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Designing the future of work to create new business value

Are organizations paving the way for their people to create new value for customers and the business through new skills?

Published by Orgvue 


Over the last decade, market forces and disruptive technologies have called into question the work people do today and the skills they’ll need in the future. Now, we’ve reached an inflection point where organizations are being forced to rethink role design whether they want to or not, as sweeping changes triggered by the Coronavirus pandemic rip through business and society.

With consumer expectations still rising and the economic outlook looking bleak, what will businesses do to offer extra value to their customers that makes them stand out? To identify those new sources of value that would better differentiate their organization, business leaders will need to think through the work that will derive that value and invest in the skills base to deliver that work.

Balancing efficiency with resilience as a way to preserve value

As new skills replace old, there comes the opportunity to do things differently. Resilience has stolen the limelight from efficiency and businesses are finding new ways to achieve better outcomes that don’t rely on just-in-time, zero redundancy principles. They’ve learnt the hard way that maximizing efficiency leads to fragility that can bring everything crashing down. What happened to supermarket supply chains in the first weeks of the pandemic is a classic example.

But without efficiency, costs go up, which undermines value, right? Possibly but it depends on your approach. Shifting focus from process efficiency to data efficiency and introducing some slack into your systems is a route to designing a more resilient business. If we have accurate, reliable data sources that bring all business functions together, we can understand and respond to market trends much better than many organizations do today.

Defining new business value in the future of work

Similarly, if we can understand how to better evolve our organizational capability to derive new value that customers will appreciate, we can find competitive advantage in increasingly saturated markets.

To that end, we’ve outlined 3 steps leaders can take to find new business value and deliver it through work and skills:

  1. Formulate the vision that articulates new value and the anticipated increase in customer demand that would result. Then test the vision and value claims with seasoned executives and entrepreneurial advisors.
  2. Understand how the new strategic vision changes the work to be done in order to derive new value and meet business objectives. What activities will have to change and what new activities across functions and geographies will be needed?
  3. Determine the skills needed to complete those activities, quantify demand and evaluate the gap with the existing skills base. The difficulty here is that, with the changing nature of work, the necessary skills may be in short supply or may not even be available in the market.

Anticipate the skills of the future based on what you know

While these steps represent a logical process, herein lies the difficulty surrounding skills in the future of work. The World Economic Forum estimates that 65% of children in primary schools today will work in jobs that don’t exist yet, using skills that aren’t commonplace today.

Organizations will need to redesign training and development programmes to shift focus from maintaining existing skillsets to anticipating those skills that are likely to increase in importance and dynamically reskilling or upskilling employees as those skills emerge.

Unless they begin to do this, in as little as 14 years’ time, businesses face the real prospect of a widespread talent shortage and an unbalanced skills pool to draw from, according to the Office of National Statistics. The choice they face is to continue chasing the specialist skills they need today from a diminishing pool of candidates or to adapt and redefine the talent pool by focusing on the skills of the future.

Focus on the skills people have, not the roles they fill

Building the workforce of the future will be led by the skills people have rather than the roles they fill. Those skillsets will be fluid, constantly evolving and will require continuous learning to upgrade and expand them as new market conditions, new technologies and new complexities present themselves. To give a simple example, the architects of the future will use materials and technology that haven’t been invented yet.

What’s more, knowledge-based skills will be less dominant. It is in the higher-order human skills that new value will be found in the future of work. Skills such as intuition, insight, empathy, creativity, innovation and collaboration. Ironically, this could mean rediscovering skills we’ve lost.

New skills and new thinking for a brighter future of work

Take customer service. Today, this means being held in an automated telephone queue for 30 mins, then speaking to someone with basic training who’s reading from a script. It could also mean a conversation with a chatbot that ultimately wastes your time. Or it could mean a returns policy that leave you frustrated and out of pocket.

What if your phone call was answered straightaway by a highly trained customer representative who could solve your problem in one go? What if you could visit a customer service centre and speak to someone without waiting in a queue for an hour. What if customer service was an enjoyable, rewarding experience rather something you dread. Added value? Unquestionably. The sooner organizations leave behind outdated industrial practices and find a balance between resilience and efficiency to drive profit through value creation, the better placed they will be to thrive in a world where change and uncertainty are the only constants.

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