Navigating #TheFutureOfWork

2 october 2017

We came across this issue from Deloitte Review with a framework for understanding the future of work and its implications for all stakeholders better. As we are eager to learn as much as we can on #TheFutureOfWork and how HR leaders can best prepare for it, we read it with a lot of enthusiasm and we are happy to share our summary with you. 

First, we need to take a step back

In order to really understand
#TheFutureOfWork and the opportunities it presents,
we need to view it holistically, not in fragments.

When talking about the future of work, some of us imagine factories full of robots and a global gig economy in which individuals work for themselves, lending their labor physical or intellectual. The future of work is a big subject, with lots of specialists studying one of the dimensions of the future of work: automation, demographics, the growth of the contingent workforce...

The result is that we lose sight of the connections and interdependencies across all of these dimensions. It is impossible to grasp where we are and where we’re headed without seeing the full picture of this transformation in our lives, our businesses, and our society and we can’t see the whole thing unless we take a step back and let all the elements come into view.

So, when talking about #TheFutureOfWork it is key not to lose sight of interdepencies and to look at the integrated picture of what is driving the future of work and where it might have the biggest impact. Note that ‘the integrated picture' is not the same as ‘the bigger picture’.

The future is already here - it’s just not evenly distributed.

The outlines of the picture are already emerging. That’s why it is misleading to talk about the future of work, which suggests that the changes are not yet here or that it will occur in an indeterminate number of years. The truth is that many of these changes are already playing out, driven by forces that have been underway for decades.

The biggest challenge in understanding the future of work comes in surfacing the implications for three broad constituencies—the individual, businesses and other employers, and social and governmental institutions—and getting all three pointed in the same direction. Unless all three of these constituencies manage to align in their understanding and actions to address emerging opportunities and challenges, the road to the future of work will be bumpy at best.

Three forces shaping the future of work

  • First of all: technology which has created entirely new ways of getting work done that are, in some cases, upending the way we use and think about our tools and how people and machines can complement and substitute for one another.
  • Second: demographic changes are shifting the composition of the global workforce.
  • And thirdly there’s the power of pull: thanks to digital technologies and globalization, individuals and institutions can exert greater pull - the ability to find and access people and resources when and as needed - than ever before.

Technology is transforming the nature of work and forcing organizations to redesign most jobs. The relationship between employer and worker is shifting. Where once most workers were full-time, on-balance-sheet employees with benefits and defined salaries, employers of the future will also execute a significant proportion of their activities through individuals engaged in alternative work arrangements, from freelancing to crowdsourcing to contract-based work. These alterations to the nature of work and the workforce will have profound implications for individuals, organizations, and public policy makers—all three of which face imperatives for change driven by the need to adapt to the new realities of work in the future.

Groundbreaking opportunity for HR

In the future of work jobs will be redesigned around technology and consequently jobs and work are being separated from companies. The questions about how to redesign work and jobs, how to reimagine learning, how to use technology bring with them a groundbraking opportunity for HR leaders at every level. With different labor models, driven from outside of HR, by technology and IT, by supply chain and procurement groups, HR leaders have an opening to understand these opportunities and to accelerate them in ways that lead to better work and careers as well as more productive operations.

HR leaders now have the opportunity to
become the catalyst for fundamental change,
 but they will have to be wiling to break out of their HR silo thinking.

Beyond new hiring practices or performance ratings

It’s clear that it’s time for HR to take on a different role, the one of chief adaptability officer, because this new reality goes beyond changes in hiring practices or performance ratings.

HR leaders need to look ahead.


As pressure is on, companies have a tendency to focus on the short term and that’s where HR comes in to look ahead and envision where work is going to, what forces are shaping the future of work and what has to be done first in order to take advantage of it.

The growth of alternative work arrangements

Technology is transforming more than the way individual jobs are done, it’s also changing the way companies source labor. Many global companies already actively use crowdsourcing efforts to generate new ideas, solve problems, and design complex systems. In the next few years, three factors are likely to drive rapid growth of the gig economy—defined as individual self-employed workers bidding for short-term tasks or projects.

The gig economy has already become a significant component of work in the United States and in the United Kingdom. And over the longer term, the gig economy may evolve into something quite different. Many of the gigs being done today—for example, drivers of cars in mobility fleets and basic data-gathering tasks—are routine tasks that are likely to be automated over time.

Gigs based on human capabilities
— emphasizing curiosity, imagination,
creativity, social intelligence, and emotional intelligence —
will likely grow over time.

Implications for individuals

In the new landscape of work, personal
success will largely depend on accelerating
learning throughout one’s lifetime.

Workers will need to take action on their own to enhance their potential for success, but the impact of their efforts will be significantly influenced by the willingness and ability of the other two constituencies—businesses and public institutions— to evolve in ways aligned with the shifting nature of work.

  • They will have to engage in lifelong learning
  • They will have to shape their own career path instead of relying on paternalistic employers
  • They will have to pursue their passion

Implications for companies

Employers have to help individuals along this journey
by shaping work and work
environments and encouraging individuals to
learn faster and accelerate performance improvement.


  • They wil have to redesign work and work
  • They will have to source and integrate talent across networks beyond focus on acquiring talent to be employed in their own organization. They will have to look how to cultivate a continuum of talent sources that harness the full potential of the open talent economy and tap into that talent wherever it resides.
  • They will have to implement new models of organizational structure, leadership, culture and rewards: Organizational structures are evolving from traditional hierarchies to networks of teams that extend well beyond the boundaries of any individual organization. Organizations will need to cultivate new leadership and management approaches that can help build powerful learning cultures and motivate workers to go beyond their comfort zone. Leadership styles will have to shift from authoritarian to collaborative. And to foster these new forms of creative work, organizations will need to reassess the rewards they offer to participants. As the nature of work shifts to more creative work that rapidly evolves, participants are likely to focus more on intrinsic rewards, including the purpose and impact of their work and the opportunity to grow and develop. Organizations may find it increasingly hard to hold on to employees if they focus narrowly on extrinsic rewards.

Implications for public policy

Policy makers will have to reimagine lifelong education helping everyone to develop more rapidly talent throughout their lives. Our educational institutions were established, decades or even centuries ago, to provide for mass education for stable careers. There will have to be transition support for income in order to help reduce stress that workers are likely to face when shaping their own careers, learning new skills, especially when caught in unexpected transitions.

Wrapping it all up

The future of work is unfolding rapidly. Today, nor individuals, nor businesses, nor public institutions seem to be prepared for what’s ahead. The goal of this framework was to inform and motivate all stakeholders to proactively navigate the future of work in order to make the transition as positive, productive, and smooth as possible.

And that’s what we're trying to do at HRbuilders too...

Everybody has a responsibility and it is my
personal mission to prepare HR for the day
after tomorrow and help them make the shift
towards progressive HR.


  • That’s why we are connecting rebel HR freelancers to challenging assignments in companies that have adopted the progressive HR mindset in Belgium and Europe .
  • That’s why we are organizing an #HRBootcamp to help HR lead the way towards #TheFutureOfWork and take on the role of chief adaptibility officer.

Looking for some help along the way? Feel free to contact us or join our #HRBootcamp (

Comment on this article

Share this post