Prediction: Organizations will rethink work for a more productive workforce.

Posted by Kathi Enderes on November 29, 2018.

The world of work has become incredibly complex. Workers are trying to navigate a maze of hierarchies, work processes, and never-ending new communication methods that are all meant to make them more productive, but ultimately having the opposite effect. The rise of the social enterprise means that organizational boundaries are becoming permeable, while what and who constitutes an “employee” will be redefined with broader, more inclusive concepts. And teams are rising to the fore as work processes become project-based, even as many organizations cling to industrial-age hierarchies.

In our current talent economy, the workforce as a whole has attained incredible power, putting individuals in the driver’s seat and pushing organizations to transform outdated structures and processes. In 2019, organizations will begin reconfiguring how people work in five key ways.

Organizations will redefine employees, talent, and managers.
Organizations have already begun to rethink the concept of employees to include individuals more broadly, and to reconsider talent as encompassing the entire workforce ecosystem (employees, consultants, contractors, gig workers, and the crowd).1 As these individuals become more and more embedded, organizations will need to create engaging experiences for everyone—not just people on their payroll. Part of the way they will do this is by turning a new lens on what it means to be a manager. Successful managers in this model will not be defined by their position in the org chart, but by their ability to be leaders of work performed by the broad workforce, with a focus on human-centered leadership. In some cases, they may be team or project leaders, without direct people management responsibilities. The shift from employees, talent, and managers to individuals, workforce, and leaders may sound like a simple change in terminology, but redefining how organizations refer to people doing work for them is a serious change in mindset—one that is necessary for organizations to manage the workforce holistically and inclusively.

The open-source workforce will become more common.
2019 is shaping up to be the year of sharing capabilities. As organizations expand who is included in day-to-day work, they must be able to access and use contingent workers’ knowledge and skills as easily as those of traditional employees. The greater good takes precedence in the future of work: organizations will need to become agnostic to the source of capabilities, treating free agents and traditional employees alike. The much-lamented skills gaps can only be addressed with cross-organizational mindsets, supporting people to create engaging, career-enhancing experiences wherever they might sit. Some organizations have been experimenting with open marketplaces where people can bid on opportunities most aligned with their needs; in 2019 this will become more mainstream. For organizations still in the initial stages of wrangling with the logistical challenges that this shift presents, one opportunity is to first enhance talent networks within the organization, boosting internal mobility. Breaking down walls within the organization will smooth the transition to thinking in new ways about capabilities and resources.

Organizations will more mindfully use technology to simplify work.
Individuals are overwhelmed with too many communications channels and a crushing amount of work—to the detriment of their productivity, their focus on the work that is most valuable to the organization, and their own physical and mental health. Organizations have busied themselves with creating expensive, time-consuming wellness programs separate from (and in addition to) work rather than doing the obvious: radically simplifying work itself. Technology—AI, machine learning, bots—will simplify work for individuals, helping them focus on human skills and capabilities and finally break through the productivity plateau. In effect, humans will do what they do best, and machines will do what they do best. Organizations will take apart and reassemble jobs, making them easier, more interesting, and less overwhelming. This will be the start of a longer transformation to finally take advantage of new ways of working.
Along with this reassembly, job architectures will be redefined and simplified, including competencies and career models. The same technologies will simplify people processes and put development flags in the flow of work. Imagine individuals receiving performance nudges at the moment they need them, or leaders receiving prescriptive insights generating calls to action that influence business outcomes. Technology will make this happen.

Work and people processes will converge.
Learning, performance, and work are converging. Have you noticed? In the coming year, organizations will recognize that integration between traditional people processes wasn’t enough. Inconvenient people programs that exist in isolation are going the way of the dinosaurs—the workforce is unlikely to engage with any process or platform that does not contribute to their work, build their network and relationships, or enhance their wellbeing. Harnessing the way people naturally behave and learn makes the process intrinsic and embedded into the work itself. This is scary to a lot of organizations, but also incredibly powerful because it is seamless. People analytics, diversity and inclusion, career management, and a host of other processes will seamlessly come together in the flow of work—with the ultimate goal to make work better.

Teams will become the new norm.
The need for superior outcomes will drive organizations to orient people processes toward teams, not just individuals. Many work processes are already team-based or project-based, and that trend will gain even further significance in 2019. Teams generate better ideas, better results, and better engagement. In today’s world of ever-changing skills requirements, more complex scenarios, and unpredictable business environments, people will become more dependent on others—especially as human skills like creativity, innovation, and decision-making become the key to any job (everything else can be automated). As teams become the major paradigm of how work gets done, organizations will shift their approach in all people processes. For example, recruiting for team fit instead of just individual fit; assessing skills and capabilities of a team consistently to determine gaps; developing teams and not just individuals; curating an engaging team experience; and evaluating and rewarding team results.

Looking Ahead
Generational shifts and massive changes in technology, data, and workforce trends are disrupting what work is, who does it, and what defines the workplace. This can be scary, but it is also an exciting opportunity to reorient work toward radical simplification and finally move past a decade-long productivity plateau. For sure, 2019 offers the promise of breakthrough processes and concepts that will reverberate for years to come. As teams and technology gain even greater prominence in the landscape in the next 12 months, Bersin will be looking at their potential to boost productivity and enable the social enterprise.

Every day from November 27 through December 6, Bersin will be sharing perspectives on the most timely, relevant, and interesting developments for HR professionals to watch in 2019.

Check back daily and visit on December 18 for a consolidated report with all of the predictions.

Kathi EnderesKathi Enderes, PhD, is vice president and talent & workforce research leader at BersinTM, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

1 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends: The rise of the social enterprise, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Deloitte Insights, 2018,

2 thoughts on “Prediction: Organizations will rethink work for a more productive workforce.

  1. Interesting predictions. I for one cannot wait for the machines to handle all the mundane tasks. And the lines do continue to blur between employees, contractors, and consultants, despite the government’s best efforts. Change is good. Welcome 2019!

  2. Nice prediction. It is truly a nice idea to give attention in this matter. Employees carry the brand’s promise and identity with them, it’s important to have a healthy and peaceful mind at work.

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