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Time to change your workplace

Anita Lettink
Anita Lettink
Welcome back! And a warm hello to all new subscribers - thank you for reading my newsletter! I don’t know about you, but this month seems to fly by too quickly. And there’s so much happening that I want to share with you.
But before I continue: Is there a Future of Work topic you’d like me to write about? Or do you have feedback? A question? Hit Reply on this email and tell me. Thanks!

Let me start with some sobering food for thought: the average tenure for first-time employees at large technology companies is 2.2 years. And since we are now 2 years into the pandemic, these young employees will shortly move to new jobs without having been in the office of their current employer, or having worked in the presence of their colleagues. That changes your perception of what work is. How will they look back on their first job? And what do they want from their next employer?
To answer that question, companies are rethinking workplace policies. We’ve all seen the announcements where employers set dates for their staff to return to the office. And postpone that date again and again. Until they finally realize that a pandemic isn’t predictable and you can’t leave people hanging indefinitely. That is when they start to fundamentally rethink their approaches to work.
As omicron continues to spread its havoc, companies realize they must be prepared for future waves of this pandemic, and be more resilient when the next one strikes. Not having everyone in the office at the same time is now a health & safety requirement. And a business continuity one as well. You can’t run the risk that one contagious person infects the whole team. Apart from the health issue, it’s not a good look.
In the Global Talent Trends 2022 report, LinkedIn reports a 60% increase in job titles related to the future of work and a 304% growth in titles that reference “hybrid work”: from Director of Hybrid Working to Flexible Workspace Operations Manager. Flexibility is key when redesigning the workplace, as is resilience as part of business continuity.
In his 2022 Letter to CEO’s, even Larry Fink from Blackrock, the largest investor in the world, suggests that companies take employees’ changing expectations towards work very seriously. He stresses that it’s essential for business leaders to outline a clear purpose and coherent strategy, that employees can understand and connect to. He also reminds CEOs that a new world of work is emerging, where employees want more flexibility and meaningful work: “Companies not adjusting to this new reality and responding to their workers do so at their own peril.”
Falling unemployment
On top of the pandemic, companies continue to deal with a lack of talent to fill open positions. The labor shortage is real: despite the pandemic, unemployment around the world continues to fall. Australia was only the last in a long line of countries that announced unemployment is at its lowest point in 13 years.
The labor market is tight, and will only get tighter in most regions due to demographics. It’s the perfect workforce storm. Not only do you have to rethink workplace and workforce policies to remain an attractive employer, you also need to learn how to maintain productivity levels with less people.
The United Kingdom announced a 4-day work week pilot: for the same salary, people will work four days a week and maintain their productivity (100:80:100 model). 30 companies will participate, and the six-month trial starts in June. Experiments with a 4-day work week are happening across the world. And while you might argue that delivering the same results in 4 days is not an improvement, the goal of the U.K. pilot is to focus on outcomes instead of on presence and learn what that does to productivity. I will closely follow the results.
Automation and future skills
On the other side of the spectrum is Forrester’s Future of Jobs report, which forecasts that 25% of European jobs are at risk and 12 million jobs will be lost to automation across Europe by 2040. By then, Europe will also have 20 million fewer people of working age. Up to 9 million new jobs will be created. So you might think the total doesn’t look too bad. But the real problem is future skills: without up and reskilling, people won’t be able to fill these new jobs.
So what should companies do? Here are a few ideas:
  • Ensure your company has a clear purpose and that business leaders connect this purpose to everything the company does.
  • Design creative and flexible approaches that help workers to do their jobs. Make location irrelevant where possible.
  • Set guidelines when to work in the office, work remotely, or go hybrid.
  • Redesign the workplace as a safe gathering place for meetings and in-person activities.
  • Evaluate and experiment with solutions that make people more productive. Teach people how to define work in outcomes.
  • Rethink the “workday” - do you still need that? Shouldn’t there be a better alternative that fits work in the 21st century?
  • And above all, involve employees when creating the future workplace. Let them have a say.
And make equal treatment a priority: executives are more likely to come to the office. The risk of ‘proximity bias’ is real, as a new Future Forum report discovered. Being present in the office shouldn’t lead to faster promotions. Pay attention to equal opportunity and ensure your new policies support it.
There are too many examples and handbooks available for me to list here. But I am happy to give you some recommendations for your personal circumstances. Just reach out.
Have a great day, Anita
PS: My next keynote is for Cognisium on February 2 at 10am CET. The topic: Skills, the Global Currency in the Future of Work. We’ll discuss why skills are so crucial, and how to prepare for the skills-based economy. Register for a free ticket.
What's next?
HR Tech
Gartner Pitch invitation
Gartner is looking for new “Digital Workplace and Collaboration Technologies to Support Flexible Working”. If you are founder, you can sign up for a Gartner Pitch Tank session. These sessions are intended to provide emerging vendors of potentially disruptive products or services an opportunity to showcase their innovations to Gartner analysts. Apply by 5pm ET on Feb 1st 2022.
HR Tech funding rocks on
Remember that I wondered if HR Tech funding rounds would be as strong as in 2021? Well, the month is not over yet, and I’ve already recorded $1.4B in HR Tech funding rounds, which outperforms last year’s January by 60%. The largest funding amount was announced by Payfit from Spain, and they raised €254M.
Disrupting pay seems to be the main focus. 8 of the 30 rounds went to payroll solutions, providers of earned wage access solutions and payroll API vendors.
HR Tech Inspiration
I completely redesigned the solution listings on hrtechradar.com. If you are looking for a new HR solution, be sure to check the overview of young companies and include one or two in your next RFP. And in case you think that’s too risky, check my article about the benefits and risks of working with startups, including mitigation strategies. If you’d like some suggestions, please reach out.
Metaverse at Work
I announced in my last newsletter that I will explore Web3, especially the Creator Economy and the Metaverse more closely this year. I won’t dive into the details, but I’ll pick out the topics that could change work.
Web 3.0?
If you don’t know what Web 3.0 is, I recommend you read this free report from Goldman Sachs. It lays out the transition from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 and has a clear illustration of the different aspects. They consider the creatory economy and the metaverse as 2 manifestations of Web 3.0. The report also discusses a number of companies including their potential. Framing the Future of Web 3.0 is a great primer on the new ideas and technologies that shape Web 3.0. And while the true metaverse seems a long way off, I think the creator economy poses a more immediate risk for your future workforce. I’ll discuss the reason why in a next issue.
Virtual or physical office
As companies continue to experiment with remote work and wonder how to arrange meaningful connections, a virtual office in the metaverse is presented as the solution: to engage with employees and replace the water cooler. I don’t see that as a great alternative. Where I do see a fit with HR goals is in hiring and employee onboarding processes. The immersive VR experience lets potential hires “experience” the company in a virtual space. Something to think about when you redesign the workplace.
And in light of the pandemic, virtual workspaces, where people can meet and socialize seem a lot less riskier than mingling with people in a physical space. But they also require an amount of bandwidth that most people don’t have in their homes. So real estate investors are betting that office life will continue by investing in office buildings, not virtual ones. They think we’ll go back to the office - do you?
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Anita Lettink
Anita Lettink @let_anita

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