How will we be working in the future? What role will future business play in society? How will businesses attract talent? Virgin Unite’s Head of People shares some of the highlights from today’s B Team report, New Ways of Working.

Since the start of my career I’ve witnessed considerable change in the way that we work and how we manage our people. I’ve been lucky to work and experience some very different and contrasting industries, but I’ve generally found that whatever the nature of a business or organisation, they are rarely immune to change.

And change is happening faster than ever, right across the globe: environmental pressures, population growth, massive advancements in technology, and significant shifts in the demographic of the workforce to name just a few. In step with these, people’s aspirations and desires for their work are also changing. Of course this presents challenges, but many organisations also see it as a wonderful opportunity to create positive change and to start to build purpose-driven organisations that prioritise people and planet alongside profit.

Over the past 18 months our team at Virgin Unite has been working in partnership with the B Team to build a wonderful collective of organisations, including over 30 businesses and 50 business leaders. The New Ways of Working report published today is our collective exploration into these changes.

The future of leadership will see employees being given far more freedom and opportunity. The days of successful leaders being overly controlling are numbered – new ways of working mean flexibility and empowerment will become central to businesses large and small.

Richard Branson

Here are five things we learned about the future of work…

  • People will want to work with an organisation that has purpose. As Tim Brown (CEO and President of IDEO) observes, only organisations with a “reason for being” will be sustainable and successful in the future and attract the next generation of talent. Our recent collaboration with BBH confirmed this – the new generation of people coming into the workforce want to work for businesses that are innovative, creative, fun and that are inspiring change.
     
  • People will expect lifelong growth. People are constantly curious, and keen to learn and develop their skills and knowledge. Technology has made learning available at the click of a button and that means we need to continue to develop new approaches to developing our people so that they can stay relevant and feel that they are growing.
     
  • We will have to help manage the ‘always on’ culture caused by technology – it’s good for them and it’s good for business. At Virgin Unite, amongst other things, we’ve introduced unlimited leave, ‘better you’ days (which support personal development goals) and the Virgin Pulse programme to support employees to sustain their own health and wellness.
  • ‘Hybrid leaders’ will be in demand. These are leaders who can work collaboratively across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors and use business solutions to tackle the world’s social and environmental problems. At Unite, our team includes former consultants, lawyers, accountants, public servants and entrepreneurs, all of whom add diverse and innovative ideas and approaches to the mix.
     
  • The concept of a job for life won’t exist. Changing workforce expectations, the ability to use technology to perform more project / portfolio work and skills shortages in many industries have all transformed the jobs market and the way people approach their careers. This has all brought greater expectations of the ability to move between projects, organisations and roles and a radical shift in the traditional models of attracting and retaining talent.


These are just five key takeaways from the report. I’d encourage you to read it and explore what it means for you and your workplace, and we’d love to hear your feedback below!

– Anna Gowdridge is Head of People at Virgin Unite. 

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