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As the world of work continues to morph, my leadership and culture coaching clients find that they simply don’t have time to read extensive—yet helpful—new research.
So, I did it for them, and you.
Bain & Company recently released a report entitled The Working Future. It covers the 5 factors that are shaping work today. You’ll find that it also provides valuable insights into how to navigate—and triumph—in today’s talent war.
I found the report especially useful due to its geographic and cultural diversity. Bain surveyed over 20,000 workers in 10 countries: the United States, China, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Brazil to learn what their experience is, and how they’re leading in a world of constant change.
Here’s what they found:
1. Motivations for work are changing. The pandemic made 58% of workers rethink their work-life balance. The net-net is:
- Rising prosperity has reduced the time that people need to spend working
- The importance placed on work relative to leisure has declined across generations
- Hours worked weekly tend to decline as countries become richer
- As incomes rise, our reasons for working extend beyond just earning money—we want more fulfillment too
2. Beliefs about what makes a “good job” are diverging. More than 25% of American workers changed jobs between Feb. 2020 and Feb. 2021. Check out Bain’s 10-dimension framework of work attitudes. They are:
- Work centricity: How much of my identity and sense of meaning come from work?
- Financial orientation: How much does my level of income impact my happiness?
- Future orientation: Do I prioritize investing in a better future or do I focus on living for today?
- Status orientation: How concerned am I about being perceived by others as successful?
- Risk tolerance: Am I willing to take risks to improve my life if I might end up worse off?
- Variety: Do I prefer to change or predictability?
- Autonomy: How much do I value being in control of my own work?
- Camaraderie: Do I see work as primarily an individual or a team effort?
- Mastery: How much satisfaction do I find in the process of perfecting my craft?
- Self-transcendence: How important is it to me to make a positive difference in society?
Where do you land in the above?
Bain also found that 6 worker archetypes have emerged and that India and Nigeria have the most “Pioneers” while China and France have the most “Operators”.
- Operators find meaning and self-worth primarily outside of their jobs. When it comes down to it, they see work as a means to an end. They’re not particularly motivated by status or autonomy, and generally don’t seek to stand out in their workplace. They tend to prefer stability and predictability.
- Givers find meaning in work that directly improves the lives of others. They are the archetype least motivated by money. They often gravitate toward caring professions such as medicine or teaching but can also thrive in other lines of work where they can directly interact with and help others.
- Artisans seek out work that fascinates or inspires them. They are motivated by the pursuit of mastery. They enjoy being valued for their expertise, although they are less concerned with status in the broader sense. Artisans typically desire a high degree of autonomy to practice their craft and place the least importance on camaraderie of all the archetypes.
- Explorers value freedom and experiences. They tend to live in the present and seek out careers that provide a high degree of variety and excitement. Explorers place a higher-than-average importance on autonomy. They are also more willing than others to trade security for flexibility.
- Strivers have a strong desire to make something of themselves. They are motivated by professional success, and value status and compensation. They are forward planners who can be relatively risk averse, as they opt for well-trodden paths to success. Strivers are willing to tolerate less variety so long as it is in service of their longer-term goals.
- Pioneers are on a mission to change the world. They form strong views on the way things should be and seek out the control necessary to achieve that vision. They are the most risk-tolerant and future-oriented of all the archetypes. Pioneers identify profoundly with their work.
Here’s a link to their assessment so you can discover your work archetype.
What’s especially interesting about the archetypes is that Bain found:
- While differences exist in attitudes toward work between countries, they are often small
- The six archetypes surface across all countries, though with differing frequency
- Age and education influence the likelihood of workers belonging to each archetype
- Archetypes tend to gravitate toward some occupations more than others
3. Automation is re-humanizing work. The occupational mix in developed economies favors human-centered jobs found in healthcare, social services, and management. And The composition of the workforce has shifted multiple times. Bain classified more than 2,000 underlying activities across occupations into five categories:
- Physical—work that involves directly manipulating the physical environment, such as operating machinery or preparing food.
- Information processing—work that centers on gathering and structuring information, such as compiling data or maintaining records.
- Problem-solving—work that entails framing issues, assessing options, and exercising judgment, such as prescribing treatments or improving business processes.
- Creative—work that centers on imagining new possibilities and forming original ideas, such as designing products or developing a business strategy.
- Interpersonal—work that involves interacting with others to understand their needs and achieve shared objectives, such as teaching or negotiating.
4. Tech is blurring the boundaries of work. American workers favor remote work. Only 15% of workers in China and 16% in France want to work entirely from home post-pandemic, while in the US 37% do. The net-net:
- Lower-skill contingent workers tend to be less satisfied than permanent employees
- The potential for remote work is primarily confined to white-collar workers
- US workers’ attitudes on working remotely post-pandemic vary significantly
5. Young workers are overwhelmed. Slowing economic growth, rising inequality, and declining housing affordability are major factors resulting in Generation Z being the most stressed generation in the US.
- 61% of workers under 35 expressed concerns about financial issues, job security, or failure to meet career goals
- 40% of workers over 35 cited the same concerns!
The odds of achieving absolute upward mobility—earning more than one’s parents—are the lowest they have been in the US for any generation since World War II. Wow.
What Can We Do About This?
Bain recommends creating a 3-pronged talent strategy:
1-Increase investment in learning to meet the “Great Reskilling” head-on – with the world continuing to move faster than ever before, and continuous pivots as well as role shifting required, our talent needs to be constantly reskilled. Remember to focus on job skills as well as leadership skills.
2-Think laterally about career growth – many of us think growth needs to be up the org chart exclusively. Not so. Many of my coaching clients create career paths that are across, including “tours of duty” for a junior leader to learn key aspects of a business over a period of time. Further, my clients often create spin-off divisions or subsidiaries that leaders can run when it’s time for both the business as well as an individual to expand their capacity. Be creative here and think outside the org chart!
3-Cultivate a growth mindset – Carol Dweck’s brilliant book Mindset got us all thinking about how flexible our people are—and if flexibility can indeed be a skill set one can learn. It can. That said if someone has a firm fixed mindset the journey to a Growth one will be a bit more difficult, but doable.
So, that’s my high-level take on a significant piece of research, which I encourage you to consume if you have the time. Regardless, it’s time to think about work, and our people, in a new expanded way. To consider the whole person, their unique challenges, and gifts, and how we can most effectively collaborate together. That’s how I see the future of work: subtle hierarchies, clear empowerment, and decision-making for all, and honoring all via a spirit of being in this together where everyone matters.