What’s next for workplaces?
Rushika Bhatia
Industry Watch

What’s next for workplaces?

Elements like flexible and remote working or on-demand employment aren’t really things we’ll see in the future, they are happening now. What we will, however, see shaping the future of work is how employers upskill their teams. Sonal Sodha, Founder, Acivva Consulting, shares her insights…

Firstly, where do you think we’re headed in terms of the future of work and talent mobility? Can you identify the top three trends that will impact the future of workplaces?

The future of work is being defined by a new breed of workers who are tapping into algorithm matching platforms to turn their skills (and spare time) into new income streams. In doing so they are building a completely new operating system for the world of work. Work will move from being Dystopian from having to work to survive to Utopian –to being free to work to follow your calling. Talent pools will be shared through various assignments and organisations. No longer do companies need to hire anyone fulltime nor do employees need to be committed to one employer. The talent marketplace will become a brokering of internal and external talent, with a work-to-be-done opportunity to be based on who you are and what you want to achieve. This will help both the Gen Y and Z who want to work to fit their lifestyle as cater to Gen X who can continue to be employed even though they have become expensive for a business.

In your role, how do you see yourself influencing the future of work?

A lot of education needs to happen, companies continue to operate thinking this change will take long to come, it is already here! Work will change to match the Uber times that we are in. We also need to address the current skills gap that exist in the Uber world and how can we continuously bridge this gap.

Do you think robot employees are as big as a deal as people are making them out to be? How do you see AI disrupting traditional workplaces?

The innovation work in AI & AR is moving at supersonic speed, organisations need to embrace change faster to ensure that they manage to carve out a role for employees at work.

How can organisations ensure that they have the right skills for the future?

The skills gap is getting wider and wider day by day, some of our jobs will be irrelevant with the transformations that are coming. Organisations need to evolve their technical skills, some companies focus too much on leadership skills whilst others only on technical skills, a balance needs to be found. Whilst it might be expensive to train everyone, other alternatives need to available, like allowing employees to rotate in other functions or provide partial funding for some technical skills, i.e. coding skills will become a necessity soon.

Will we have higher unemployment in the future? Or will we find similar levels of employment with jobs requiring more advanced skills? Will training play a major role?

The personal economy will take over and people will realise that they continuously need to upgrade their skills, fundamental change needs to come from school and university curriculum. Early adopters will benefit the most. Training will continue to play a major role however it will need to move from classroom training to on the job training as training will be dynamic and continuous.

We have come a long way in terms of gender parity in the workplace. But, are we there yet? What initiatives do companies need to continue undertake to ensure we are moving in the right direction?

The road to gender parity continues and will need to continue even stronger and faster. Companies, especially in our region, need to consider the options of part-time working and change their policies towards attracting a balanced workforce. We have seen initiatives like longer maternity leaves, working from home, sabbaticals, career breaks to help look after elderly parents etc. Pay parity between genders need to be bridged but companies need to go further than this to attract and retain talent. Companies need to have a clear inclusive and diversity agenda. We should also learn from our government and how they are pushing the gender agenda.

We often talk about the impact and link between workplace design and productivity, but how many organisations truly understand the impact the workplace has on their staff and their performance?

Companies are beginning to understand the link between workplace design and productivity even though the trend is slow. However, they also need to consider the culture of the organisation. I feel we still treat employees as children, they must follow rules at work and this is because one person probably broke the rule and we punish everyone and create more rules. The whole equation of the workplace environment needs to work well which is workplace design, culture, engagement which will lead to higher productivity. Companies now must address intergeneration at work – Gen X, Y, Z – needs are totally different yet we have one size fit policy for all.

Finally, what advice would you give to companies looking to future-proof their offices for the future?

Here is my challenge to companies: Our business world is changing at lightning speed, technology is transforming products and services, new competitors continue to appear in the most unlikely places. The workforce is shape-shifting with entry of the millennials and GenZs. These “digital natives” are leading the way in defining the future of work for all generations. As these younger employees utilise their online skills to access income streams outside traditional business settings, the talent pool becomes a leaky bucket. How relevant is your business and your people strategy to survive in this ever-changing landscape? Will you remain a market leader in the world of constant disruption? Advice – get prepared!