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The Future of Work: Scoring with Skills

Feature Article | April 13, 2018 by Andreas Schmitz

As our world becomes more complex, automated, and digitalized, companies are under increased pressure to modernize quickly and to constantly reinvent themselves. There are multiple things companies should do to prepare for the future of work.

Unemployment levels of over 20 percent, the end of wage labor, robots and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies performing routine tasks, virtual offices without fixed desks, training in the form of massive open online courses (MOOCs), and unconditional basic income: The Bertelsmann Foundation predicts this is how working life will be in 2050, and we can already find some indications of this future in today’s labor markets.

For some of us, this is a terrifying thought, and the effects of these revolutionary changes to the labor market are still unclear. According to a study by the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, uncertainty will be rife in society by 2030. But the employees of tomorrow will also have different priorities. They will take living independently, making their own demands, and reflecting their originality at work much more seriously.

Companies are well advised to accommodate these priorities – especially if they want to attract the top talents.

Dealing with the Unexpected Becomes a Human Advantage

Regardless of how much labor markets change in the coming years, it’s clear that we must rewrite the old rule book for the business models of tomorrow. This is not least due to digitalization. Robots and AI technologies will pick up more and more routine tasks, such as assigning incoming payments to open items, primarily because they are faster and more efficient.

It is no surprise, therefore, that Günter Pecht-Seibert believes the power of future employees will lie much more in their ability to think outside the box when dealing with unexpected situations. The global vice president Future of Work at SAP is convinced: “Human capabilities — such as creativity, innovation, empathy, and trust — will become much more valuable. But we have to take different approaches to empowering and organizing our current and future workforce so that businesses can harness these abilities.”

Though current structures encourage increased efficiency, they are weaker when it comes to boosting innovation, agility, and creativity, and that is the challenge.

Companies Staffed by Entrepreneurs

“We can only master this challenge if employees are able to fully understand their company’s business strategy,” says Pecht-Seibert. This includes making sure they know how to personally contribute to making the strategy a success. Hierarchies are becoming less relevant, and the importance of transparency is growing.

It isn’t just managers who benefit from detailed information on market developments, employees do too. Such changes are vital to making employees more business-minded. By giving them more responsibility, and encouraging them to think and act like entrepreneurs, they increase the company’s competitiveness.

Measure Mood with SAP Work-Life

A co-innovation project among 21 companies, including BMW, Beiersdorf, and Procter & Gamble, led to the creation of SAP Work-Life, a cloud-based application that measures the mood among employees and teams. Employees can use the app to anonymously provide information on what is important to them – from career progression and less stress at work, to getting a better night’s sleep. By rating different criteria, they receive recommendations on how they can improve their situation, and become happier and healthier at work.

This approach is much more precise than annual employee surveys because HR, team leaders, and managers receive information on employee needs and expectations in real time. The aim is to foster a culture of ongoing feedback that sees employee happiness continuously improve. This kind of information is worth its weight in gold.

After all, the happier we are, the more creative we are – and that is the key to the future of work.

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