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Ensuring business success in the future of work

As work becomes increasingly projected, the way we go about doing it is evolving as well.

This essentially means that the future of work is project-based, everything we do is a project right from simple personal chores to large scale projects at work. 

In the last two years, the global pandemic has closed international borders, restricted work travel, disrupted supply chain processes, and caused job redundancies.

All these points to one thing, change is the only constant in our foreseeable future. However, it has also given organisations a golden opportunity to reshape ways of working and change the way they manage employees.

We are now seeing a shift, as employees seek more meaningful experiences with a focus on learning new skills from more fulfilling roles.

Looking for a way to stay ahead in today’s competitive global economy, businesses are turning to project-led work to consistently deliver results. We are seeing the rise of the ‘project economy’, where projects are the driving force behind how work gets done.

It is anticipated that 25 million new project professionals will be required by 2030 and that the value of project-oriented economic activity will reach $20 trillion by 2027. So, what can businesses do to ensure success in the future of work?

Building a workforce based on knowledge, skills and experience

The skills gap highlights the need to upskill and reskill employees to address the ongoing challenges. It is becoming increasingly important for organisations to take a skills-based approach to hire new employees too. The younger workforce is leaning towards value-based work.

Project-based work is becoming increasingly important for businesses to successfully attract and retain workers, by leveraging their desires to seek new skills and experiences.

The future of work will increasingly see capabilities aligned to organisational strategies, with a workforce built around the knowledge, skills, experiences and capabilities they can bring to a particular project, rather than a job title.

Evaluating employees and candidates based on their skill sets, rather than experience alone, helps to identify the most suitable and effective teams and individuals to deliver specific projects. 

Structuring organisations around projects to deliver the greatest value

Organisations are operating in a more complex, competitive and challenging environment than ever before, yet organisational structure has changed very little. As work gets broken down into multiple projects, the workforce is being hired, grouped and regrouped according to the knowledge, experience and capabilities that deliver the most value to an organisation’s stakeholders.

Focusing on the business areas that require the greatest agility, structures should be realigned with new ways of working implemented to enable skill-based teams to focus on a specific outcome. 

As economic and technological changes quicken, organisations are increasingly investing in upskilling the workforce so they are able to adapt to change and stay relevant and resilient in order to achieve the highest value outcomes across each project.

Retain talent via a culture of continuous learning

Pent-up desire to seek a better work experience and greater flexibility is being released as pandemic-related restrictions recede. Many leaders are questioning how to retain employees while attracting new talent. 

One element of the answer lies in addressing the disillusionment felt by many employees about what they want from their jobs and the organisations they work for.

Building a culture of ongoing training and development helps motivate employees, by empowering them with essential skills that add to the value they provide to the organisation. This benefits not just the individuals but also helps organisations to ensure that the individuals and the teams have all the necessary skills to deliver a project successfully.

According to research from PMI, 37% of respondents believe that learning and development is not enough of a strategic priority in their organisation. Yet almost half of Aussie CEOs are looking to increase investment into training and development this year.

Identifying and leveraging technologies

The pandemic accelerated the expansion of digital technologies, especially tools that enabled online collaboration and remote work, and many businesses rushed to bring new digital offerings to market.

Looking ahead, organisations will continue to invest into new technologies, yet, continuing to introduce new technologies is not enough if business models are fundamentally out of date. Instead of focusing on recreating 2019, business models, organisations should think about the future and which technologies will help them deliver truly innovative ways of working, support the successful delivery of key projects and deliver the best results. 

Implementing new technologies and training employees on them is time-consuming, costly and uncertain. It is essential to have strategic processes in place to identify the most suitable and relevant technologies, best aligned with the highest value projects, and to implement these in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

In 2021 we learned that there might not be a new normal, only the perpetual and accelerating pace of change. While we embrace the benefits and acknowledge the risks of the all-encompassing digital era, businesses need to also acknowledge that people remain central as the true drivers of innovation. To perform at their best and grow in their jobs, people want to be valued, nurtured and feel that they are adding and gaining value.

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Ben Breen

Ben Breen

Ben Breen is Managing Director, Project Management Institute (PMI) Asia Pacific. Ben has supported or led hundreds of projects including iconic developments such as Marina Bay Sands and the award-winning Suntec Convention Centre. He has founded several project management and design companies, helping them to grow and develop into best-in-class providers. Before joining PMI, Ben was Managing Director, South East Asia at Space Matrix Design Consultants Pte Ltd, Singapore, where he was responsible for servicing clients looking to expand their global footprint. He also led the company’s digital transformation – moving it to the forefront of digital technology for interior design and building firms.

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