What kind of workplace do you think will exist in 2038?
It’s a challenge to sift through the many forces and trends you see today and speculate the characteristics of a future workplace. You dream, read and discuss ideas before a reasonable picture emerges. You decide what’s real, what’s bizarre and what’s worth going forward — that’s the hard part. Here’s my vision for 2038.
The vision is organized around three dynamics. They are the person-to-machine dynamic; the person-to-person dynamic; and the person-to-organization dynamic. What will the person-to-machine dynamic look like?
It centers on the capacity of computers in the next 20 years. Artificial-intelligence algorithms will be embedded in computer software to assist in decision making and implementation efficiency. Financial data and analytics are displayed as an integrated array of patterns and options to decide on. They are activated by voice commands for many people and many levels. Basically, a sort of decentralized financial interpretation and decision making at the lowest level.
The chief financial officer in 2038 is focused on the plan going forward and difficult interpretations of financial performance data. What are the revenue projections for the next 10 years? What’s the return on investment, the projected stock price, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization? All are instantly displayed. Key metrics are calculated to help the CFO understand what’s going on and why. Decisions are made with almost instant consensus from the appropriate connections in the company network.
Caution signals alert for out-of-alignment numbers, all of which are displayed in real time. Sound chaotic? Not really, when you consider it’s 2038 and they are controlled by super-fast integrated computers. Data from production, investment, sales and human resources are all there for leaders and implementers to see. Company leaders are those with quick insights based on experience in this environment. If anyone needs training and development or refresher programs, the appropriate modules are called up on individual work stations when needed. When finished, refreshments can be ordered from a nearby robot.
Manufacturing functions will be automated and connected to the main company grid. Sales is adding numbers and comments from customers with analytical interpretation to find new markets, new products and new customers. All functions are responsive to each other in near-real time. Problem diagnostics offer a data-based option to consider before each situation gets out of hand.
Let’s speculate about the person-to-person dynamic. Here, we have well-trained people interacting in real time to changing situations. Discussions are focused and brief. Team leaders “roam” the workplace, keeping up to date and responding to crises instantly, with members of the teams called into action not in a conference room but through appropriate networks that are activated as needed. People will be comfortably connected in a variety of organizational networks. Cognitive interpretive skills and creative innovative skills are high in each person. These skills are assessed before they are seen in practice. Verification comes from individual employees’ accomplishments and competency assessments profiles.
Anyone can provide insights on performance to anyone in the team network. Performance discussions can occur quickly without having to recall the circumstances that were previously documented in the performance data base. Encouragement is given quickly and for the right behavior — a definite performance improvement trend already begun.
Before we look at the next dynamic, consider this general trend to mark a characteristic of the next 20 years. It seems there’s movement from a computer technology standpoint to a focus on behavior. Studies of Generation Z — the generation born between 1996 and 2015 — suggest they have a stronger social-justice conscience than previous generations. We saw a glimpse of that in the recent March for Our Lives movement organized in large part by Gen-Z members. In 2038, they will be the leaders. As employees, they will keep up with and use the latest social media technology. Many will also be business leaders.
What’s the person-to-organization dynamic? It will be based on the dominant values in the future workplace. Here the culture of the future company becomes important. It will value more than now, service to customers, suppliers, stakeholders and people in the company. How you express your value to serve each other is the cornerstone. People will enter a company with significant culture fit determined by team interviews and assessments. But organizations will not be conformist — there will be room for plenty of unique individual contributions based on the autonomy most people will have in 2038.
What kind of organizational leadership will there be in the future work environment? It seems fitting that there will be constant contact and engagement with people as circumstances change. Leaders will emerge as projects and situations demand. Leadership may temporarily reside in the best person the team feels will help it meet its objectives. Shared leadership will be common.
Agility will be a continued characteristic as changes demand rapid consideration of new paths to follow. The internal computer networks will display the best paths to choose from. A network consensus makes the final selection. To keep the leadership process contributing, a certain amount of humility will be visible to allow leaders to work more effectively with people implementing the decisions.
This has been only a glimpse of some of the characteristics of the future. Twenty years will go by quickly, and 2038 will be here before we know it. Are you ready?
Please share your vision for 2038 with me at email@example.com.