Before COVID, the workplace was changing gradually. This change was driven by an influx of Gen Zers to the workforce, a trend towards flatter organizational structures, and other evolving factors. Throw in a worldwide pandemic with significant and immediate impacts on how work gets done, by who, and from where, and the workplace as we knew it changed seemingly overnight. We are now experiencing what, not so long ago, was referred to as "The Future of Work."
In this new world of work, many outdated processes and notions that were already on the verge of insignificance are now at the tipping point of complete extinction. They are to be replaced by modern ways of thinking and execution that fit better into today's world and better empower people and teams.
5 Workplace Concepts Destined for the Graveyard in 5 Years or Less:
1. Annual Reviews
Wrong timing, wrong format. Research says they don’t work and so does… nearly everyone, from the executives administering them to the employees completing them. In fact, according to Gallup, only 14% of employees strongly agree that their performance reviews motivate them to improve.
Annual reviews are a complete fail, going away quickly and being replaced by coaching, stronger team leadership, real-time peer mentoring, and other approaches that actually work by fitting into the day-to-day employee experience. Nobody benefits from feedback provided just once or twice a year.
2. Work-Life Balance
Such a lovely concept, but one that sets up a zero-sum game, ultimately stressing everyone out. Integrate, appreciate, manage, harmonize. If you’re always trying to be in balance, you’ll usually be out of balance. As it is so skillfully put in this Forbes article, "...think of your day more as watercolor than paint by numbers—things are going to bleed into one another." This has never been more true than it is now, with work and home life so unavoidably intertwined. To all employees out there: give yourself a break.
3. Training Budget
I’m not saying organizations won't spend money on training. Instead, I'm saying that simply having an established “training budget” is a poor and outdated marker that your organization cares about learning and development.
It’s the golden age of information and Joe from your customer care team wants to know if he can spend $1,500 to take a mediocre course at a Hyatt in the suburbs. What Joe really needs is time and support to seek out the mentorship and experience needed to advance his career internally. In addition, he needs the guidance and time to take advantage of the incredible online resources out there, from a 30-minute YouTube lesson to flexible college courses. Providing the money for an employee to advance his or her career is commendable, don't get me wrong, but don't forget about the significant impact of your time and support, especially in today's rapidly-changing world.
4. Work From Home
WFH is being replaced by WFW. What we really mean is "Work From Wherever." If you can get your job done from your cabin "up north" or from a beach in Costa Rica, have at it. Get ready for a flip flop (pun intended) of this paradigm where employers will have to be very clear if and when they actually expect employees in the office for many knowledge jobs. We have all learned over the past few months that as long as you have a reliable Wi-Fi connection and you are making yourself available to your teammates when they need you, you can work from pretty much anywhere.
5. Company-Owned Career Tracks
You know what Gen Z (born after 1995) thinks of org charts, job titles, and “career pathing?" Not much. If you want the best Gen Z talent on your team, you need to be thinking about the opportunities you offer for growth, variety, autonomy, and impact this afternoon, not “after 10 years with the company." This isn't the only generation you need to be thinking about, either. Autonomy and variety at work is becoming more important to everyone as exposure to freelance or consulting work and the gig economy continues to rise. (Discussed further in our recent Internal Mobility blog post.)
So, what will replace the company-owned career track? Our vision at Structural: opportunity democratization, or the ability for any employee to pick and choose his or her career path based on skills and interest rather than tenure. This is a feature we are currently building into our platform, sought out by many of our clients and set to be released within the next few months.
Opportunity Hub within the Structural platform.
Some companies are more prepared for these five changes than others, and may have already taken steps to embrace them. Those who have not will need to act quickly to do so in order to meet the needs of employees in this new world of work. We have helped companies from 50-50,000 prepare for this transition, and we are happy to share the insights we've gained on what works to do so successfully.
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About the Author:
Scott Burns is the co-founder and CEO of Structural. Previously, he co-founded GovDelivery, which grew to 250 people and had two successful exits. It has been Scott's personal and professional mission to inspire and enable organizations and unleash the potential of people and teams.