THE BLOG

The Future of Work Is Now

01/18/2016 09:45 am ET | Updated Jan 19, 2016
  • Ellyn Shook Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer, Accenture
Accenture

Today I leave for the World Economic Forum in Davos, where the theme is the 4th Industrial Revolution -- and how technology is impacting our lives and that of future generations by transforming the economic, social, ecological and cultural contexts in which we live. The synapses in my brain are firing as I think about the lively conversations and questions that we'll debate this week.

In my role, how technology will transform the future of work is the burning question. And interestingly, when I talk with other executives about it, the conversation quickly moves from the technology itself -- to the people. Because at the heart of this digital revolution are human beings. And companies are trying to get their arms around what this Liquid Workforce means for their business, customers, communities and employees.

Looking at the Future Workforce through Three Lenses

At Accenture, our people are everything. And, we are innovating our talent practices for the digital age -- with the goal of attracting, developing and inspiring people, on their terms. When I think about the future of work, I look at it through three lenses:

1. Organizations need to demonstrate transparency. More feedback, real-time coaching, clear expectations and clarity about opportunities will be the norm. Because clarity + transparency = trust. And trust is the new currency of the digital age.

2. The future workforce demands a hyper-personalized work environment tailored to the individual. Technology fuels a customized work experience, just like it fuels our consumerized life experience.

3. Leaders must listen to and involve their people in figuring out new ways to work. I found John Green's WEF blog about Millennials extremely refreshing. Rather than make sweeping generalizations about a particular generational group, let's ask people what they think, listen to what they say and give them opportunities to contribute. And frankly, isn't this what we all want, regardless of our birth year? For the first time in history all five generational groups will be in the workforce together. So, our organizations will become flatter and we need to figure out ways to work side-by-side and get comfortable with a lot of experimentation.

Are Employees Ready?

Global research conducted by Accenture Strategy suggests they are. The vast majority (82%) of employees think digital will transform the way they work -- mostly for the better. And five times as many employees think that technology will enhance their job prospects than worsen it. Ten times think that technology will improve their work experience than worsen it. Artificial intelligence creates tremendous opportunity to augment work and empower people to take on higher value roles. This means that decisions will be made closer to where the work happens and leaders need to trust their people and co-create vs. manage.

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other important questions to address:

· How can we automate jobs, without displacing people?

· How can we blur organization boundaries to access the best talent?

· What types of leaders are needed in the digital age?

· How can organizations use technology for greater societal benefit, to improve the way employees not only work, but live?

On Thursday, 21 January, I have the honor of joining a panel with Alan Murray -- editor of Fortune, Arianna Huffington -- co-founder, president and editor-in-chief for the Huffington Post Media Group and Andrea Smith -- Chief Administrative Officer at Bank of America, where we will discuss these questions and more on "The Workforce of the Future - Leading in the Digital Age." You can tune in to the broadcast here from 10-10:30am US EST and live tweet your questions to us.

For me, the bottom line is that humans are the differentiator in the digital age. I'm very optimistic that we can harness the power of digital in a way so that the company, the customer, the community and the individual all thrive.

What do you think the future of work will look like? What questions are on your mind? Share your thoughts with me at @EllynJShook1

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