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What on Earth is the Future of Work, Anyways?

OK, let me put down my immersive VR suit and turn off my hollopad for this one...

But seriously, other than a super flashy thing to say, what is the future of work, anyway?

I’ll cut to the chase and assure you it’s not how many days we’ll work in the office and how many days we’ll work from home. Nor is it trying to convince Gen Z that your Employee Resource Groups make you woke enough.

Like most important topics, the Future of Work is not one single thing. That said, here are 3 topics I’d highly suggest you think about right now. Or prepare to play a lot of catch-up later...

Superb company culture and superior inclusion are not optional.

No matter how you slice it, your market competitiveness will only go so far without intensive inclusion. This is your cue to actively seek out an extremely wide variety of skills and perspectives--And not just get a variety of people in the door, but equip them to excel. Yet the future of inclusion is so much more than headcount. Repeat after me: recruiting is just one small part of DEI… HR compliance is just one small part of DEI... operations is just one small part of DEI… I could make a lot of money selling the opposite, but your company cannot HR-itself into being an inclusion powerhouse. Inclusion

>> Action step: Get out a fork and eat some humble pie. The science shows that the higher up on the food chain you are, the less likely you are to know what your company culture is really like for your staff. Don’t waste your company’s money on quick fixes or expect your culture to become inclusive because you recruit more non-white or non-male people. Plenty of women, people of color, and other marginalized folks “code switch” to appease male or white bosses. So be realistic about your blindspots and consider hiring a team of experts with a variety of DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) expertise and at least a decade of specific expertise. You wouldn’t expect your payroll specialist to magically be good at tax law, would you?

Focus on big goals and let the tech follow.

I’m a huge fan of new tech platforms that encourage multi-dimensional collaboration. Please do explore community via Discord, learning via Tailspin, and the wilds of Trello... But the workday can quickly become more about managing software or toggling between platforms instead of getting things done. Just because emptying your inbox is difficult to do doesn’t make it a high-value project--Technology is an important tool, not a sign of being futuristic.

Here’s a handy re-frame: the printing press was arguably one of the most culturally influential pieces of technology ever. The physics are impressive and the machine itself a thing of wonder. They’re fun to watch, too. But it wasn’t wildly influential because of the machine’s physics. We still feel its influence today because of how it changed human behavior, knowledge production, and how it helped to spread worldviews. In other words, it’s not how fancy your company’s tech is, it matters how you interact with it.

>> Action step: Focus on how and why you’re using technology. Reverse-engineer which software you’ll use based on your company’s goals. There are so many fun options that many companies make the mistake of adopting too many at once. The answer to your challenges isn’t more tech, it’s deciding which tech is the best match for your goals.

Storytelling and Agility are more similar than you may realize… story tell your way to success.

To really story tell your business is to know your why. And perhaps more importantly, be highly flexible about your why as the world changes. Can everyone at your company really talk about the importance of what you’re building? Why this company, this product, this service? What about how your why has changed in the last year and how you imagine it’ll change over the next several years? Being an agile, future-facing company sits at the intersection of clarity and micro-pivots.

>> Action step: Make like the greats and practice. Sometimes people tease me when I talk about future-proof strategies. But it’s not magic, it’s practice. Deeply, compellingly articulating your why takes a lot of practice. And articulating how your why is changing and how you’re forecasting your value proposition into the great unknown is one of the mighty tasks of resilience. Being future-proof has nothing to do with predicting the future and everything to do with resilience.

No crystal balls needed!

Start with these 3 steps and you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of your competitors. While they’re busy with the surface-level stuff--like how many days you’ll work in the office and how many days you’ll work at home--you’ll be on your way to impeccable culture and leading the way into 2050. Just save me a seat on the hovercraft, ok?

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