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Powershift: The Future of Work

Alex Zekoff

When Elon Musk emailed tesla employees an ultimatum to return to the office, some called the demand that workers come back to the office at least 40 hours a week “dangerous” but Musk’s move is neither wrong nor right, he is running his business how he sees fit, a strategic and intuitive call.

Musk’s move is a sign of what’s to come, not just for Tesla but for business and work. Working-norm bubbles beyond the work-from-anywhere trend are poised to deflate. This may shock employees - especially those who have only been in the job market for the past 13 years - during which the cost of capital has been zero, and the focus was on growth; companies hired more and worked harder on employee retention. In addition, during recessions, employers gain back the power, and another shift of the employee-employer dynamics in such quick succession will hit many employees hard. In this new environment, companies will more closely assess the skillsets of their workers, push to gain greater efficiency out of their current employee base, and hire less. Employees will have to be prepared for this new power dynamic.

Preparing employees for the worst, such as the prospect of job loss, is not much fun, and for some people who have never lived through an economic downturn, it can be hard even to imagine. Couple this with the shifting power dynamics, which will be palpable after a period of increased employee autonomy and emotional tension. Employees might feel angry that their employers expect more from them, and they will require support to enable them to adapt. For example, providing the opportunity to volunteer for more work, learn new skills, and sign up for new projects. Employers keep people who are engaged and rise to the occasion. 

"DURING RECESSIONS, EMPLOYERS GAIN BACK THE POWER AND ANOTHER SHIFT OF THE EMPLOYEE-EMPLOYER DYNAMICS IN SUCH QUICK SUCCESSION WILL HIT MANY EMPLOYEES HARD"

One of the first things our company does in assessing employees is rank people on whether they perform beyond the call of duty. Like most employers, we want to hire, retain and reward people who exceed expectations and proactively raise the salaries for some of our people who we know are going above and beyond because we want to keep that talent.

Right now, gaining a pulse in the broader market is essential. This will help determine what skills are necessary for the constant changes ahead. Decide where best to invest in developing new skills in employees across the business that is in step with the changing pace of technology and the increasing volatility of the modern economy. It is essential to promote a culture that supports employees not to be complacent about their current job and skillset and learning new skills. This doesn’t necessarily mean studying for a master’s degree; it’s about gaining the digital skills and agile thinking that will better position them to capitalize on opportunities, have more options within the organization for changing career tracks in their current role, as well as in the broader jobs market. Companies looking to find cost savings and efficiency are taking a more complex look at what employees, skills, and tools they need. That means some jobs will not survive as technology and automation supersede manual human intervention. One thing is sure, trying to avoid the change in dynamics is not an option; this has to be managed proactively.

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