2014-09-December-Remote-Work.jpgSome people believe that, in the future, most employees will work virtually. Others believe that managers will be no more. And still others share the vision of organizations as flat as pancakes.

But what does the future of work really look like? Jacob Morgan should know. As a Future of Work consultant, speaker and author, he’s just published a book about it. 


CMSWire recently spoke with Morgan about his new book, "The Future of Work," and we asked for his insights on how employees will work in the future. In addition to his thoughts regarding the future of managers and organizations, Morgan shared with us his beliefs (and an infographic) about how the employees of tomorrow will work differently from the ways they do today.

“The 7 Principles of the Future Employee refers to looking into the not-too-distant future,” he explained. “Some of these are even seen today within many organizations, but within the next few years, I think that these seven principles are going to become standard.”

7 Principles of the Future Employee

According to Morgan, the employee of the future:

1. Has a flexible working environment

“A flexible working environment basically means working anywhere, working any time and focusing on the outputs that an employee creates -- not on how long it takes for them to accomplish a task,” said Morgan.

Whether an employee wants to work in the morning, in the evening, from home, a coffee shop or in the office, Morgan stresses that flexibility is all about choice.

“The whole point of having a flexible work environment is just that -- it’s flexible, it’s choice,” he emphasized. “It allows employees to really customize when and where they work.”

Morgan is quick to note that flexibility does not mean all employees will be virtual employees, or that he advocates getting rid of face-to-face communication. It all comes down to choice as a major motivator for attracting and retaining top talent.

“A lot of organizations are citing flexibility as the way to create an attractive workplace,” he said. “It’s very, very important for employees.”

In fact, he added, many employees are even willing to take pay cuts if it means having greater flexibility. (A study by staffing firm Mom Corps shows that employees are willing to take an average 6 percent pay cut in exchange for a flexible working environment.)

2. Can customize his or her own work

“Customizing work is the ability for you to move around the organization, to shape your own career path, and build your own corporate ladder instead of climbing one that is prescribed to you,” said Morgan.

In his book, he outlines three ways employees can customize:

  • Customization Based on Voice: This means using internal social networks to be vocal about what you’re interested in and passionate about. For example, a salesperson who wants to move into marketing might use the organization’s collaboration tool to share opinions and insights with marketing team members to build credibility within that community, perhaps ultimately resulting in an invitation to become part of their team.
  • Customization Based on Self-Organization: This gives employees the opportunity to shape and identify work they’d like to take on. “There are some organizations that allow employees to choose which projects they’d like to join,” noted Morgan. “Once that project is completed, you join the next project.”
  • Customization Based on Choice: “The same way that you have preferences on your computer, or you have preferences on your phone, imagine having those kinds of preferences for your work,” said Morgan. For instance, employees might specify the months they want (or don’t want) to travel for business or the types of projects they want to work on each month.

3. Shares information

“Years ago, there was this standard mentality that hoarding information -- keeping it to yourself -- was what made you valuable,” Morgan pointed out.

“But today, thanks to technology and new collaborative environment tools, the new way to look at work is with the idea of sharing. You contribute value not when you hoard information, but when you share -- share your feedback, share your ideas, share your perspectives, share things that you’re working on and help other people when you can.”

This is very important for employees, he adds, because it builds thought leadership for that employee within the organization.

4. Uses new ways to communicate and collaborate

Morgan indicates that we are seeing a shift from using email as the main channel for communicating and collaborating.

“Email’s not going away, but it’s not going to be the primary way for us to communicate and collaborate,” he noted. “Instead we’ll shift toward tools and technologies like video conferencing and internal social networks that are more collaborative.”

5. Can become a leader

Previously, argues Morgan, there was a big distinction between what made an employee and what made a leader.

“But now, thanks to collaborative technologies, anybody can become a leader,” he continued. “The same way we have seen people become leaders in certain fields through social media -- by blogging, by having a Twitter account you’re active on and by sharing valuable content -- you’re able to build followers.”

Then, as you build followers, you start to become known as a thought leader in an area. “The same is true within an organization,” Morgan pointed out. “And that’s something that we’ve never seen before.”

6. Shifts from knowledge worker to learning worker

Although today’s employees are called knowledge workers, Morgan argues that knowledge is a commodity.

“Knowledge is no longer that important because to be the smartest guy in the room, all you need is a smart phone,” he said. “What’s becomes more important isn’t your ability to know things, it’s your ability to learn.”

People who are able to apply things that they learn or know into new scenarios and new environments, are learning workers, he said.

7. Can learn and teach at will

Any employee is both a student and a teacher, according to Morgan. Employees can learn from others in the organization through technology, and those who want to teach can make quick recordings using their smartphones and pass them along to colleagues.

“Any employee is now able to learn and teach at will thanks to technology,” he concluded.

 Title image by Martin Nikolaj Christensen (Flickr) via a CC BY 2.0 license