You Are the Architect of the Modern Workforce

“You must move from the comfort zone to the learning zone and you can never go back there.”

That was a line from a recent speech that just came out of nowhere. However, it was meant as a guiding light for my audience who were all HR professionals. In this constant world of change specifically within our organizations, our profession must be guided into this new space of constant learning.

The once-a-year conference such as SHRM or in this region (the Middle East) HR Forum, is not enough. Especially when we return and all our collateral goes in a drawer or credenza. Or those training sessions where we spend a few days working on case studies, but forget to extend that back into the workplace. We can no longer depend on these type of events for our yearly diet of learning. At one time, this was appropriate because change was rare.

From technology to globalization, it’s a truism that today’s successful companies must adapt to – and embrace – rapid change. Our role within this change is paramount; we are architects of managing the changes. However that comes with the need for knowledge of what challenges we are facing, not only our industry but our profession and workforce.

Workforce architect – Information age

The information age is causing a transformation in work with a need to adapt to where and how employees work. Going forward, our role will become the workplace architect. That entails designing workforces that are agile and built to enable the organization to meet its strategic goals.

Workforce architect – Globalization

Today, globalization is a business reality. The increase in technology has enabled organizations to connect teams and businesses across the globe and thus, we are seeing an increasing number of distributed teams working cross-culturally. This has changed dramatically from years ago when it was more common for only senior leaders to report out of country.

On the positive side, working with diverse teams provides more powerful insight into the issues as people gain new and different perspectives. The challenge is that leaders and employees must work effectively cross-culturally and from a distance to gain these insights.

Equipping leaders with the knowledge and skills of how to lead and manage teams from a distance is important.

Workforce architect – Technology

Technology has made these type changes easy and has changed the workplace tremendously. From mobility, cloud computing, web conferencing to collaboration, new tools have driven connectivity across the globe. Employees can work in different locations or on the road and still collaborate.

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Workforce architect – Workforce expectations

The notion of “going to work” is changing from generations past — from previously all workers going to a specific location to having more flexibility in choosing where and when to work. Organizations need to consider this in how they design the workplace if they hope to attract, motivate and retain talent.

Changing the workplace itself is relatively easy. However, the real change is behaviors and adjustment of mind-sets in order to work effectively to realize the benefits of these workplace changes.

Managers need to better understand how to lead in this environment, and employees need to better understand how to collaborate and work effectively.

To achieve tangible benefits, companies need to properly engage and enable their employees to be successful in the new world of work.

You are now in charge – Get ready

We are now firmly in charge or at least we should be. To design and manage these new processes will require us to come out of the comfort zone permanently and enter a zone where we are constantly learning. Not only that but the comfort zone is an area that the forces of change will not allow us to re-enter.

So buckle up and get in the zone where you are constantly developing your toolset and learning new workforce strategies to further develop your organizations.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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