Hailed as the world’s leading business strategist, award-winning expert witness, strategic consultant and professional speaker, Scott Steinberg is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists, and the bestselling author of “Think Like a Futurist;” “Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty;” and “Fast >> Forward: How to Turbo-Charge Business, Sales, and Career Growth.” The president and CEO of BIZDEV: The International Association for Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, his website is FuturistsSpeakers.com.
At a time when many organizations are calling for employees to return to the office, even as numerous meeting and events professionals continue to work remotely, it begs the question: What will the future of work hold? Despite growing calls for workers to switch back to on-site setups, we’d argue that answers clearly lie in more hybrid and digital solutions — and new approaches to both working models and setups.
To put things in perspective: According to the Society for HR Management, half of workers want their next position to be a remote one — a figure that’s only expected to grow. Asked if they’d like to work remotely at least part time, 97% of employees also said yes — and 7 in 10 say their companies already offer at least part-time remote work options at present. From McKinsey to Gallup, poll after poll from leading researchers continues to send a clear message: Working professionals are increasingly embracing the concept of flexwork and only want more of it.
In effect, despite myriad MICE industry employers’ growing desire to bring employees back to the office, the genie is out of the bottle, and isn’t going back in. Thanks to rapid-fire advances in technology made over the past two years, it’s clear that the future of work will be more remote, hybrid and digital. But while job postings have returned to — or in some cases are exceeding — pre-pandemic levels, continuing labor shortages may see over 85 million positions go unfilled by 2030, costing organizations as much as $8.5 trillion. Faced with growing hiring constraints, meeting and events industry leaders have no choice but to give their HR and workforce management strategies a next-gen upgrade.
What does this mean in practical terms for MICE industry executives, however? On the one hand, it’s important to consider that human capital will be just as important to manage as any asset on your balance sheet going forward. It also means that, in addition to investing in areas like research, development and operational planning, it’s going to be critical to invest equally heavily in workforce-related training, education and support in the years ahead. Likewise, you’ll further want to think about how to offer workers more flexible work opportunities, working models and benefits that are better tailored to their individual needs, career goals and lifestyles in coming months.
From an operating standpoint, it additionally means having to invest in and put new tools, technologies and operating strategies in place that make it easier for your staff to connect, collaborate and build shared cultural understanding. Likewise, with game-changing innovations like AI and machine learning now gaining in prominence and prevalence, it’s clear that anything that can easily be automated will in coming months. In effect, technology and communications tools continue to make exponential advancements — our operating strategies will have to shift equally pronouncedly to be more adaptable and keep up.
Note that when we speak about the future, we often talk about a “new normal.” Rather, as we note in new print-and-play boardgame The Future is Yours (which teaches how to adapt to new trends and technologies), at the pace we’re moving these days, we should be thinking about the “next” normal — and you can bet that several of these “next normal” states or operating conditions are about to come on fast and furious. This means that your meeting and event industry firm’s talent, workforce management and operating strategies should be designed to be more adaptable from top to bottom — noting that flexibility, in effect, is the essence of future-proofing.
As you start to reexamine what the future of work looks like for your organization, focusing on four key areas of strategic thinking can help guide your planning efforts:
Establishing a more future-focused and flexible plan for how your organization will work and operate in an unpredictable business environment … and challenging your firm to adopt evolving workforce strategies that better align with its forward-looking business strategies.
Reconsidering your fundamental approach to workforce management and engagement given new working models — and contemplating how to best leverage technology and connectivity to optimize employee empowerment, support and productivity, whatever circumstances that you and your staff may be asked to operate under going forward.
Embracing greater diversity and inclusion at every turn, actively seeking out fresh insights and perspectives, and studiously working to bring non-traditional voices (e.g. those of younger generations, outside thought leaders, etc.) to the table to help drive added engagement and innovation.
Working to build strong, resilient and accountable cultures and preparing your organization to adapt to growing workforce issue complexity and the growing demands of regulatory compliance and oversight.
As you can see, there will be no one-size-fits-all solution to working models and setups going forward. At the same time, redesigning meeting and events firms’ working solutions and strategies to be more flexible and resilient will also be key to planning for tomorrow. Thankfully, by taking the time out to rethink how you engage, empower and interface with your employees today, you’ll be far better equipped to deal with the organizational demands of tomorrow. C&IT