the “open floor plan” era will appreciate the workplace of the future that you can configure on demand.
Let’s face it, everyone hates annual performance reviews. They are time consuming, anxiety producing, and rarely lead to any meaningful change. To quote an article from Strategy + Business magazine, “Conventional Performance Management has been linked to high levels of attrition, low productivity, and significant problems with collaboration.” Increasingly, the trend is for companies to scrap their annual review process in favor of something more strategic and impactful. The biggest shift you will see in performance management is away from “evaluating past performance” to more frequent and forward-looking processes and behaviors that “drive future performance.” Companies will start asking themselves, “What drives performance in our organization and how do we create a culture that values those things and unleashes that potential?” The secret sauce for success lies in those answers.
Elevation of HR
It turns out that people are a particularly important asset for companies in a knowledge economy. It follows, then, that elevating the people function (HR) to a seat at the highest strategic level would be an important move for companies hoping to stay ahead of the curve on attracting, motivating, and retaining talent. If you have not heard the acronym CHRO, you will. Harvard Business Review’s July 2015 issue featured the provocative title: “It’s Time to Blow Up HR and Build Something New.” Inside this issue, in their article “People Before Strategy,” the authors contend, “It’s time for HR to make the same leap the finance function has made in recent decades and become a true partner to the CEO. Maintaining human capital must be accorded the same priority that managing financial capital came to have in the 1980s.” FastCompany’s recent article “What Will Work Look Like in 2030” calls for a “Chief of Work” position at the C-Suite level to “set the culture” and “drive the work agenda.” Whichever moniker you prefer, the elevation of the people function to a strategic and executive level will be a significant shift in the coming years.
Not all future trends are positive. If you’re like me, you are probably experiencing this one in your own home — perhaps during that precious “family time” when everyone is sitting in the same room but looking at their respective devices. In 2015, Susan Sobel-Lojeski introduced the concept of “virtual distance” to describe the psychological distance created by an overreliance on technology in communicating. As our reliance on technology increases, our ability to form authentic trust-based relationships decreases. This explains the “connectivity paradox” we are all experiencing, which is that the more connected we are, the more isolated we feel. Virtual distance is a real threat to the workplace because relationships are the lifeblood of any business and foster critical skills like innovation, collaboration, and teamwork. The antidote for this negative trend is more face-to-face communication. People are starved for it. Remember this next time you email the guy in the cubicle next to you.
Meg Crosby is a principal with PeopleCap Advisors.
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