The Future of Work is Optimization.
By Chris Kay
This is probably not the first article you have read over the past few years that starts with the melodramatic inclusion of the polycrisis that has affected the talent economy. Be it the Great Resignation, quiet quitting, the invisible revolution, or whatever moniker you want to throw at the exceptionally volatile economic world we live in, it’s clear that people are recalibrating their lives and work needs. And this is creating a significant impact across the workplace.
Before you scroll on, this is not an article that wants to choose a side of the work-from-office versus work-from-home (WFH) debate, which now feels as tired as the bizarre Musk versus Zuckerberg cage-fight banality. Even in the recent weeks, we have had the debate rage on with Zoom—which helped facilitate WFH—demanding more of an office return, compared to one of the founders of Atlassian, the billion-dollar Australian company, stating that he only goes into the office about once a quarter.
INSTEAD OF WORK LOCATION, FOCUS ON OPTIMIZATION
To be honest, it feels like all of these debates are missing the point.
We no longer need to have operating discussions to decide which side of the continually discussed “work from where” fence you land upon. Instead, it’s time to have discussions about optimizing, to create the right conditions to maximize the performance of whichever side of the argument you want to lead your company in.
When looking at the future, it feels like there are three themes emerging about how we come out of this polycrisis with a solution of companies optimizing their performance. And we can start to see these themes take shape in a recent Gartner report that outlines nine future-of-work trends. Gartner suggests that the questions keeping HR directors and their talent teams awake at night include how we snag new talent, how we create hybrid flexibility, how we alleviate the pressure on managers, how we pursue nontraditional candidates, how we address employee mental well-being, how we move DEI forward, how we tackle data privacy, how we mitigate bias in recruiting, and how we confront a Gen Z soft-skills gap.
Here are the three themes I see emerging.
THEME 1: THE CEO NEEDS TO UNLOCK THE FUTURE OF WORK IN THEIR ORGANIZATION
I think it’s incredibly naive for any CEO or COO in today’s new normal to leave the worrying about the future of work to their HR director.
An organization’s success, using Gartner’s trends, relies on a leadership vision defining how to build a modern organization that can outperform competitors. And that’s why I believe the CEO needs to be the main driver of this theme, ensuring they have a vision and optimization strategy for delivering a future-of-work plan for today’s talent, while also driving tomorrow’s revenue. This will be one of the greatest unlocks of their success.
THEME 2: MOVE FROM TALENT OPERATION TO TALENT OPTIMIZATION
This notion of talent optimization feels like a shift from past thinking. We are no longer only in a talent-efficiency game with a singular focus on how we can save costs to create a stronger bottom line. Instead, I see this as a positive moment to think about talent as a tool for value creation, and how creating the right strategies and implementing the right systems will be the key drivers for successful organizations.
We see this from a 2020 report by the Predictive Index, The State of Talent Optimization, showing that companies optimizing talent by aligning their employees with business strategy retain 30% more top performers and see a 34% higher employee performance driving a stronger output and profitability. And we also see this in a McKinsey report on the future of work, noting that..
And it’s in this arena that some of the more interesting organizational uses of AI as an input are bearing fruit. An example of this is the U.K. company Meet Genie that has created an algorithm allowing companies to match their talent to the right project at the right time. This allows the company to maximize all staff performance and output, a must-have for any CEO wanting to win at an efficiency and effectiveness game.
THEME 3: OPTIMIZE, THEN BUILD THE SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR THE WIN
The McKinsey and the Predictive Index reports point to the value of optimized talent increasing company performance. To ensure we keep this increased performance curve rising over time, it’s important to put in place a clear support system for our leaders to help them flourish.
We can see this in the Gartner report, which identifies a real need to create a support system to alleviate stress, support mental well-being, and help supercharge the growth of the “whole” leader. We are seeing this a lot in conversations at andOpen.xyz, where leaders are looking for curated coaching, inspirational content, and a cohort and community to support their optimized growth.
So rather than creating another new moniker for how our world of work is changing, leaders should jump positively into this new era and do the three things mentioned above, for the CEO to drive the future of work in their organization, move from talent operation to talent optimization, and to build a support system for the win.