Beyond A Tech-Focused Future Of Work
To be social enterprises, organizations ultimately have to be human enterprises
When we talk about the Future of Work, the conversation is often focused on technology, AI and robotics, etc., and rightly so. But, we also need to create an intersection to the broader societal, community and, ultimately, human implications of this massive shift. With the advancements in automation and AI rapidly entering the workplace, with the future of jobs in question, with a massive skills gap on the horizon, and with more people defining their identity by their work, organizations have to find a way to put meaning back into the workplace.
Many in society, from business, government, education, and the public at large, have expressed the expectation that the role of organizations should be broader than purely economic and that their purpose should go beyond revenue growth and profit-making. Social enterprises take on this leadership role by actively tackling big issues and driving positive change for their stakeholders and for society.
The social enterprise is here…
Our latest research shows that the role of the social enterprise is more important than ever and is growing. Today, 44 percent of survey respondents in our 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report (nearly 10,000 leaders across 119 countries) said social enterprise issues are more important to their organization than they were three years ago, and 56 percent expect them to be even more important three years from now. Survey respondents also noted a positive link between leading the social enterprise and an organization’s financial performance. In fact, 73 percent of industry-leading social enterprises expect stronger business growth in 2019 than in 2018, compared to only 55 percent of those where the social enterprise is not a priority.[i]
…but it’s shifting, too.
As we face the Future of Work, organizations have stepped up with purpose-driven initiatives aimed at achieving the goal of being social enterprises. But serving a “purpose” isn’t going far enough. Purpose is about and for the organization, and that is precisely where it can fall short. Intensifying technological, economic, social, and political disruption has created a need for organizations to focus their expanded efforts on the worker themselves. It is the worker who is searching not for purpose, but for meaning in what they do every day in the workplace. To be able to achieve this, organizations need to both reimagine the way that work gets done today and reinvent the core processes, programs and policies that support it.
Meaning is found in the human experience
Organizations have been working to improve the “employee experience,” which research from BersinTM, Deloitte Consulting LLP found to be largely focused on things like perks, rewards, and work-life balance.[ii] These are important, but don’t really address the need for meaning. We see an opportunity to reframe and elevate the employee experience toward a higher, “human experience” that gets at that innate desire we have as humans to make a difference.
For example, if organizations embed learning not only into the flow of work, but in the flow of life, it will help workers keep up to date on the latest skills and enable them to have a better sense of esteem and be their best. Organizations that reinvent their rewards programs to better meet the needs of their workforce can motivate them in a way that provides more meaning through individualization of the programs. And organizations that operate in a team-based model help workers to create stronger, more meaningful connections, allowing for improved innovation and creativity.
The ability to make a difference and to have meaning in our work will be critical for the future. Many have defined the Future of Work with the fear that the growing dominance of technology will overshadow or even replace the human element of work. We’re currently working with leaders to meld the two so that their organizations can leverage the best of technology and human potential. It’s a process of reinvention, bringing humans’ need for meaning and ever-evolving technology together to create opportunities for continuous learning, accelerated development, and professional and personal growth.