Embracing change is the future of work – Mary T. O’Sullivan

by Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL, contributing writer on business leadership

“Resiliency, agility, and adopting a ‘test and learn approach’ will mark the winning strategies for 2024.” – Jean Meister in Forbes

Every year, Forbes publishes their predictions for organizational success based on the latest trends observed and practiced in the world of HR. Some organizations will successfully embrace these trends and there will be others that stay mired in the “way we’ve always done it”. A recent Doctor Radio broadcast mentioned the importance of adapting to the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in just about every field of medicine. The neurosurgeon who spoke said that the doctors that reject AI will go out of business because AI offers greater detail and expanded information in medical testing and results than ever before. And AI is not the only change that employers need to accept. Due to generational turnover, the COVID pandemic, and lack of employee commitment, a wake-up call is needed to keep pace with competitors around the world, especially for companies who are household names and have been around for years.

This week, riding on the New York State Thruway through Schenectady, NY, I noticed the familiar GE logo (or meatball, as employees called it), lit up in several bright neon colors. Years ago, this would have been a firing offense, a sacrilege. That was the old GE of the 1980s and 1990s, but still I had to think why the meatball would be so colorful and bright. It didn’t seem to make sense. It then dawned on me that June is Pride Month, and GE, with its multi-colored logo was paying homage to their LBGTQ+ employees, quite a cultural change for the venerable 131-year-old company. A radical change introduced to ensure all employees felt included with a sense of belonging.

Moreover, it’s no secret that hybrid work has become a major demand for almost all employees. Companies that hesitate to offer flexible work hours are gambling with their futures. According to Forbes, in an ADP survey of 32,000 knowledge workers, 64% said they would quit their jobs if flexible work schedules were altered or removed as an option. By now, in 2024, the debate about hybrid or remote work should be over.

Companies offering their employees the choice of work options have proven to be more successful. A recent Boston Consulting Group and Scoop Technology survey of 554 public companies employing 26.7 million people found that when employees are given a choice of how they wish to work, the companies enjoyed a 21% increase in sales. The research goes on to say that employers have a wider geographic area from which to hire as well as higher rates of retention. Why? Because hybrid and remote work offers workers more autonomy and equity in their jobs, forcing management’s mentality to adjust and adapt to workers’ desires, rather than the other way around.

Other adjustments include paying greater attention to issues important to Millennials and Gen Z, namely issues of climate change and sustainability. Due to cost cutting, the younger generations are facing a career without pensions, and post pandemic stress is still worrisome. More cognizance of employees’ financial well-being as well mental health concerns is now part of the strategy for more effective talent management. Also, working with AI means more training and development dollars must be spent in order to stay competitive. Even with hybrid and remote work, younger people don’t want to be stuck in a dead-end job. Companies need to help workers with their upward mobility and career planning, so employees are aware of and have the chance to grow within their company and industry.

Another more common introduction to the world of work is augmenting the workforce with contract, seasonal, temporary, and part-time workers. Among the benefits are hiring special expertise, covering surge periods, or filling in gaps. Many of these employees also eventually become permanent members of the organization, and their status is comparable to a “dating” period to baseline a good match. These workers should be welcomed into the organization, not shunned.

Employers may balk at the thought of “bowing” to trends. It’s HR’s job to introduce new thinking and demonstrate with hard data as to why 2024 isn’t 1994. People and the work environment have changed, and now, embracing change is the best way toward growth and success. The data is all there, and by now we know that the only thing that moves upper management is data. If you want to influence how well your company can adapt to these changes, march into the boss’s office armed with surveys, research papers and statistics that prove their bottom line will increase if and when they embrace the real future of work.

“We are in the midst of a massive shift in how the work world integrates AI and recruits and manages our fellow humans. It is important for HR leaders to be prepared.” –  William (Bill) Brewer, CCP, MBA in LinkedIn


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Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, Society of Human Resource Management, “Senior Certified Professional. Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas.

Member, Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society.

Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University.

Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM.

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