Good afternoon! The changing nature of work has ushered in a new wave of speculation about how the workplace or the workforce might develop and evolve in 2022 and beyond. This week, we asked the experts to think through some of the takes and predictions they've seen and talk through the ones they don't think are going to come true. Questions or comments? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chief People Officer at Coupa
The metaverse will not find success in the workplace.
Many are arguing that the metaverse will be a better version of reality, with some going as far as saying it deserves a spot in the workplace. The workplace doesn't need a new reality, at least not a digital one. What we need are more flexible, equitable, sustainable and overall meaningful environments that enable employees to reach their full potential. In addition, it's been nearly two years since many employees were in an office, resulting in feelings of disconnect and cravings for human connection and social interaction. These wants and needs cannot be achieved by virtual reality. What we need is technology that can help us better engage and collaborate in real life. We need technology that can fit into and complement hybrid geographies, not replace them altogether.
The world is already struggling to overcome the negative effects of the internet and social media, and I worry the consequences of the metaverse will be far more drastic. We need to create working environments that foster empathy, acceptance and authenticity. The metaverse is not the right place for this to happen.
Despite the grand pronouncements, no one knows exactly what the future of our work experience will look like one year from now — much less in five years or 10. But there's good reason to believe the future will be more hybrid than we've seen in the past.
The predictions about the death of the office and the rise in remote work are often missing a larger point. The past year has upended traditional work structures as we've known them. It's not just where we work that is changing. It's how.
Individuals and teams — bolstered by an influx of new thinking and perspectives from over the past almost two years — are going to take control over the way they work as they reinvent workflows and design processes that are more closely aligned with the way their team thinks and works.
According to Gartner, in just two years 30% of corporate teams will not even have a boss, and "radical flexibility" will be a business mandate and employee expectation. It is up to companies to equip their teams with the tools and resources they need to bend, flex and organize themselves in highly agile ways.
Common beliefs promote IT as the primary ruler of the workplace in the future of work. That's not necessarily going to remain the case moving forward. Instead, we'll slowly see more of a collaborative dialogue exchanged between IT, end users and product teams when it comes to tools in the workplace.
The transition to remote work has proven that employees are building their own tech stacks, doing research and paying for tools online, and adopting intuitive technologies to be more productive. The impact and success of recent product-led growth (PLG) SaaS companies like Mailchimp and Calendly are evidence of this evolution.
We'll see enterprise-buying behaviors shift to a bottom-up approach to account for PLG company technologies. Enterprises are having to become more focused on the internal user experience, including the day-to-day tools in demand, to help employees navigate remote and hybrid workplace environments and create companywide alignment across teams. This means giving them flexibility to choose the technology — with IT's input — that will support them in the modern workplace.
This places equal responsibility on PLG companies to build from the early days the required security, admin controls and scaling capabilities IT requires. Companies will need to build with the enterprise in mind from day one, despite their initial focus on end users. Enterprise buying behaviors need to increasingly take into account employee evangelism, while companies building beloved products admired by end users need to architect with IT's needs at the forefront in order to see their solutions championed within the enterprise.
The most misguided future-of-work prediction is that physical separation from leaders will stunt the development of younger talent. Gen Zers are an important and growing percentage of the workforce — a generation raised with information on-demand via digital channels. As they embark on their careers, they expect this on-demand way of life will translate to how they interact with and learn from leaders. At the same time, they value the flexibility that remote working provides, resulting in less face-to-face time with leaders.
Rather than view this as a challenge to retain and grow employees, it should be an opportunity for leaders to change their style and reflect a new way of working to meet employees where they are. We need to lean into more asynchronous communications, more transparent and documented decisions with context as to why decisions are made, formalized mentorship and development opportunities, and more unstructured virtual forums for team conversations. Rather than new employees simply watching leaders work, we need to be open and honest and involve employees in the process, ultimately creating a more engaged workforce who feel responsible and accountable for success of the business. Those leaders who believe the best strategy to develop their teams is by sharing physical space will ultimately lose their relevance.
This shift in how we manage will force leaders to articulate and communicate expectations better than ever before to create a flexible, equal and autonomous work environment where all employees feel supported by those at the top on down.
VP of People and Organization Capability at Citrix
There have been predictions that the hybrid model will create a two-tiered workforce. But if you purposely design your work model and talent management strategies to create equality and remove any biases around employees who are in the office versus those who work remote, this can be overcome.
The notion that offering hybrid work is a differentiator when it comes to talent attraction is also off base, as this is really table stakes. What drives advantage is an employee value proposition that goes beyond flexible work arrangements to provide development and growth opportunities for people regardless of where they are located, creating an inclusive environment and opportunities to do cool and meaningful work and addressing well-being in a holistic way.
Many leaders predict that the "Great Resignation" and the "War on Talent" - both combative perspectives - will get worse. The Great Resignation should be viewed as the great opportunity for people to find jobs that better align with their career goals or give them opportunities to take a break, if that's what they needed after experiencing a global pandemic.
As employers, we should reflect on what keeps people at companies and ensure we have strong practices in place to provide our employees with a great experience. We need to collect feedback from them and understand how to improve their experience. By building a collaborative culture, we provide employees with opportunities for growth and development that will likely encourage them to stay, but also empower them to pursue what's best for them.
Further, employers need to understand that they are part of a larger ecosystem. In tech, we are all looking ahead to a massive amount of growth potential across our sector in the next year. There is amazing talent out there and rather than making it a battle, we need to start viewing today's talent market as an ecosystem of talent. How do we better equip employees today to become the future leaders that we need so desperately in the future? I think we need to flip the switch and see it as an opportunity to work together and focus on what's the best fit for employees as they grow their careers among the myriad of options.
Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is a Research Editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.