The Future of Work

future of work

At long last, it's a brand new year -- and our thoughts are on the future of work, and by extension, the future of HR! On this episode of ProjectHR, we are joined by Jay Kuhns, Vice President of Business Development at IRI Consultants and author of the leadership blog “NoExcuseHR". Here, he explains:

  • Why "going back to the way things were" is no longer the goal
  • How the pandemic has accelerated change in our workplaces
  • The "Rookie Mistake" that organizations can make in the Post-COVID world
  • How we can all prepare for the future of work

If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 

The Future of Work

  • Mr. Kuhns has seen numerous changes in the workplace over the years and uses those experiences to help understand what the future may look like. 
  • Oftentimes, individuals and companies who make “bold moves” in times of crisis come out far stronger than those who choose to wait and see what happens.
  • Working to embrace the future of work as opposed to worrying about it will be a vital mindset to coming out of the pandemic better and stronger.


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COVID-19’s Impact

  • The impact of COVID-19 and remote work will be a huge stepping stone to the future climate of work.
  • Waiting to “get through” COVID-19 and using a wait-and-see approach to the future of work could turn out to be perilous, so being active and approaching the future during the pandemic is essential. 
  • At IRI, there has been a huge amount of effort put into being proactive throughout the pandemic. 
  • Some organizations have become 100% remote while others have held onto older mindsets of employee production only occurring in a set workplace with a  supervisor looking over their shoulder. 
    • In today’s climate, this mindset no longer makes much sense.
    • Employees having the power to avoid traffic, avoid traversing a corporate campus, and all of the other things associated with the traditional workplace is a key to a more efficient and comfortable workplace.
    • The pandemic has worked to push this workplace ideology into the present day when it may have not even been imaginable without COVID-19.
  • The ability to trust employees is a worry for many leaders, but with the emergence of remote work, that worry becomes something that seems like a “rookie mistake” now that it has been proven that companies can perform remotely during such a catastrophic time.
  • It would be unrealistic to think the workforce will “go back to how things were” prior to the pandemic. These workplace changes are here to stay.
  • These changes allow employees to take some stress out of their day when they no longer have to deal with traffic and a commute along with strict time constraints while also being a little more environmentally friendly. 
  • We have been forced to think and operate differently and that is exciting!

Are the Future Workplace Trends Dependent on Industry or Company?

  • Each organization can and will adapt differently to save money and operate at a higher level moving forward. 
  • We have all matured very rapidly since the pandemic began.
  • Open-mindedness is key to moving into the future of work. 
  • Creative problem-solving will be a trend that continues into the future as the workplace continues to change and evolve. 

The Skills Gap

  • The entire concept of employers telling their story is the most significant strategic play they can make. 
  • Innovation and high quality service are important as well.
  • With many companies, there is an assumption of quality. 
    • When you injure yourself, you don’t say “take me to the highest rated hospital,” you say “take me to the hospital." This is because there is an assumption of quality for hospitals in general.
    • The same situation can be said when a tech company like Apple releases their newest product. The assumption of quality is there more often than not.
  • The “X-Factor” is having the people to execute on that innovation and quality. 
  • Differentiating your business from others by telling your story is a great strategic play that takes true time and effort. 
  • For HR leaders, they must keep their people on board while also attracting new talent. 
  • The best way to tell your company’s story is through the eyes and mouths of your employees. 
  • There are very few companies who have adopted the mantra of telling their story.
  • Telling your story will put your business ahead of the curve.

The Generational Shift

  • Shifting through generations overall has not changed the landscape of the workforce at its core.
  • People in the workforce want: a job that has meaning that they can contribute to and provide self-worth. 
  • Mr. Kuhns believes that there has not been a drop off in effort, it mostly has to do with finding that correct work-life balance.
  • These generational shifts have brought more focus on the concept of corporate social responsibility. 
  • Companies are now looked to be making an impact in the community in a positive way. 
  • People coming into the workplace today have had access to the internet at their fingertips for their entire lives. These people having the knowledge and connectivity at all times will have an impact on how businesses innovate around their new employees. 

The Gig Economy

  • Mr. Kuhns believes the gig economy is here to stay.
  • Businesses are now looking for ways to be more efficient and productive without having to lay off the workforce.
  • Layoffs are truly devastating to employers. 
  • Freelance contract work is a method that has become increasingly popular and efficient as opposed to hiring new people.
  • Do all departments need a full department? 
    • HR, IT, etc. are departments in which some companies may be able to not have a full department and instead could have smaller groups of people whose responsibilities could possibly overlap.

Corporate Responsibility

  • Corporate responsibility has become so important today that there is really no going back.
  • Corporate responsibility can help organization attract new talent.
    • The company that promotes diversity and inclusion will almost always attract the better talent pool than the company that is afraid to talk about such sensitive topics. 

The Search for Meaningful Work

  • The search for meaningful work for employees is incredibly important.
  • There is a responsibility for employers to provide this to their employees but how it is defined is usually determined by the employer.
  • If there is a problem with creating meaningful work, companies should aggressively address it.
    • Employees should feel supported and important to the overall goal of the company.
  • Creating meaningful work along with other sensitive topics can often be deemed “soft skills.”
    • Soft skills are difficult to address yet important to address and companies that do address them effectively will be better off in the long run.

People Analytics

  • People analytics are massively important.
  • The numbers within people analytics are just as important as financial reports or any other reports essential to a successful business. 
  • More needs to be involved than just turnover and/or the other cliche metrics.
  • A deep analysis of people’s happiness and sense of fulfillment within their role will help companies and HR departments provide the support all of their employees need. 
  • There must be a level of discipline just like the people who create financial reports in order to gain that trust and credibility in people analytics reports. 

How to Prepare for the Future of Work

  • Create a commitment to telling your story as a company and executing on that story/identity.  
  • Small groups of senior leaders ended to have some important conversations of how to move forward effectively. 
    • “Are we comfortable in the status quo or is there something more than can be done for our employees and company as a whole?”
  • Brave leaders will be the pioneers of the future of work.

Contact Jay:

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