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  • Writer's pictureHelena Eketrapp

The keys to the future of work

Updated: May 20, 2021

Today we can read everywhere about the competence shift and “upskilling”, it was the major topic being discussed in Davos this year (2020).

I’ve worked with learning and digitizing for 30 years, and still to this day I wonder when the “real” learning will take place. How do we make a learning culture? How do we get our employees to be the engaged and innovative “learners” that we talk about?

It is geting more clear that the key to the solution doesn’t exist within the training department, instead it has probably, to do with other things like a clear purpose within the organisation, a brave leadership and collaboration on a higher level. In this article I will reflect on what the competence shift and work of the future will demand from our companies.


I just finished reading some articles from Davos, where the questions about how we’ll manage the competence shift gets asked. In the article “How do we upskill a billion people by 2030”, on the Word Economic Forum, it’s discussed how this will happen. Leadership and collaboration in society as a whole is emphasized as the key solution. In Business Insider they refer to Davos with the following quote “The same word “upskilling” popped up repeatedly during our meetings at Davos..” but without going into more details about the problems, more than that we need a lot more people with technical skills on our planet, and how we’re going to educate them.

When I am reading these and other articles that touch on the same subject I can’t help but wonder what the work of the future actually is, and how we’re gonna get there. Not unexpectedly it has to do with digitalization, we need more people who can develop and utilize the opportunities that the technology provides, and we need more people who understands what technology can do and how it can drive innovation. But mainly it’s about routine jobs disappearing (or should disappear), and that more people need to work with finding the unseen problems and opportunities, and at the same time develop new and better solutions for these. We simply need to obtain more entrepreneurship in our companies. We need to continuously learn new ways of working, by testing and trying new ways continuously. This is nothing new, but I’m asking myself the question if today's structures in many organisations allow and encourage creative innovative employees. It requires leaders to fully trust their employees, and give each employee the support and space that it takes for the creativity, innovation, and willingness to learn to flourish. Within given frames of course. All this sounds obvious, but in reality it’s hard work.

But then we’re left with another question, does everyone really want to be wholeheartedly devoted to their job? Well, maybe not. A condition to engage is that we fully understand the purpose of our jobs, and with the organisation as a whole (I mean understanding the purpose at a higher level than making money for the stock owners). That the company or organisation has the purpose in its DNA and what it wants to do, for its customers, partners, society and so on. Sadly, I too often meet organisations that don't talk about its value, and especially not internally. The focus is instead on hours, money, the number of sales meetings and so on. Maybe this won’t create the most creative environment or the biggest engagement in employees, instead this will contribute to the feeling of being supervised and inhibited in your work and in your growth.

I also see the team as being incredibly important. Even if we can do good things on our own, we can amazing things in collaboration with others, especially when we work in diverse team, so we’re pushed to think outside the box and see things from others' perspectives. It helps us understand others' needs outside our own world, and it creates empathy for the ones that our companies exist for.

So my view of the three most important keys to the future work are:

  1. That there is a clear authentic and communicated purpose within the organisation.

  2. A brave leadership that builds on clarity, trust and openness.

  3. That collaboration is encouraged on all levels, both inside and outside the organisation.

If these three keys are achieved we’ll get an incredible force in the company with a learning culture that flourish and engages employees who create fantastic innovations that create real value. This seems to count for every organisation, from the small local firm with a couple of employees, to the big global organisation with advanced high-tech services.

How do we make this happen then? Clearly, it’s a long journey to get all these keys in place, it takes awareness and insights. And, the most important is courage - To dare to start work with these questions throughout the whole organisation, and dare to resist the forces that want to counteract change, or the people who are afraid and do not want to let go of their power.

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