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19 Aug. 2020 | Comments (0)

We do live in interesting times. We are living through many crises at once: never-ending stream of news about COVID-19 infection spikes, decimated labor markets, deep economic recession, reversion of globalization, global movement for social justice just to name a few. We are now at an interesting moment in history where there is a widening gap between workers’ expectations and what workplaces provide. We’ve witnessed the demise of the notion of a lifetime career. The benefits, perks, and anything else that traditional employment used to provide are things of the past. We feel “replaceable.”[1]The exciting thing is that we are witnessing the beginning of a new reality of work that, at the core, is fueled by the information revolution.

Digital innovation breaks down physical and speed barriers; enable us to learn and do, see and touch, create and share in new ways. It is the world of free-flowing knowledge rather than information dispensed by central authorities. But with the ability of technology now to generate “deep-fakes”, it is getting even more difficult to know the “truth”[2]A consequence of the digital revolution is that current work models are crumbling, the puzzle of work is being decomposed and reassembled in new ways, the organization of tomorrow looks a lot more fluid, and the workers of tomorrow are a lot more independent and empowered.

Disruptions impacting the workplace described in 4Ds: demographics, digitization, datafication, disintermediation

Dramatic shifts are influencing the world of work and are impacting corporations, non-profit institutions, governmental agencies, and independent agents alike. These shifts are changing the dynamics between work requesters, workers, and the workplace. They can be grouped in the following framework - 4Ds - and specifically:

  • Demographic shifts that include a multi-generational workforce[3]; growth in global/local/social/job mobility[4]; more women entering the workforce[5]diversity in sexual orientation/identity, backgrounds, and thoughts[1]. This requires rethinking of the workplace practices and value proposition to ensure an inclusive, productive and innovative workplace that embraces the diversity of thoughts and backgrounds and creates products and offerings that are accessible to everyone. More importantly, organizations are forced to rethink the sources of talent in light of shortages of qualified talent and the changing preferences of the modern workforce[2].[RC1] 
  • Digitization including intelligent automation, virtual/augmented/mixed reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc. “Digital” forces organizations to rethink their business model, decision making, and communications flows. It requires a very different mindset on how work gets designed such that it is more fluid and less constrained by the traditional (manufacturing) style of producing work-units. It opens up new opportunities and markets at the intersection of fields and industries and the persistent element in all of them is technology[3]
  • Datafication of the interaction across and between humans, devices, sensors, bots, tools, etc. that is becoming increasingly sophisticated[4]The massive amounts of data allow us to see patterns, glean insights, and find the optimal solution. What’s unappreciated is how quickly these processes are evolving and the impact they have on the speed of decision-making. Along with many benefits, there are also risks associated with our pursuit of quantifying everything. To reap the benefits of an analytics-driven world, organizations must develop a different set of skills, rethink what gets measured and how, and set policies and control systems to bring common sense into the data deluge around us[5].
  • Disintermediation, capturing the rise of independents, the gig economy, collaborative consumption, networked work, 3D printing, blockchain, cross-value chain companies, etc.[6]  Many technology-first organizations are rapidly disrupting the neatly organized adjacent industries. This doesn’t only change your product strategy but also the competitive landscape you have to consider. It brings a new complexity to the overarching principles of defining market share, value creation, and measurements of success[7].


These shifts demand that corporations rely more on technology, data, and analytics to make decisions about their business, workforce, and workplace strategies. Corporations have to adapt their internal processes and management systems, have to change the communication and knowledge distribution flows to make sense of and influence human behaviors in the workplace, and have to identify opportunities for learning and development to maximize workforce performance[1].The same shifts are also forcing workers to rethink their digital personas and reputations, the management of their networks, and the development of their skills and credentials. As computers take on a bigger role in managing information and intelligence, the value creation will shift toward innate human traits that are difficult to automate and digitize, such as creativity, expressiveness, intuition, emotional intelligence, and storytelling. These traits will influence how we connect and work with others, how we relate to brands, and how we make choices and purchasing decisions. Business models, products, and offerings will become less about their quality and price and more about the language of emotions used to describe them[2].

We are witnessing a wholesale change in the way we work, think about work, as well as how we engage in our wider personal life. Digital identity and reputation will form the basis for a new system to describe the value and worth of actors in the future world of work. Workers’ digital imprints will enable them to carry their work and knowledge portfolios, profiles, networks, and expertise from one job, project, or experience to the next. Managing digital identities of corporations and institutions will be just as important, since these will determine attraction factors for workers, who will not only consider the monetary value of the relationship, but also the value the corporate brand will add to their own reputations[3].

Many questions arise in relation to this future, to the opportunities to use the advancements in the fields of data, analytics, and neuroscience to better understand human behavioral patterns and ways to influence them. What is the impact of such opportunities on individual privacy and the ethics and morality of data use and analytics? How to balance wealth-building with solving weighty societal issues, and defining the steps governments must take in order to balance the needs of the global business environment and changes in domestic policies to stay competitive and continue to provide social protections to their citizens? What will be the impact on taxation? What will constitute crime in this increasingly digital world and how will security and protection of digital assets be ensured? How will organizations need to be structured, how should workflow be designed, and what is the notion of leadership and decision-making in the new era?


This is the first part of two-parts post that focused on the changing landscape of work. In the next post we will describe how HR and business leaders can rethink their work models to deal with the disruptions described above.


[1] Rogers, K., Do Your Employees Feel Respected?, Harvard Business Review, August 2018

[2] Lazer, D. M. J., Baum, M. A., Benkler, Y., Berinsky, A. J., Greenhill, K. M., Menczer, F., … Zittrain, J. L., The science of fake news. Science, 2018

[3] Women in the Workforce – United States: Quick Take., Catalyst, June 5, 2019

[4] Fouberg, E. H., Murphy, A. B., & de Blij, H. J., Human Geography: People, Place, and Culture (12th ed.), January 2020

[5] Women in the Workforce

[6] Reiners, B., 80+ DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE STATISTICS YOU SHOULD KNOW, builtin, February 2020

[7] 8 Ways the Workforce Will Change in 2020, Young Entrepreneur Council, February 2020

[8] Industry X.0 | Industry Digital Transformation, Accenture.

[9] Desjardins, J., How much data is generated each day, weforum, April 2019

[10] Hamel, J., Worldwide Business Analytics Services Forecast, IDC, July 2020

[11] Nichol, P. B., Disintermediation and intermediation beyond theory, CIO,

[12] S&P Global. (n.d.). Industry Top Trends 2020 | S&P Global Ratings. April 2016

[13] Bailey, A., Reeves, M., Whitaker, K., & Hutchinson, R., Company of the Future | Winning the ’20s., BCG, April 2019

[14] Yen, H. Y., Lin, P. H., & Lin, R., Emotional Product Design and Perceived Brand Emotion, International Journal of Advances in Psychology, 2014

[15] Greyser, S. A., & Urde, M., What Does Your Corporate Brand Stand For?, Harvard Business Review, January 2019

  • About the Author:Stela Lupushor

    Stela Lupushor

    Stela Lupushor is a Senior Fellow in Human Capital and Program Director for The Conference Board. Stela is on a mission to humanize the workplace and accomplishes that in several major ways: At the…

    Full Bio | More from Stela Lupushor


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