“The future of work is right here, right now,” says Chief Executive Officer at Jive Elisa Steele (pictured below). The expectation of flexibility and choice that people have in their home life is becoming the case with work life. 

We are used to make choices on online sites such as Amazon or Ebay, and communicate on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, which can be accessed via a number of channels, whether it is from the laptop, smartphone or tablet, all day, every day. The same is expected at work. As a recent report by Capita puts it: “Different people want different ways of accessing information; people want to do things at different times.”

Indeed, technology is part of our lives, in almost everything we do. And technology will continue to be part of our lives, in ways we have yet to dream of. While today digitisation is already enabling innovation and business growth, new models such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Internet of Everything (IoE) are also emerging. It seems as if they are the future of the enterprise – the value at stake has been estimated to be $19 trillion (£12.35 trillion). Most importantly, people and process represent 60% of the IoE value.

Strategy Analytics predicts that the global mobile workforce will increase by 1.2 billion in 2013 to 1.7 billion in 2018. According to CIO Magazine over 15 petabytes of new data are created every day. Cisco expects video to represent 78% of all Internet traffic by 2018. Meanwhile, IDC anticipates that 46% of all IT delivery will happen through the cloud by 2016.

Those numbers are quite telling. “It’s not the ‘tied to the desk’ immobile office any longer. The workplace will see many more changes that are coming even faster. This makes having a single user environment that extends across devices and geographies – a necessity to meet the changing demands of today’s mobile workforce,” says AT&T’s Vishy Gopalakrishnan.

But, to fully explain what Steele means by “the future of work is now” tools alone are not enough. In truth, she refers to a type of transformation that is about the individuals. “To accomplish great things, people need to know each other very well. Colleagues need to find the way to connect and collaborate together as a competitive advantage.”

Liberating as well as challenging: despite all the conversations around the importance of social collaboration only a few companies today are really working that way. Yet, Steele believes that if collaboration were a standard, then the entire world would be a very different place. “Faster innovation, better connections, more transparency and greater efficiency.”

Jacob Morgan
, the author of The Future of Work and co-founder of the Future of Work Community, believes that there are a couple of important trends to consider. “Firstly, the big global trends that are impacting the future of work – from globalisation, to Millennials entering the workforce, new behaviours invading the company and the rise of mobility.

“Secondly, the specific changes that we are going to see in the future of work. Over the next ten years we will see a focus on employee experience. It is about thinking of how employees interact with the company they work for and create a great experience for them – from how the individual finds that job to how they work there and what happens when they leave.”

Such trends also include thinking of new ways to help staff shape their careers, giving them the technology that they want to use – giving them a workplace environment where they feel they can succeed. “It is basically re-thinking what it means to work and create a place where employees want to show up.”

A Multigenerational Workforce

There is a lot of talk around Millennials. The common belief is that this generation works and communicates very differently than Baby Boomers and Generation X. Steele believes that this is true because “Millennials have grown up with technology at their hands.” However, she also sees that the digital workplace transformation is impacting all.

Laszlo Bock, the Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google and author of the new book ‘Work Rules!’ doesn’t think that Millennials, who are often described as if it were a ‘different species’ entirely, are that different after all. At Atmosphere, a virtual event run by Google for Work in June, he said: “If you talk with them [Millennials], what do they ask for? They want freedom. They want control over their destiny. They want to do meaningful work. They want well-being and to be able to chart their course.”

This may seem contrary to received wisdom, but, Bock who is now over 40, claims that when he was 20 he wanted exactly the same things. And, he goes even further. “My dad, when he was 20, he wanted the same things too.” The only big difference today is that Millennials are more connected and vocal. Bock shares an interesting perspective: “I do not think that we should manage them differently. I think that we should manage just everybody the way that Millennials are asking to be managed.”

Indeed, Kathryn Everest, Strategist for Collaboration and Communication at Jive, says that it is crucial to consider the multigenerational workforce and how collaboration can support them. “One of the things that internal communicators need to be aware of in future is that despite everyone generalising that the Baby Boomers and Generation X are leaving and everything should be built around Generation Y and Z, the reality is more complex. People are staying –in the workforce longer.”

Everest describes the Bringing Your Own Workstyle (BYOW) phenomenon. “Everyone has a unique workstyle, which includes their favourite digital platforms and devices on which they feel comfortable and productive.”

There are many different workstyle, but as a communicator, it can be helpful to see BYOW through the use of three different personas:

• ‘Single place’ – they want everything to go to one channel. Those are the employees who likes to find all their stuff and create all their content in one place such as the intranet or the email

• ‘Traditional’ – they recognise that there is more than one place where they can get their work done; yet they like to stick to no more than two or three channels

• ‘Modern’ – they are very comfortable with using many different channels and applications; this group understands the purpose of lots of application and happily flip between using each of them accordingly on a daily basis

One workstyle doesn’t fit all. Hence, Everest suggests figuring out how to meet people where they are. “Each person has their own strengths and weaknesses and all workstyles are equally valuable. The successful organisations of the future will be the ones that engage and inspire all of them. Organizations have to be intentional about creating an environment that supports every employee’s workstyle. While a diverse range of employees with a diverse range of preferences put pressure on the internal communicator who needs to consider a variety of channels, it becomes the opportunity to really differentiate themselves.”


About the SMiLE Guide on ‘The Future of Work’

Everybody now knows that the world of work has been disrupted. During the past years, many organisations have learned slow and painful lessons about how to adapt the way they do business. I wanted to write a SMiLE Guide on The Future of Work as I believe it is crucial to identify the key trends that are shaping our experience of work, explore how the workplace is evolving as well as what organisations can do to thrive in this marketplace.

To create this white paper I combined my reporting experience with research. The guide looks at the impact of technology in the workplace; the intrepreneurial mindset; the on-demand economy and more. Ultimately, it aims at challenging conventional thinking, and hopefully supporting readers in navigating this evolution.

A big thank you to Jive Software for sponsoring this work. Kathryn Everest will join our next SMiLE Webinar on The Future of Work on Monday 28th September. You can register here.