In the year 2010, it would have been hard to imagine where the world is today. And in the years since, technology has only become more pervasive, and change more rapid.
Thus it might seem like an impossible question: How can leaders ready themselves for the coming decade, which promises to bring changes that may make our workplace unrecognizable to past generations?
The first step is by realizing that the “future of work” is no longer a distant entity — the future of work has begun. Here are three trends every modern leader should prepare for as we enter the 2020s.
1. The Ubiquity of Artificial Intelligence
In 2018 alone, the number of businesses using artificial intelligence (AI) tripled; now, 37% of businesses have implemented it in some form. Hilton International uses a chatbot and AI-backed interview platform in its recruiting, Amazon uses more than 200,000 robots in its warehouses, and even Domino’s uses an AI tool to supervise pizza makers in Australia and New Zealand. By 2030, research from McKinsey suggests that 70% of businesses will have adopted at least one type of AI technology.
This could have significant ramifications in the realms of customer relations, recruitment and hiring, supply chains, and cyber security, to name a few. Though AI’s eventual latitude is impossible to predict, its effect on business is not: 72% of executives believe AI will be “the business advantage of the future,” according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report. To keep pace with the competition, therefore, leaders cannot ignore AI any longer. They will need to upskill employees, adjust organizational structures, and implement AI in strategic ways.
“A monumental change is underway, and artificial intelligence is leading this charge,” CP Gurnani, CEO of Tech Mahindra, wrote at CNN. “But we need to remember that humans are ultimately in control… Now is the time for business leaders to understand the opportunities that AI-based technologies can have on their future, and the future of their employees and to ensure they are prepared. Resisting this change is no longer an option.”
2. The Employee Experience Reigns Supreme
Since the next decade will be rife with talent shortages, leaders will need to take pains to ensure their workers are happy, healthy, and fulfilled. These qualities will fall under the umbrella of “employee experience,” a concept that has evolved from employee satisfaction and employee engagement. As Jacob Morgan noted simply in Inc., “employee experience is creating an organization where people want to show up” — and it is influenced by a range of variables, from physical office space to mental health awareness to flexibility regarding where and when employees work.
Augmenting the employee experience can improve recruitment and retention, as well as the bottom line. Companies with the most engaged employees, for example, see 21% higher profitability than those with the least. Looking forward, metrics such as these will make employee experience a top priority for human resources departments around the world; already, in Deloitte’s 2019 Human Capital Trends report, 84% of respondents rate employee experience as an important issue, and 28% rate it as “urgent.”
This emphasis on employee experience will grow even more relevant as Generation Z becomes a greater part of the global workforce (an estimated 33% by 2030). “Gen Zers are looking for leaders who are trusting, support their needs, and express care for them as humans — not just employees,” Dan Schawbel, research director of Future Workplace, wrote at Kronos. “Focusing on Gen Zers’ human needs will be the best way to address their workplace needs.”
3. The Necessity of Purpose
A major shift is occurring when it comes to the core tenets of business. Earlier this year, when Deloitte asked nearly 10,000 CEOs what they considered the most important measure of success, the top answer was “impact on society.” At 34%, it received double the votes of more traditional markers, such as customer satisfaction (18%), employee satisfaction and retention (17%), and financial performance (17%). Further underscoring that view, the Business Roundtable recently redefined its “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” to include the promotion of “an economy that serves all Americans.”
Yet, while 79% of business leaders believe that purpose is central to business success, according to a PwC report, only 34% said that purpose actually guides their decisions. “This gap demonstrates the optimism and promise that leaders see in being purpose-driven to elevate business, but a hesitation to ‘walk-the-walk’ and actively embed it into foundational elements of the company,” the report’s authors wrote. “Purpose is not an initiative; it is a way of business.”
In the coming decade, leaders will need to listen to the aforementioned authors — and weave purpose into every facet of their business. The public, in fact, will demand it: 87% of millennials believe that “the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance.” Luckily, companies will not need to “choose between doing well and doing good,” as Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff wrote in The New York Times earlier this year. “[S]ince becoming a public company in 2004, Salesforce has delivered a 3,500 percent return to our shareholders,” he continued. “Values create value.” Leaders who focus on integrity and purpose, such as Benioff, shall be the ones blazing a path for all companies into the 2020s.
While no one can predict exactly what the business world will look like in a decade, one can be fairly certain that the trends above shall play major roles in shaping it — and that leaders should not delay in preparing for the future of work. As Bill Gates wrote in The Road Ahead: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”
The views of the author of this article do not necessarily represent the views of Gradifi. We make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained here. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax or financial advisors to understand the tax, financial and legal consequences of any strategies mentioned in this article.