The Future of Work

The Future of Work

by Erin Schmidt, Senior Executive Assistant/Office Supervisor

I recently attended The Future of Work Conference in Chicago, Illinois. It brought together thought leaders and people enthusiasts (such as myself) to explore the transformative changes in the global workforce. Conversations focused on the evolution of how, where, and whom we work with, as well as the synchrony of artificial intelligence (AI) and human skills in shaping the future of work. In reflecting on the vast elements of the future of work and how my organization is measuring against them, I found that immediate investment and buy-in should be on automation, creating connections between dispersed workforces, and establishing a coaching culture.

"AI will not replace humans, but humans using AI will"

As I immersed myself with fellow attendees and reflected on best practices shared, I was both encouraged by the cultural direction of the industries that participated and inspired (after initial feelings of panic subdued) by the opportunities that AI can bring. While AI may undoubtedly disrupt traditional job roles, there are new opportunities for human workers to upskill and reskill. One impactful (and reassuring) quote came from Changsu Lee, Founder and CEO of Allganize, who shared that "AI will not replace humans, but humans using AI will." Feeling the anxieties of the unknown application factors is normal and valid. Still, the evolution of technology has proven that empowerment and embracement have contributed to adopting such necessary disruption. One best-use base for AI-powered platforms enables employers to automate HR reports with real-time metrics and analytics, putting people pros in a position to quickly provide leadership with timely and accurate information. After being immersed in presentations on the future of technology for HR and people teams, I am encouraged more than ever to act now, start small, and utilize AI for routine tasks.

What does a fruit basket and your employee's engagement have in common? 

This is not a riddle; thank you cherry much.

One thing is clear about the future of work – at least for the near future – hybrid and remote work arrangements will be the norm. As our society has measured and assessed the peaks and pitfalls of geographically distributed teams, we've become familiar with the challenges of managing communication, coordination, connection, creativity, and culture. Renee Konzelman SVP, People Partnering & Talent at Elara Caring is no stranger to the "5 C's", especially with a team of over 26,000 with various work arrangements and locations. Konzelman taps into intentionality, authenticity, and commitment to help bring her workforce together. When analyzing our respective organizations' commitment, Konzelman challenged attendees to validate from the inside out – like a piece of fruit.

Assume that red is actively disengaged, yellow is uncertain, and green is actively engaged. When you see a green grape, you see the level of positive commitment on the outside, and when you cut into that grape, they are also green on the inside – these employees are healthy contributors to the organization. On the flip side, think of a strawberry, red on the outside and inside. Here's where it gets tricky – the watermelons and the pineapples. Watermelons and pineapples are green on the outside and red/yellow on the inside – check on those (and all) employees by asking the right questions, setting expectations, and tailoring those authentic and intentional relationships to each scenario and situation.

Put Me In Coach

Every organization is consistently working toward defining and establishing its culture. What is their stance on development, inclusion, client-centricity, and safety, to name a few? Cynthia Stucky, SVP of EZRA Coaching, posed an alluring thought:  

"What would create an environment where people embraced new learning, are willing to challenge and change their existing approach, open to change, willing to take risks, in every interaction the new culture was being reinforced?"

The solution? A Coaching Culture. A culture where people have a coaching mindset and approach throughout all levels of the organization and beyond into meaningful and lasting relationships with external partners. This approach can give teams the permission to direct their own learning, avoid dependency, have a good level of self-awareness, and feel empowered to challenge the status quo and act upon it.

What will this look like in the future of work? Broad observation of continual feedback, shared ownership through coaching approaches and asking great questions, experimental mindset, and curious versus assumptive. Benefits are plentiful, with improved productivity, transformational innovation, and overall engagement, but only with some challenges. Adopting a coaching culture often can present roadblocks such as rushing into too many initiatives, pushing through an existing risk-averse environment, and the age-old question of "who will champion through to the end?" However – this approach to improved motivation, agility, and development is one that organizations may want to invest the energy for long-term cultural impact.

I walked away with many takeaways from the conference. It taught me how to accept AI, rethink how we view employee engagement and embrace coaching culture. I am confident pep is equipped to tackle the ever-changing global workforce and I am excited for the future.


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