A Look Back on 2016: Six Valuable Lessons Learned From Interviewing 53 Business Leaders

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Join me as I take a look back on six lessons I’ve learned about the future of work from my podcast guests over the last year.

We are moving into a new year and I am excited to see what podcast guests we will have and the things we will learn about the future of work. I wanted to take a moment to look back over the 53 published podcasts of 2016 to discuss six lessons I learned from my guests this past year.

The first lesson I learned in 2016 is that we should be thinking of our organizations more like a laboratory and less like a factory. Over the past year I have had some great guests including the Chief HR Officer of Accenture, the Chief Innovation Officer at EY, and the President and CEO of Humanyze and all of my guests have been very honest in saying they don’t know everything. They understand that in order to be successful they have to treat their organizations like laboratories where they allow for testing, exploring, adaptation and innovation. They also embrace failure in order to learn from their mistakes.

The second lesson I learned from my guests is that the future of work doesn’t happen to you or to your organization, it happens because of you or because of your organization. We need to understand that the future of work is not its own entity that we cannot control, it is something that we collectively create. We design it, build it, manifest it and implement it. Our organizations need to play a more active role in the future of work.

The third lesson learned this year is that there are big changes happening to the employee/employer relationship. The relationship has to evolve with the growth of the gig economy, more flexible work arrangements and the changing demographics in the workplace. Employers have to be aware of the changes in the workforce and they must adapt accordingly. It is also vital for employers to understand their organization and their people when making changes instead of blindly copying what other organizations are doing.

Lesson number four is that technology seems to be taking centerstage. Technology is affecting everyone across the board–human resources, management, sales, IT, etc… We are seeing things like virtual reality, people analytics, AI and automation, collaboration tools and wearable devices. It is important to mention, though, that technology is just a vehicle. Just because you have technology does not mean you will necessarily achieve anything. You have to know what technology will work for your company and how to best implement it. This also ties into lesson number one, treating your organization like a laboratory and allowing things to be tested.

The fifth lesson deals with employee experience vs. employee engagement.  We have seen a huge growth in companies paying attention to employee engagement. Never before have we seen such an investment into employee engagement. The problem is, never before have we seen employee engagement levels so low. This stems from the fact that people do not realize that employee engagement is the effect, but we are not paying enough attention to the cause. The cause of employee engagement is employee experience. Employee experience has three basic elements that go into it; cultural environment, technological environment and physical environment. By investing in these three environments companies can create a better employee experience, which will in turn, create better employee engagement. And the foundation of employee experience is people analytics.

The final lesson I am going to touch on is that organizations seem to have a cautious optimism about the future of work. There has been a lot of talk about AI replacing jobs, political challenges, issues with globalization, etc…Basically, there is a lot of doom and gloom out there when talking about the future. But there is hope in the cautious optimism that I have seen among my 2016 guests. Most of them have expressed a desire to proceed into the future believing in positive outcomes while still preparing for challenges. Taking AI and automation for example, a lot of my guests believe that more jobs will be created than destroyed. They are, however, taking precautions such as retraining and educating their workforce in order to equip them with new skills that will help them stay relevant in this changing world.

Overall this has been a very insightful year for the future of work podcast. I had so many great guests and we touched on a lot of vitally important topics. I truly hope that you all learned a lot along the way as well. I look forward to sharing more of my conversations with senior level leaders as we discuss the future of work.

My new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley, March 2017) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work.  This article was first published here

About the author:

After having terrible jobs working for other people Jacob went off on his own to research and explore how work and everything we know about it is changing. Today Jacob Morgan is one of the world’s leading authorities on the future of work, employee experience, and how the workplace is changing. He is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and futurist who advises business leaders and organizations around the world.