exponential-change-future-proof-workforce.jpgIn our last article, we examined the disruptions that have accompanied our increasingly digital age. Every business and every worker now stands at the threshold of massive shifts that will shape the future. Our predecessors during the Industrial Revolution must have felt similar stirrings with the advent of new technologies and the beginnings of automation. Today, that revolution has turned digital. Yet that’s not the only major difference. In the 19th century, change was localized and affected isolated groups. Today, change is global. Its impact touches everything and everyone. Its momentum is gaining strength, propelling us forward at a dizzying pace. However, exponential change also holds the promise of exponential growth. For companies to remain relevant and progress, they need stellar talent, agility, and the right technology. Let’s explore a few critical trends that can help business leaders future-proof their workforce — and their enterprises.

Exponential Change: A Workforce Opportunity, Not an Obstacle

Businesses will continue to encounter new dynamics, shifts and challenges as exponential changes redefine the world. Organizations that have the ability to attract and retain highly skilled people will adapt, evolve and remain relevant. That’s not just high-concept, philosophical talk. Powerful enterprises don’t enjoy 60-year listings on the S&P 500 any longer. The average today stands at 18 years. In fact, 89 percent of Fortune 500 companies from 1955 no longer appear on the list. As Salim Ismail notes in his book , “The average half life of a business competency has dropped from 30 years in 1984 to 5 years in 2014.”

Of course, change isn’t exclusively the byproduct of technology rushing ahead at blinding speeds. We’re also caught in the currents of emerging shifts in demographics, the environment, the economy and borderless commerce. In the face of limitless possibilities, attempting to prepare for each transformative circumstance would be a daunting task. However, there are certain strategies we can adopt right now to ensure that our organizations and our talent remain competitive, progressive and sustainable.

Mastering Mobile

Within the next four years, 25 billion devices will be producing and delivering information on any subject imaginable. Immediacy and on-demand access are the themes driving the push toward the small screen. According to Pew Research, 40 percent of job seekers rely on mobile devices exclusively when scouting and applying for positions. That figure rises to 53 percent among 18- to 29-year-olds.

Anyone who wants to reach and engage candidates must champion a positive mobile experience. Yet, only 10 percent of Fortune 500 businesses currently support a truly mobile-friendly application process. The upside is that over the past 12 months, business leaders have undertaken serious efforts to optimize their websites through responsive design. Unfortunately, only 11 percent of users spend their online time using the mobile web. According to Nielsen research, 89 percent of all mobile usage is devoted to apps.

More job seekers are conducting their searches through tools such as Switch, Jobr, Blonk and Weave. Soon, the majority of candidates will be searching for jobs, applying for jobs and talking about jobs from smartphone apps and even wearable technologies.

Regardless of the business — direct employers, staffing providers or MSPs — now is the time to consider developing an app. A variety of specialists in this area, such as Bizness Apps, have made the process simple and affordable. The app doesn’t need to be complex or all-encompassing. Just a few core features can go a long way with candidates.

  • An overview of the company’s mission and culture
  • A compelling description of the employment brand
  • Open job postings and links to apply — or to the hiring portal you’re using
  • Blog posts, embedded videos, testimonials and more — you may even consider using a tool like Periscope to showcase the actual working environment

Extend the Concept of Mobility to Your Talent

One of the most salient qualities of modern economics and labor is the on-demand nature both are embracing. This project-based “as a service” paradigm defines how we live and work today. We lead online lives. We rely on wireless, on-demand devices to accomplish our goals, both on the job and at home. As a result, we’re also witnessing the rise of a truly global community. Borders, both physical and ideological, are disappearing.

Business are increasing their reliance on the contingent workforce to tackle tough challenges, innovate new products and services, and complete critical projects. This speaks to the growing need for agile processes and elastic operations. Contingent talent represent over 40 percent of the labor pool now, according to figures from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). That number is projected to rise to 50 percent by 2020. The marketplace has become a very big world, and the best workers aren’t necessarily the people in your neighborhood. Today’s professionals prefer freedom, flexibility and mobility. That’s why so many of them have embraced freelance and contract work.

According to CITO Research, businesses recognize the power and benefits of mobility. Nearly 70 percent of all respondents cited improved business processes as the motivation to adopt a more mobile culture. This push is accomplishing much more, however: increased satisfaction, a stronger competitive edge, new revenue opportunities, cost savings and attracting new talent.

As Daniel Newman, co-CEO of V3B, writes in Forbes, “Employee mobility leads to 30 percent better processes and 23 percent more productivity — and 100 percent more satisfied employees.” A mobile work culture offers a wealth of benefits to modern companies.

Creating an on-demand office environment for mobile talent requires only a commitment and a few suggestions to ensure consistency, security and buy in. Here are some best practices, courtesy of Daniel Newman:

  • Make a concerted effort to identify key apps that fit your business culture, and promote those apps within the company.
  • Choose apps or mobility platforms that address security issues likely to impact your organization, talent and industry. Close to 70 percent of employees who resist mobility cite security and privacy concerns.
  • Invest in apps that optimize your company’s core operational and process efficiencies. This helps foster user adoption — employees will quickly realize the benefits because the systems are making their work easier.
  • Select apps and systems that offer robust multichannel support. This eliminates the risk of technical issues for people with different device types (phones, tablets), operating systems, versions and so forth. You’ll also curb costs, as employees can use their own devices rather than the company purchasing compatible units.

Prepare Tomorrow’s Leaders Today

The staffing industry has long discussed the departure of the aging workforce. Well, that exodus has become imminent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), one in every five American workers is over 65 years old. In four years’ time, one in every four workers will be over 55. By 2024, the report explains, the labor force “will continue to age, with the average annual growth rate of the 55-years-and-older group projected to be 1.8 percent, more than 3 times the rate of growth of the overall labor force.”

To prevent unwelcome disruptions as your business heads into the future, now is the time to identify potential leaders among your millennial talent. Encouraging talent mobility — an internal approach to employee development — creates a culture that appeals to Millennials, prevents talent hoarding (and thus, stagnation), and grooms a new generation of leaders.

Let’s say a high-performing worker wants to move to a different department and learn a new skill set. Naturally, managers don’t want to see their best people move away. Yet the pros substantially outweigh the cons. As people progress through varying levels of the organization, they learn critical skills that apply to the wider goals of the company. They begin to conceive fresh ideas based on all the knowledge they’ve acquired. They’re more likely to pioneer a revolutionary advance and then lead others. Eventually, they become executives and continue to push the business in lucrative new directions. That’s how talent mobility creates success. Here are some fundamental steps to lay the groundwork.

  • Set clear goals with talent. Make certain the career path is transparent and published.
  • Define how milestones will be established and communicated. Program managers can facilitate progress by assigning talent to projects that will help them build their experience, skills and responsibilities. Ongoing training and peer coaching ensure that workers have the resources they need through every phase of the journey.
  • Foster independence. Preventing workers from exhibiting their strengths, skills, creativity and evolution will erode morale and participation. By encouraging talent to make decisions and explore new aspects of themselves — and the business — we can instill more than a sense of respect; we begin teaching them how to work as effective leaders and develop future teams.
  • Ensure sustainability. Social and environmental issues are important to younger workers. Soon, they may become mandates for businesses. Exponential technologies are focused on sustainability, and they represent some of the largest growth sectors of the future: telemedicine, alternative power, 3-D printing and much more. Committing to sustainability can help your organization comply with potential policy changes, tap into emerging markets and attract the leaders of tomorrow — those with the knowledge and skills to evolve the business.

Transform and Transcend

Our information-driven world is accelerating the demand for nimble, elastic operations as change occurs exponentially. Linear organizations must adapt and become exponential themselves. The status quo no longer ensures security or longevity for businesses and job seekers alike. If we learn to perceive change as an opportunity, and not an obstacle, we can prepare for the future and embrace all of the advantages it brings.