Introducing the four domains of the future of work
Gary A Bolles, UNLEASH’s newest columnist and globally renowned expert on the intersection of AI and business, introduces the four domains concept to our audience.
Why You Should Care
What do each of us as Individuals want? Everyone who leads in an Organization wants to be able to find and develop the talented workers they need.
Every Community needs to function as an ecosystem where everyone can thrive. Countries need to function as ecosystems where no human is left behind.
Here's an intro to Gary's thesis of the four domains of work - with plenty more to come...
HR leaders can be forgiven for wondering if the seismic transformation of work will ever stop.
Just as the ripple effects from a global pandemic subside, along comes a quiet tsunami of artificial intelligence tools. The sheer number of issues with which HR professionals have to contend, from flexible work to inclusive strategies to the mind-numbing blur of AI software, can become overwhelming even to the most adaptive.
Identifying patterns and distilling trends can seem an impossible task, and determining how to parse the most important issues can seem futile when everything continues to change so rapidly.
But there are four consistent domains for that constantly-shifting landscape, and identifying the key issues in each of those arenas provides an important tool for HR professionals to continually prioritize their own strategies. The goal is to remain committed to a human-centric future of work, one where the people function of the organization can serve as the persistent catalyst for positive change that delivers the greatest benefits for the most people.
The four domains for the future of work are Individuals, Organizations, Communities, and Countries.
What do each of us as Individuals want? To be able to find or create meaningful, well-paid work, today and tomorrow. Everyone who leads in an Organization wants to be able to find and develop the talented workers they need, today and tomorrow. Every Community needs to function as an ecosystem where everyone can thrive. And in a world of exponential change, Countries need to function as ecosystems where no human is left behind.
We’ll begin here with Individuals, and focus on each of the other three domains in subsequent articles.
The future of work for individuals
I’ve conducted workshops and lectures for populations ranging from native Maori youth in New Zealand, to refugee youth in Amman, Jordan, to C-suite coaching sessions for organizations around the world.
As different as these populations are, when it comes to the future of work there is one consistent thread: Everyone wants to be able to find or create meaningful, well-paid work, today and tomorrow.
If that could happen for every person on the planet, it wouldn’t solve every problem. But it would significantly improve the quality of life for countless people.
When it comes to designing that work for each person, what would we want to encourage for their work? The power and flexibility to design work roles optimized for each of the “6 W’s.”
- What we do for work would include the problems we most enjoy and are best at solving, and the skills we most enjoy and are best at using.
- Where we work would include the most optimal working conditions for our work, and the place in the world where we can do our best work.
- Who we work with would include co-workers and others who help us to do our best work.
- When we work would include the most optimal times for our work in any given day, week, or month.
- How we work would include the work roles for which we feel the most effective, from an individual contributor to a guide who leads a team or an organization.
- Why we work would be connected to our feelings of meaning, purpose, compensation, and benefits.
While we’re waving that wand, we would also want to make sure that every population would have the necessary preparation and training for and access to work, with any roadblocks to work removed from their path, such as the need for childcare, transportation, and shift flexibility. Differently-abled, under-resourced, less-educated, just-immigrated… Each of these populations would have the same basic advantages as their more-advantaged peers.
What else would we want to help ensure that every individual can succeed in the future of work?
- Every worker would have a growth mindset, a 21st-century skillset, and access to a 21st-century toolset of techniques and technologies to empower them.
- Every worker would have a North Star or Southern Cross that guides them in their work, a magnetic pull toward the kind of work that motivates them.
- Each person would have the resources to participate in lifelong learning, continually learning new in-demand skills.
- Everyone would be part of a network of other humans who could help them through mentoring, support, and connections to work opportunities.
Of course, we don’t yet live in a world where everyone can find or create meaningful, well-paid work. That’s a journey, not a destination. However, there are many things that HR professionals can do to serve as change agents to help people throughout their organizations to move in that direction.
What should you do next?
- Train workers for a growth mindset. Leveraging the insights from Dr. Carol Dweck’s book ‘Mindset’, encourage every worker in the organization to develop a guiding direction in their work, that North Star or Southern Cross of a career direction that continually pulls them forward in their own journey of growth.
- Embrace the whole person. Before the pandemic, many organizations treated workers as ‘icebergs’: A thin layer of skills above the waterline, and a huge amount of human potential and life circumstances below the waterline. Suddenly committing to the health and wellbeing of every worker revamped the contract between the worker and the organization. We can’t simply ignore what we now know about all of the needs and aspirations of every worker: Instead, we should embrace them, committing to practices that embrace a holistic view of each person.
- Co-create the next rules of flexible work. Every organization is developing its own thesis for how flexible work can be for different teams and different work roles. Rather than simply ‘bungee-cording’ back to the old rules of work and requiring everyone to be in the workplace at all times, think of the process of determining how flexible work can be for each team as a process of co-creation. We all had to embrace trust at the height of the pandemic: Now is the time to double-down on trust, and empower teams to determine their own schedules based on their support for the strategic goals of the organization.
How can you support these with a toolset of techniques and technologies?
- Self-knowledge software that helps each of us to better understand our own skills and interests.
- Learning management systems to provide self-development resources.
- Team coordination applications that help workers to continually synchronize with each other, allowing them to work more effectively as distributed teams.
There’s more to come on the intersection of HR and AI from our newest columnist – keep an eye out here.
Author, speaker and AI expert
Gary A. Bolles writes and lectures around the world on the future of work, learning, and the organization.