I’m a 63-year-old Boomer, and I’m optimistic about what the workplace will look like in 2025. I’ll be retired by then. However, I’m excited about future opportunities for my younger colleagues and my Millennial children.
We’re living in a time of great conflict between people and despair about the future of the world. And there are legitimate reasons for that.
Polarized politics are bringing governments to a standstill. Economic inequality is becoming more pronounced and creating civic unrest. Climate change is driving extreme weather events that create catastrophic losses across the globe.
Trust, autonomy and collaboration will underpin the workplace of the future
Wait, didn’t I say I was optimistic? And, I am. The future of work and how we work is up to us. What I see is a rising generation of activists. They are passionately committed and drive change inside and outside of the workplace.
At times, it can seem like the world is boiling over and all hope is beyond reach. But there are more than glimpses of a growing culture of trust, autonomy and collaboration in the workplace.
For now, many of our younger colleagues see us Boomers as staying in the workforce for longer than they might like! This makes them wonder how they’ll ever have the opportunities.
They seek to expand their own responsibilities and build careers in interesting and challenging ways. Behind these, our youngest colleagues, the Generation Z’s, listen to us wax on about how much easier they have it with the almost stock response, “Ok, Boomer”.
However, I also see my male Millennial colleagues sending 6:00 am emails to let the team know they’ll be staying home to take care of a sick child.
I hear managers tell their employees that “family comes first”. I see trust, autonomy and collaboration overtaking from obedience as the tickets to career progress. My teammates include Gen Z’s right out of college. Their creativity, commitment and work ethic inspires me.
Change is already happening
Things have already changed for the better in the workplace and they continue to move in that direction. People, especially younger people, don’t want to go back to a time when hierarchies ruled. People “climbed the ladder” as it was the thing to do.
In fact, many people aren’t interested in climbing the ladder any more. They’re willing and able to work hard, but not to sacrifice their responsibilities and pleasures outside of work.
These changes didn’t happen overnight. But they happened at all is due to the drive and vision of people who wanted to change the status quo.
The five major drivers of change in the workplace
- Organizations will redefine their purpose to benefit all stakeholders, including their communities
The Business Roundtable, an association of CEO’s of America’s leading companies, issued a “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” that drew praise and fire for it’s focus beyond the bottom line.
- Increased focus on environmental sustainability
97% of climate scientists agree that human activities are the leading causes of climate change. Companies will increasingly seek to lessen the impacts of their workplaces and products on the environment.
- Focus on employee experience to increase as the available workforce shrinks
In the US, an aging population, declining birthrates and lower international immigration have all contributed to a slower growth rate of the labor force. Organizations are having to put more focus on improving their employee experience in order to attract and retain the employees they need to be successful. This means investing deeply in the benefits and ethics that matter most to workers.
- Diversity and openness to non-traditional candidates
Between #3 above and societal changes in the acceptance of women, people of color, older employees, LGBTQ and other cohorts of “difference” organizations will promote their openness as evidence they are an employer of choice.
- Managing AI to complement human capabilities rather than as a threat that replaces them
Artificial Intelligence will affect jobs, especially those that comprise of mainly routine tasks and / or requiring minimal human decision making. There is no question that new jobs will be created, roles we can’t even imagine yet. It’s up to organizations to plan for how they’ll deploy AI and how they’ll develop the workers they’ll need to manage it.
Back to the future workplace
The girl in this picture could never have imagined that she’d spend most of her life in the technology industry. It virtually didn’t exist in 1974. Nor could she have imagined all the developments that made her life as interesting and challenging as it has become.
From the Women’s Movement to the iPhone, things got better because activists believed they could. We didn’t make all the right decisions along the way, but things will be ok, Boomer.
Joyce Maroney, founder and executive director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated