Making the future of work more valuable and meaningful

Offering employees a rewarding career used to be easy. It was a continuous process a company could plan for: hire bright young people out of college, plug them into an entry-level role and offer training to help them develop slowly and steadily as they progressed through the ranks of an organization. The expectation was for some to become leaders, some to become specialists, and others to plateau.

However, climbing a multi-decade ladder at one company is a thing of the past (today only 19% of employers have traditional functional career models). The confluence of technology and people driven disruption is fundamentally changing the way work gets done and creates an opportunity for organizations to create valuable and meaningful work. Organizations are beginning to think about this but not enough; Deloitte’s 2019 Human Capital Trends – a global survey with nearly 10,000 respondents across 199 countries – uncovered that just 36% of respondents are reimagining how work is done.

Changing nature of careers

The days of steady, predictable, linear careers are over. The number of careers in an average life is increasing, the concept of a ‘job for life’ no longer exists. Furthermore, we can no longer predict what the work of the future will be. 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job roles that don’t yet exist.

Moreover, due to the rapid pace of technological innovation, many tasks are vulnerable for automation. This will require a rapid reskilling of the workforce as capacity is unleashed to focus on higher value work.

Organizations are struggling to keep up. 54% of companies that have no programs in place to build the skills of the future yet 86% of respondents cited reinventing the way people learn as important or very important. Employees want a real-time, bespoke learning instead of outdated, off the shelf training materials. At the same time, experienced employees are often pointed to online courses and programs, and are told it is their job to reskill themselves which can lead to disengagement. Organizations must assume responsibility for continually upskilling and reskilling the workforce to be best equipped for the work of the future.

Understand and adapt

But hold on. The world of careers does not have to be so difficult and unforgiving. Organizations can adapt their career strategies. They can help people learn faster and continue to stay engaged. The bottom-line question is: How can organizations build career models that encourage continuous learning, improve individual mobility, and foster a growth mind-set in every employee, year after year? Organizations that figure this out will outperform, out-innovate, and out-execute their peers.

”Smart technologies are only one aspect of the massive shift that is under way.”

Future of work

It all comes together in what is called ‘the future of work’: But what does this term really mean? Much discussion has focused on artificial intelligence and whether robots will take over our jobs. However, smart technologies are only one aspect of the massive shift that is under way.

We define the future of work as a result of many forces of change affecting three deeply connected dimensions of an organization:

  • Work

    The fundamental nature of the activities performed to achieve business outcomes.

  • Workforce

    The portfolio of skills, jobs, and talent options tapped to perform the work

  • Workplace

    The environment and policies to maximize collaboration, productivity, and consistency of the talent experience

These three Future of Work dimensions –  work, workforce, and workplace – are deeply integrated. Shifts and changes in any of these dimensions will have important questions for consideration for both workers and employers:

  • Work
    • How will the work be different in the future?
    • What work will be augmented or disrupted by digital technologies?
  • Workforce
    • Who can do the work? (rethinking talent models)
    • What new skills and capabilities will be needed?
  • Workplace
    • Where and when does work gets done?
    • What collaboration tools will be employed to maximize the employee experience?

Purpose and meaning

Deloitte’s 2019 Human Capital Trends uncovered that only 53% of respondents felt their organizations were effective or very effective at creating meaningful work and only 43% thought they were effective or very effective at providing the right opportunities for growth.

We seem at a crossroad in redefining what it means to work, to be an employer, to be a corporation and to contribute value and talent in newfound ways. In our view, purpose will bring the future into focus. We can choose to use advances in technology merely to drive more efficiency and cost reduction, or we can consider how to harness these trends and increase value and meaning across the board – for businesses, customers, workers and society.

The conversation has already begun at the C-Suite level. In early August, a group of 200 CEO’s from major U.S. companies convened at a Business Roundtable discussed how to redefine the “purpose of a corporation”. Specifically, this group of leaders agreed that private enterprise must shift from focusing on profit and shareholder value to, instead, focusing on investing in employees, delivering value back to the consumer, operating ethically within their eco-system and supporting outside communities.

Fundamentally redefining work is more than a nice-to-have – it’s imperative to remaining competitive. Moreover, it’s an opportunity to shift the future of work conversation from one based on fear and adversity (institutions versus individuals) to one centred around hope and opportunity. One in which individuals, organizations and society win.

”Organizations need to create an experience and culture that allows individuals to feel a sense of esteem.”

The opportunity

Organizations need to create an experience and culture that allows individuals to feel a sense of esteem, which comes from having an emotional connection to the work and relationships that creates a sense of accomplishment and purpose important to them. Furthermore, organizations capture more and more value through a workforce that continually identifies and addresses unseen needs and opportunities. So, individuals will likely benefit from having greater meaning and engagement in their day-to -day work, igniting more worker passion over time.  Looking at it this way – organizations today appear to have an unprecedented opportunity to shape what ultimately becomes the future of – meaningful – work.


Join us at the Future of Work conference!

Are you ready to hear our perspective on how organizations should begin to respond to the new challenges unfolding? Steve Hatfield, Deloitte’s Global Future of Work Leader, will be presenting his vision on the Future of Work to you at the Future of Work event on 10 September.

See our program