The Future of Work is Here: Are leaders packing up all they know to lead with new skills in an unprecedented way forward?

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This article is part of our special report Connectivity and the workplace of tomorrow.

Over the years, we’ve seen exciting, new and innovative trends in leadership modernize the way companies run and grow their people. We’ve seen linear corporate ladders shift to adaptive corporate lattice models. We’ve seen CEOs trade corner offices for hot desks. And “EQ” has long replaced “IQ” as the core skill we look for in our managers.

Manuel Kohnstamm is Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Liberty Global.

Today we stand on the precipice of our new future ways of working. New norms, priorities, values and practices. Yet unlike the paced evolution enjoyed in the past, corporate leaders are rapidly leaning on unprecedented agility and honing skills across unproven theses like never before. 

The once corporate ladder is now akin to climbing a mountain, calling for improvisation, motivation and the up-and reskilling of employees. The new corner office is any room that has the best WiFi connection, good lighting for Zoom calls, and mutes the noise of dogs and household activity. And EQ is making way for “CQ”, or Cultural Intelligence, following a year of purpose-driven awakenings and a world holding itself accountable to be and do better.

You could say “The Future of Work is Here” already, and that inspired Liberty Global to commission a new report by Deloitte, set to launch on March 3rd. This report examines how the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns fast-tracked a number of work trends that not only have demanded seemingly immediate responses by leaders and organizations but ultimately, may be here to stay.   

Within the first weeks of remote working, companies were loosening bureaucracy, flattening hierarchies, and enabling faster decision-making to preserve productivity and keep major agendas intact. Distributed working has continued to transform our interactions, increase flexibility and independent work, and shift the traditional emphasis from inputs to outcomes. 

But even amidst the promise of vaccines, leaders are studying the impacts carefully as indications show that distributed working habits have embedded in our routines and expectations. In one example, Deloitte reports that 77% of people surveyed in the financial sector expect to regularly work remotely after the pandemic.  

As CEOs announce their future working and return-to-office plans, we can expect most will include a remote component – if solely to retain and attract talent, now validated in their focus on commuting time, flexibility and work-life balance. This in turn has prompted significant reflection on how to manage a highly distributed workforce, ensuring genuine connections based on increased transparency and greater trust.  

The report also points to an essential need to create a shared sense of purpose among employees. For senior executives, with established relationships and priorities, it’s easier to work and execute remotely. But for juniors and new joiners, they don’t just miss the social interaction that’s harder to develop on-screen, they miss the shared cultural cues and rituals that make belonging palpable.

For these reasons, the role of the office will likely reshape to support the needed moments of collaboration, connection, co-creation and social engagement that cannot be replicated remotely. More than ever before we realize the value of informal social contacts as an essential element of professional growth.

A distributed workforce will enable leaders to build broader and more diverse talent pools. Both companies and individuals see new opportunities to match jobs that previously would be unattainable. At the same time, they are called again to consider how these workforces sustain engagement and effectiveness, working through cultural and language differences, and reskilling employees to foster both internal mobility and value for the business. 

In fact, leaders are likely to index highly on adaptability as a key attribute when attracting new talent. In Deloitte’s Human Capital 2021 trend report, 72% of executives cited reskilling as important to overcome future disruptions. Together with digital skills, the willingness to learn and interchange roles may well become the future formula for workforces to prepare for transformation and disruption.

Today’s leaders have faced the most profound crisis of our generation – one that will no doubt serve to redefine and humanize the new priorities of leadership and organizations. 

I, for one, am excited for a future of work that emphasizes trust, culture, well-being, diversity and inclusion – that brings being a part of “something bigger, something meaningful” to our people – no matter where we happen to sit.

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