The wait for economic revival has been long and arduous, the progress sluggish. Unemployment in the West still prevails at alarming levels but this time around, when the recovery does take place, it will not only bring with it more jobs, but also a complete shift in the paradigms that have characterized our workplaces in the past. Some of this shift is already visible in the way corporations are working today and the trends are likely to become more accentuated as the year progresses.
We take a look at a few leading trends that could characterize jobs and work in 2011:
Hooked to new age media: When social media has touched and reformed everything that we do, how can our work spheres be immune to it? The very foundations of communication and interaction among groups and individuals have been altered by the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, and just as some years ago, email had changed the face of corporate and business communication, social media, too, is well on its way to defining the new rules of professional engagement. From employees to customers to shareholders, every stakeholder is likely to be connected and reached through a common or dedicated social network platform. From Wholefoods to Staples, companies in every domain and industry have stepped up efforts to evolve effective and innovative social media strategy and this can only be expected to gain more steam in the year ahead.
An Office without Walls: Technology and rules of engagement with a non-traditional workforce have alerted companies to not only the necessity, but also the benefits of having more flexible and freelance (though perhaps also more vulnerable) arrangements or contracts at work. The imperative of having to travel to office to attend meetings, or to work Monday through Friday at designated hours, seems much too dated as more and more companies come forward with options for employees to telecommute, work from home or work adaptive hours. Deloitte's model of corporate lattice-based career development or Kraft Foods' flexible and innovative options for mothers is likely to find an increasing number of matches in companies across the world.
Allegiance to the Oath: When 2009 grads of Harvard Business School got together to create and take an oath, committing to seek a course that enhances the value (my) enterprise can create for society over the long term, many had scoffed at it. Yet, as the deep scars and lessons from the economic crisis of the past two years become more and more evident, companies and the people who lead them are likely to deepen their focus on responsibilities beyond bottom line. As the year progresses, more and more companies will look to foster a culture of ethics, social responsibility and governance. What this means is that they will also look for people who can demonstrate the same degree of commitment and promise in these areas.
Go Green: Even the most skeptical and obtuse have now woken up to the environmental imperative for the world and its economy at large. A comprehensive sustainability policy is not only going to save our planet, but also create employment and save millions of dollars in energy costs. From solar panels to smart grids and clean water, green jobs are definitely set to multiply, but that's not all. More companies will now encourage their employees to cut energy use, recycle and reuse at work and home. From Verizon that initiated a long-term awareness campaign to educate, encourage and make it easy for its employees to adopt green initiatives, to IKEA that has begun phasing out incandescent light bulbs in all of their stores across the U.S, sustainability moves will become the norm across the corporate landscape.
This is expected to receive a further boost following the announcement of a partnership between the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and OECD which will provide multinational companies worldwide greater guidance and support on how to conduct their business responsibly and report on their sustainability performance.
Greater Employer Branding: As Universum - a leading global corporation that offers services and products to help employers attract, recruit and retain ideal talent - reports, employer branding groups within companies will now work harder to get their organization to be perceived as a great place to work in. They will come up with integrated communications approaches that identify appropriate strategies for individual target groups.
Indeed, the trend of reaching out and trying to be noticed by talent groups has already been set in motion: one of the events that received widespread global attention in business as well as media was the publication of a book by Vineet Nayar, CEO of the hugely successful Indian IT behemoth HCL Technologies, capturing his corporate management philosophy and aptly titled Employees First, Customers Second. Another legendary business leader also mirrored Nayar's stance when he remarked in Business Insider In Virgin's case, we fly the same planes as our competitors and our gyms offer much of the same equipment as other gyms. What separates our businesses from the competition? Our employees.