Work is changing. And I’m not talking about robots (although they are coming and will make unprecedented advancements in automation) – humans will always be needed. But the capacities in which people are needed and how they want, and are willing, to be treated is what is really changing.
I see it first-hand with my own career. I am “on” 24/7, but I have more time with my family than I have ever had. Technology has created an opportunity for me to connect with clients in different and more efficient ways. I can work from anywhere at any time, not just my business or home office. It has made me more productive – not just at work, but at life. With that improved capacity, I am able to rearrange my life.
I am not independently wealthy, so my children will have to work. As my grandfather used to say, “You no work, you no eat.” So I think about the future a lot. I have a son who is about to attend college, and twin girls who are about to enter high school. I constantly think about how to prepare them for a life enabled by their careers. Articles are written about this constantly – like these:
- How to Survive Work in the 21st Century
- This is what work-life balance looks like at a company with 100% retention of moms
What I find most interesting is that these articles were shared with me by two different colleagues in remarkably different roles on two different sides of the pond, on the same day. Trust me, I’m not the only one thinking about the future of work and how to make work… well….work. If you think those around you aren’t starting to see the change and how it can benefit them both personally and professionally, I’m afraid you will struggle to retain top talent in the future of work.
Leading by example
There are a number of great companies doing many interesting things for their employees. In fact, these groundbreaking examples are growing each year, as more organizations adapt to the change around us. Just look at some of the companies embracing the future of work.
- SEI – My employer does many things to afford our employees work/life integration. In addition to mobile access via secure channels, we offer an onsite Family Center, which provides back-up childcare for all employees throughout the year, as well as a variety of summer camps and programs for new moms returning to work. We offer endless philanthropic and charitable giving opportunities that engage not just employees, but family and friends who are interested in “giving back to the community” together. Additionally, we are experimenting with a unique “Return to Work” initiative, which allows individuals such as moms, soldiers, wounded warriors, etc. to ease back into the workforce after an extended time away.
- Patagonia – The outdoor apparel and equipment company embraces a strong work/life integration business model, as evidenced in the article linked above and the corresponding video. The company offers 16 weeks fully paid maternity leave, 12 weeks fully paid paternity and adoptive mother leave, and a full-time child care facility for all employees. The result has had a serious positive impact on employees, particularly women. As the article states, 100% of the women who have had children at Patagonia over the past 5 years have returned to work (significantly beating the national average of 79%); also, about 50% of their managers are women, as are 50% of the company’s senior leaders.
- Netflix – This disrupter has a novel concept as their core value: treat employees as adults. Simple statements like that have led to no tracking of vacation or personal time, a benefit that has reduced administrative costs and added value to employees. I think we all can agree that their creativity, productivity and growth have not suffered as a result of this practice.
Here’s your chance
I want to request a call to action – a call to reinvent the HR function and its practices to help businesses and their employees evolve and thrive in a changing world. Traditional HR practices are becoming increasingly outdated; we need to challenge ourselves to apply limitless thinking and creativity in an effort to attract and retain top talent. As Anthony Hilton states, “Knowledge was the key asset of the 20th century; imagination is the key asset for the 21st.” I challenge all of us to use some creativity and rethink how we recruit, train, engage, motivate and value our employees.
Let’s really think about it and design it. What do you want the future of work to look like? Please comment below or tweet your ideas using the hashtag #designyourwork. (And if you haven’t followed me on Twitter yet, why not?)