Remember that question you used to get asked by relatives and family friends who you maybe saw once a year at holidays: “What do you want to do when you grow up?” It’s actually an important question that will define our future working and personal lives, but some of us feel like we are still figuring it out.
How long can we continue to mull over this defining question? Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report shows us that the future is here, and it’s on us – individuals and employers – to determine our own role. Yesterday, today was the future of work; today, tomorrow is the future of work; and tomorrow, next week is the future of work. If we don’t figure it out soon, the future will run away with us, and we will have no control over it.
So how can you take your future of work into your own hands? I urge you to:
Take personal responsibility.
What are you going to do to shape your own future? What are your personal values, dreams and passions that motivate and inspire you? How will you ensure you make the right choices and build personal skills to ensure you have a long and fulfilling career? The key is to find a position that allows you to work with purpose, a common thread for 75% of employees that are thriving. We all spend a lot of time at work – make it count!
Accept help and learn to delegate.
No matter what your role, you are likely to be part of a team. As a leader, how do you work with your team to build new skills? How are you empowering your team to seek new opportunities, take risks and experiment with new ways of working? As a team member, what are you doing to encourage your co-workers to be the best they can be, to embrace change and invest in their own future?
The future of work may be ours to shape, but no one can reach their goals alone. Learning how to work within the team dynamic can unlock new doors as you navigate and define your future career.
The rate at which technology is advancing is incredible, and it is affecting every part of our lives. Two-thirds of individuals say that state-of-the-art tools are critical to success, but even the best tech requires an investment of our time and attention.
Think about the latest bit of tech you bought for yourself – be it an exercise aid, a new smart phone or entertainment device. You probably did some research, tried a few out, spoke to friends and customised it until it worked for you. Our experience with technology in the workplace should follow this same path of trial and error.
How can you bring this consumer mind set to work? Ask yourself how new technology could improve your working life, and speak out when your firm is considering new software, research robotics and AI. When something new lands on your desk, embrace it as a new way of working. Ask team members how to maximise new tools and troubleshoot problems when things go wrong. Most of all – consider how technology has improved your work experience and let you focus on more enjoyable tasks.
Technology will only play a greater and greater role in our careers in the future of work. You must be ready, learn to adapt to it, and investigate ways to improve it so that you can deliver the very best service to your customers.
Recognize flexible work as a win-win.
I have long been an advocate of flexible working, and I truly believe it has had a profound impact on my career. But I also believe it will continue to become a greater part our lives in the future of work, especially as over half of all employees are looking for greater flexibility at work. Many companies already offer flexible work arrangements, and this can take on all forms: working from home part- or full-time, adjustable or reduced hours to suit employees’ needs, working from different locations, or even adopting a four-day work week whilst still paying the same wage. The point is that there is no longer one way to think about a working schedule.
As the workforce expands to encompass many generations, people will have different reasons to work flexibly. Some employees may need to look after aging relatives, while others may have young children at home. Moreover, some individuals may simply wish to reduce their commute time or have more time for personal hobbies. Organisations can embrace this, but leadership needs to come from the top.
To those leaders at organisations that promote flexible working, I encourage you to be open about how you incorporate flexible working into your own life. Be brave and make it your choice. And to leaders in organisations that do not currently have a flexible working policy, ask yourself why? How long can you continue to justify a rigid workplace in an increasingly flexible world? We are all more productive when we are less stressed – make flexibility a win-win.
When you are totally immersed in something – “in the flow” – hours upon hours can go by without even noticing it. You emerge satisfied, pleased at the feeling of a job well done and ready for a well-earned break. Ask yourself, “What role or project would I love to complete while I am ‘in the zone,’ where I am so fulfilled that time just whizzes past?”
You are the center of your universe, and only you really know what will make you happy. You can listen to mentors, coaches and family members, but in the end, it is up to you to build your future of work. Take control, make your own future, but most of all – have fun.
So when you think about what you’ll do when you grow up, remember that the answer is yours to decide. In order to find it, all you need to do is take personal responsibility, accept teamwork, embrace new tools, and find a workstyle that works for you. The future of work is whatever we make it. Be immersed in it, not a bystander.