The year 2021 is here—a new year, a new decade of change that will profoundly impact the nature of work. Let’s take a look at the future of work and some of the new norms you can expect at the start of the ‘20s. Get a handle on how you can be instrumental in the evolution of your department and your company.
AI Will Continue To Expand
AI has proven useful in navigating the insurmountable data and networks built over the last decade and is proving more and more useful in strategic decision-making—particularly in marketing and ad tech. The movement toward automation, which has been valuable in helping employees streamline their routine processes, continues fast and strong. But what about the parts of recruitment that are creative and require quick thinking and decision making—all the things we may consider non-routine?
Given that AI “learns” over time, we can only expect its impact to become increasingly specialized for whatever you need to be done. Like consulting an expert, a reliance on AI insights will become the norm for work. This year, make an effort to learn about and take advantage of the AI currently embedded in your systems in order to nurse the current capabilities of your tech. Social tools and office systems, natural-language processing, and auto-classifying content can help workers do simple tasks (and eventually more complex ones) in the most efficient way possible.
Take email for example. A simple task like responding to a pressing email can now be assisted by AI, which can flag the most important emails so employees can prioritize their work better. Responding to emails is a micro-task that may seem simple, but the convenience of saving minutes here and there can prove useful over the course of a day, and then over the course of a year. We can only expect that AI will enhance the future of work in ever more complex ways.
Flextime and Remote Work Are The New Normal
By now there is a common understanding that we don’t necessarily need a traditional central office where workers have to commute each day when we can teleconference, text, and access our work systems remotely. While most companies won’t close up shop and forego their monthly rent for office space, the sophistication of our communications and the ease with which we now text co-workers (even ones who simply step away from their desk) have allowed us to rethink the traditional 9-5 workday at the office.
The same technology that allows companies to operate with ease on a global scale can also offer workers more flexibility. While some jobs can’t be contingent and require long-term involvement, the gig economy will provide some benefits for workers—even in those more traditional jobs—with things like flex time as an expectation rather than a perk. Employees can gain a certain amount of freedom, either by working remotely 1-2 days a week or setting their own hours. In addition, as companies grow a greater proportion of contingent and remote workers, there will be a greater emphasis on communication and centralized HR tech to give new workers and temp workers a streamlined on-boarding process.
Self-direction Will Be Expected
The metaphor of climbing a corporate ladder does not suffice in the 2021 landscape. This old notion operates on the basic principle that workers gain experience over time with a single company, and their loyalty is rewarded with increasing responsibility and salary bumps. In the gig economy, motivation will largely come from employees in a self-directed way, and there will be less focus on a top-down approach. Workers will need to gain experience and skills in each new “gig,” so companies should market their contingent work accordingly.
The concept of professional growth and staff engagement will also have to change. Tech that can offer employees feedback and consistent reviews, which can assist workers and employers alike in cultivating their professional development, will be a vital part of the workplace.
Employee development does not always come with a micro-processing tool—but with a contingent or remote workforce, apps, and systems that keep employees connected and engaged are a must. It won’t be enough to simply allow workers to get their work done from home. You must create a system that allows them to decide, together with you, how they want to grow within a company and the best way to empower them to remain engaged, passionate, and loyal.