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Future of Work: 5 Questions We Should Ask Ourselves

Earlier this week I joined over 300 people at the National Future Work Summit held in Sydney (30 October 2018) to analyse the challenges ahead and discuss strategies on how to navigate this new world.

The good news for those in Melbourne is that the Future Work Summit is bringing the event here on 27 March 2019, so save the date and visit their websiteto stay tuned for the details. 

During lunch, I had the opportunity to speak with Div Pillay (CEO Mindtribes and 2018 AFR Qantas 100 Women of Influence) about cultural intelligence as a necessary skill for designing an inclusive customer experience, and we then started reflecting on our takeaways from the morning. 

It was during this conversation with Div that I realised whilst the industry insights provided a good overview of the challenges, the untapped opportunities lie in all of us to take action.

So without further ado, instead of summarising key messages from the day, here are five questions I believe we should ask ourselves to prepare for the future of work.

1. What problems do I want to solve?

"Instead of figuring out what job we want to do in the future, we should instead be thinking about the problems we want to solve."

During the break I met a recent graduate working with a fintech startup, and we started our conversation with the usual introductions. It wasn't until we started sharing what we were passionate about solving for in the future of work, that what would have remained a polite conversation turned into a deeper, purpose-led conversation; knowledge was shared cross-generations, and if there's anything I will remember this person by, it will be what drives her curiosity, not where she is in her career journey. 

So next time you introduce yourself, take the opportunity to share what problems you're passionate about solving! 

2. How can I improve my evergreen skills?

Global connectivity, smart machines, and new media are just some of the drivers reshaping how we think about work, what constitutes work, and the skills we will need to be productive contributors in the future.

There are many articles out there that summarise the top skills needed for the future work. Here are my top picks adapted from the sources linked:

  • Leadership - Whilst this is one line in the list, here are 16 leadership skills deemed essential for the workplace of tomorrow. 

  • Sales & Marketing - Aside from data science, sales and marketing skills will become just as critically important as practically every industry will need to become skilled in commercialising and explaining their offerings due to the innovative nature of the products themselves.

  • Communication - Effective communication, listening and public speaking skills are essential for leadership, collaboration and sharing / gaining support for your ideas. Improving this skill can also inspire a workforce to get behind cultural change. 

  • New media literacy - The next generation of workers will need to become fluent in forms such as video, blogs, visual communication and podcasts - which will be commonplace as communication tools break away from the static Powerpoint slides. They will need the ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms and leverage these media for persuasive communication.

  • Design mindset - Workers of the future will need to be adept at recognising the kind of thinking that different tasks require, and making adjustments to their work environments that enhance their ability to accomplish these tasks.

  • Learning how to learn - Our brain changes as we learn a new skill, and in turn this makes other parts of our lives easier because the benefits of learning stretch further than just being good at something. Just like memory, we learn best when we have context, and by applying new skills in our day to day lives, it's more likely to stick. 

Another great paper I've found is the 10 skills called out in Future Work Skills 2020 report by IFTF.

3. How can I improve my adaptability quotient? 

Adaptability Quotient (AQ) is the newest kid on the block alongside IQ and EQ, describing the ability to adapt to and thrive in an environment of change. The ability to adapt starts with taking accountability of a situation for the necessary and needed changes. 

In the book, The Oz Principle, by Roger Connors, Craig Hickman, and Tom Smith, the authors introduce a four-step model to increase one's AQ.

1.   See it. Acknowledge change is needed.

2.   Own it. Take ownership of the situation.

3.   Solve it. Develop your action plan.

4.   Do it. Execute the change.

To increase your AQ, take accountability and help your organization not only deal with change but help them become champions of change.

4. How can I apply what I've learned? 

"Dysfunction is the gap between what you know, and why you apply." - Dom Price 

Acquiring knowledge is waste unless you turn it into insights and apply it. Dom Price (Work Futurist at Atlasssian) talked about how we need to "unlearn to learn" by asking ourselves the 4 L's to prevent knowledge obesity:

  • What am I loving?

  • What do I loath?

  • What do I long for?

  • What have I learned?

And finally, Dom closed with a call to action for us all to shift from a democracy to "do-ocracy". 

5. How can I drive culture change?

The future of work is now, and it's up to us to shape the future workforce to bring out the best in our people and create a culture that is desirable for employees. The best talent won’t stay long if an organisation's leaders leave employees on their own to answer the complex questions posed by the digital age, or if collaboration is ineffective.

Meaningful work, supportive management, a positive work environment, growth opportunities and trust in leadership are key ingredients, while cross-organization collaboration and communication tie it together to make a workplace worthy of staying with.

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