The future of work is not what it used to be (and it is already here)

Note: This article originally appeared on LinkedIn, you can read it there by clicking here.

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today – Abraham Lincoln

On one of my many cross-country flights, I started to think about how the concept of employment has changed dramatically over the course of my thirty-year career in the US. In this time, information technology and globalization have changed how business is done, increased competition and improved workforce productivity in every industry. These forces have dramatically changed the employer-employee compact*, doing away with stable jobs, lifetime employment, pensions, and predictable career advancement. These have been replaced by a dynamic, ever changing, ever evolving workplace. It’s not a stretch to say the Future of Work is very different, it is emerging and changing right in front of our eyes, and it requires:

  • New skills: Students going through school will very likely be in a job that hasn’t been invented yet and more than a third of the job skills that will be needed in 2020 are not considered crucial to the jobs of today
  • Curiosity and Continuous learning: These same students are learning core curriculum content that will be out of date by the time they graduate. They need to develop the capabilities to make learning a life-long activity that they enjoy
  • Resiliency and Adaptability: Provide the skills required to adapt to careers that have 10-12 job changes in their career and possibly change their career 3 or 4 times, and
  • New models of employment: Many individuals with specialized skills will see their career as a series of “Tours of duty”, with a newly defined Employer-Employee compact*. Other employees will expect the flexibility to have more than one gig at the same time enabled by the Gig Economy.

The Workforce of the future is made up of tech savvy digital natives who are always on and always connected. They flow between work activities, personal tasks and gigs that fulfill their need for artistic, financial, security or other needs. These employees are highly adaptable continuous learners, who have a breadth of skills across multiple domains. Organizations need to have a different view of their workforce and talent. They need to plan for employees who:

  • Seek a higher purpose and “meaning” to the work they do and balancing that with what they are good at and at the same time enjoying what they do (The Japanese call the “ikigai”)
  • Want to pursue multiple jobs/roles/gigs that align with their values and needs
  • Prefer to work from anywhere, at anytime through different modalities – work from home, co-working spaces, all-inclusive campuses or traditional workplaces
  • Look for the work to come to them as opposed to moving their families to where the work is and spending several unproductive hours commuting in big cities. The nature of work today is increasingly digital, distributed and not constrained by geographical boundaries, it goes to where the skills are
  • See work and life as two sides of the same coin. These employees go beyond traditional notions of work-life balance and embrace work-life flow where they work where they want and can handle their personal life when they need to.

At Magellan Health, we believe that communication, collaboration and community are core basic human needs. We believe that collaboration is a highly personal and uniquely human experience that is critical for us to achieve our Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) of “Leading humanity to healthy, vibrant lives”. Our challenge was to see how we could build a collaboration platform that took advantage of the strengths of this workforce and addressed some of the opportunities and constraints that come with the workforce of the future.

In late 2016, we introduced Magellan Hub, our platform to enable the workforce of the future and make them thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Magellan Hub was designed with five foundational principles:

  1. It had to be humanized, personal and democratic – the platform needed to be personal in a way that it gave every individual within the organization a unique voice that was their own. It also needed to be representative, self-governing and participatory (collaboration is not a spectator sport). It also should NOT allow for anonymous participation.
  2. It had to support emerging modalities of communication – the platform had to go beyond Web 2.0 technologies to include emerging modes of communication including Groups/Communities, Videos, Group Chats, Video and Audio Conferencing, desktop NLP, and Chatbots
  3. It had to bridge distance and time – In other words, it had to retain the context of conversations, the history of events and be searchable. In addition, it had to have the flexibility to support real-time and delayed interactions at the same time
  4. It had to be everywhere and nowhere – this allowed people to be always connected when they needed to be and completely disconnected when they wanted to be. This enables both pull and push communications where users could opt-in to the content they wanted to see.
  5. It had to be future proof – The platform had to be scalable to support our growth and be accessible from anywhere, at any time over no, low and high-bandwidth connections.

We believe in Magellan Hub, we built a platform that supports the workforce of the future to effectively handle the future of work. Here are a four examples:

  • When Dana, a new employee joins Magellan, she is instantly connected to the broader community across Magellan. She has the choice to share what she wants to share, develop her unique voice and influence the dialog of her colleagues, her team or the entire company. She can subscribe to the content she wants to see, groups she wants to join, formal and informal leaders she wants to follow. In other words, Dana immediately becomes part of the Magellan Community the minute she gets an ID to access Magellan Hub
  • Steve, a long-term Magellan employee, spends most of his time in infrastructure operations and is focused on his day-to-day tactical tasks. With Magellan Hub, Steve can be part of groups that are focused on the projects he is working on to stay in sync with the rest of his team irrespective of where they reside or work from. He can also join special interest groups around technical domains or social domains (such as Magellan Musicians) to connect with others with similar interests. He does all this on his Android smartphone as he is running personal errands working out of his home office.
  • Lara, a highly engaged mid-level executive uses Magellan Hub to do a digital management by walking around to check on the pulse of her team that is spread across 12 states and 3 different time zones. She uses HD Videoconferencing and personal chat/video/audio conferencing through to enable these highly personal and humanized experiences without extensive travel. What’s cool is that Lara can have these humanized, high-touch interactions with her team from her home-office, from the indoor gym as she watches her kids play or from an airport as she waits for her flight to take off
  • Jeff, who is a product manager developing our next leading edge Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tool can collaborate real-time with his colleagues and team members from different departments across the company to create, edit, comment on shared product specifications in a secure way. At the same time, he uses a closed and private group to discuss and collaborate on these product specifications and coordinate the development of this product across the company.

At Magellan, we are the employer of the future who is fully committed to continuously exceeding the expectations of the workforce of the future. While we may not be there yet, with Magellan Hub, we provide a collaboration platform for employees so that they can do their best work every single day and they become the change that we want to see.

References and Notes:

* Hoffman, R., Casnocha, B., & Yeh, C. (2013, June). Tours of Duty: The New Employer-Employee Compact. Harvard Business Review.

** World Economic Forum. (January 2016). The future of jobs: Employment, skills and workforce strategy for the fourth industrial revolution. http://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs

*** The name Magellan Hub was selected by our employees through a crowd-sourcing contest that was conducted on the platform

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