“Now is the time to focus the human side of work, which will allow leading firms to attract, develop and retain the workforce that is core to their future success.” – James Root, partner at Bain& Company and Bain Futures co-chair

This project by Bain& Company cast a huge net, surveying 20.000 workers across multiple countries, and leading in depth interviews with over 100 people from varying stages in life. The result is an in-depth report on what changes we may see in the future of work, and how to perhaps best anticipate these forces to harness them in positive ways. One major factor at play throughout the survey is the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led many workers to re-evaluate their work-life balance and what things they prioritise when looking for work.  What emerges then, are five key themes that will challenge the future of work and worker management.

1. Motivations for work are changing – improved living standards as well as socio-cultural shifts have changed what makes work meaningful and attractive to people, leading them to re-evaluate what things they value in a job

2. Beliefs about what makes a good job are changing – the report identifies six archetypes of workers (operators, givers, artisans, explorers, strivers and pioneers), which have different attitudes and approaches to their work, and may have different requirements to thrive in the workplace

3. Automation is helping to rehumanize work – as automation will increase, “soft” skills which are uniquely human like empathy, creativity and problem solving are becoming more valuable, which will require a “re-skilling” of workers

4. Technological change is blurring the boundaries of the firm – remote work and the gig economy are on the rise which may allow workers more flexibility, but challenge the social and internal cohesion of the firm

5. Younger generations are increasingly overwhelmed – financial burden, psychological strain and seemingly unattainable career goals put increasing pressure on young generations

However, the report also makes three core recommendations for business leaders looking to stay ahead in the war for talent.

First, it will be necessary to shift from being talent takers to talent makers, by anticipating the “great re-skilling” and cultivating growth and talent in their existing work force. Second, to manage workers less like machines and put more importance into their individual skills and strengths. Third, to foster a sense of belonging for all its workers while uniting them through a shared vision.

In short, success lies in putting emphasis on the workers, to train and foster their unique skills so they can become great contributors and achievers within the firm.

The whole report can be found at https://www.bain.com/about/media-center/press-releases/2022/the-working-future/