First post of a series dedicated to the future of work in the medium term. Here I would like to clarify something about what we are talking about when we talk about the future of work, the scope of the subject.
If the title of this post may have confused you, you will see that I did not write it by mistake and that it is indeed a cornerstone of this reflection.
The future of work is about….the future
I think that if I said on stage, during a conference, that the future of work is about the future, half of the audience would think I was an idiot and the other half would think I was preparing an announcement effect.
At least I am sure to make everyone laugh but not always for good reasons.
Because when we talk about the future of work or the future of anything, most people think about the past.
Sometimes, and sometimes rightly so, because the same causes usually produce the same effects, the past will help predict the future. But having the same causes is not always enough to have the same result: they must happen in the same context. The same causes and a different context therefore most often lead to different results, which is why I often say that you don’t drive at full speed on a highway by looking at your mirrors.
Often, on the other hand, they look to the past to explain that the vision of the future that is proposed to them cannot be realized. They are usually the ones who, when asked why their team works in a certain way, answer: “because we have always done it that way”.
If we listened to them, remote working would not be possible. But not only that. Many things that seem obvious, unavoidable and taken for granted to them would probably not have been possible in their eyes if they had been asked twenty or forty years earlier.
Open space? No way. The end of wearing a tie in the office? Unthinkable. A woman manager? And what else? A computer on every desk? But you are dreaming! An email box and internet access for all employees with a computer (at least)? It’s not even a possibility.
So using the fact that something was not realistic in the past to say that it will not happen tomorrow does not work. And the recent future has given us proof of this time and time again.
Never protect the past
This reflex may come from a difficulty in projecting oneself into the unknown which is quite understandable if one does not try to define the future context with a method.
But most often it comes from an equally well-known reflex which is resistance to change. “If the context changes, then we must change, so let’s convince ourselves that the context won’t change.
In fact, the first reflex of many people when asked to predict the future is to unconsciously try to protect the past.
Work is work
Another truism: in future of work there is future and ….work. And in the same way that the future is the future, work is work.
I’m not saying this out of the blue: I’ve been reading a lot of stuff lately about the future of work. Very interesting things from people who, most of the time, had really taken the time to think about it.
The problem is that 90% of this was not about work!
Re-enchanting onboarding is good, it’s part of the employee experience, but during this time we don’t work.
Recreating moments of collective life in a distributed organization is good, but it is not thinking about work.
Re-boarding people regularly to keep them engaged is good, but it’s not thinking about work.
Seeing remote work as a location issue instead of an organizational issue is not thinking about work.
I was recently reading this comment by Jean-Denis Culié, professor and researcher at EM Normandie:
“More generally, we need to put work back at the center of the relationship between employee and employer. Human resources management has taken hold of quality of life at work, and management is interested in goals and results. But what is important to employees is to be able to do their job well. “
I come back to what I keep saying here and there about the employee experience: it has become a catch-all concept to take care of the employee at all times except when he is working. And no, putting people and operations in the same sentence is not dirty.
I’m not saying that all the topics I mentioned above are not important, I’m just saying that if we only do that we forget the essential.
I say this all the more gladly because I expect the service and knowledge work industries to experience a major revolution in the coming years after having remained in the stone age of “work design” for decades.
When thinking about the future of work, far too many people think about anything but work, and sometimes even about a future that they would like to resemble the past.