Kevin Empey, MD
The ‘Future of Work,’ the much used label to describe the next big disruption in the world of work, has already started to take hold and is creating a significant buzz amongst many organisations. Major forces such as emerging technology and globalisation as well as shifting demographics and customer demands are combining to change the world of work at an increasing rate. Artificial Intelligence and robotics are already playing a bigger role in workplaces and the workforce is diversifying rapidly to include both on- and off-balance sheet talents. Digitalisation is sweeping away traditional processes as organizations rethink new models of getting work done that bring both short term efficiencies and allow for greater agility and flexibility into the future. The infusion of automation into the workplace promises higher productivity, economic growth, and increased efficiencies, safety, and convenience. However, these employment and technology driven trends bring with them a new set of questions about the broader impact of digitalisation and automation on jobs, skills, wages, and the nature and shape of work itself. The current workforce also has to rethink how the world of work and their own roles will change and how they can upskill to secure their futures. While these shifts will naturally create potential benefits, they are causing considerable uncertainty for society, policymakers, business leaders, and workers. And in addition to this future oriented transformation, leaders and workforces are also busier than ever in delivering to shorter term strategies, demands, and objectives.
In response to this challenge, many organisations are now ‘getting real’ about the future of work by making changes to future-proof their business, their leaders, and their workforces. These firms are identifying the practical and relevant implications for their own situations as well as proactively preparing and adapting for the next phase of work and business performance for their specific context and industry. Organisations are also looking to develop their leaders to acquire the skills required for the future of work. Ultimately, how leaders lead the next phase of business development, people strategy, and working life will determine not just the success of their organization but also the quality and nature of work for generations to come.
Adapting to the Future of Work Made Easy
To help business leaders and their teams successfully manage this transition to the future of work, WorkMatters provides innovative consulting services and development programmes to their clients across all industry sectors. Through its training and consulting work, the company’s focus revolves around five core service lines that they have found organizations need most as they navigate this changing world of work—future of work consulting and training, organizational agility, people strategy, culture change, and leadership development. WorkMatters’ mission is simply to help organisations, leaders, and employees thrive in the evolving world of work and the future workplace.
A practical example of their work arises from the increasing influence of digitalisation for many organizations today. When it comes to the digital agenda and the implementation of technology and related process changes, CIOs have been typically leading the charge. However, increased business dependency on technology and digitalization has brought the enterprise-wide change management demand and skill-set of the CIO and their colleagues to a whole new level. For some, this is a natural part of what they do, but for others, this is a field that they recognise as increasingly important but are not necessarily equipped or traditionally empowered to deliver. “We help CIOs, HR Directors and other leaders work their way through the people and leadership challenges associated with their digital strategies,” says Kevin Empey, Founder and Managing Director of WorkMatters.
Innovative Training Solutions for the Changing World of Work
It is imperative for business leaders to assess their current situation and to build leadership and organizational strategies so that their business can continue to thrive in the future. The WorkMatters Academy consists of a portfolio of open and customised training and development programmes to help organisational and HR leaders as well as employees to plan for the key opportunities, challenges, and risks that they face in the changing world of work.
“Our approach tends to be very pragmatic and focused on the realities leaders face in the changing world of work,” mentions Empey. WorkMatters’ programmes help leaders refine their existing knowledge and experience and get into the specific organizational and people factors that are changing as well as re-affirming aspects of leadership that will probably remain constant as the future of work unfolds.
The future of work is already here, we just need to shape it together the best we can for the benefit of organizations, for employees and ultimately for society at large
For example, WorkMatters provides a range of open and tailored programmes under their FutureProof Training and Development series for developing the “future-fit” organization. These programmes deal with the practical implications of navigating the future of work for business leaders, HR leaders and employees. For HR leaders, the company offers HR of the Future programmes to help them shape their future organisations based on their situations. “With continuous change in business operating models as well as the expectations and diversity of an ever-changing workforce, the traditional role of HR leaders and functions is facing significant transformation. HR leaders and their teams impact many of the people practices and ‘levers’ that combine to create what is valued, promoted, and recognized in an organization. Our HR oriented programmes help HR leaders and their teams plan for the specific challenges and practical issues they face in the changing world of work and in creating the organization of the future,” says Empey.
"Our goal is simply to help organizations, leaders and employees thrive in the changing world of work"
Similarly, the WorkMatters Future of Work for Business Leaders programmes are designed for leaders at various levels responsible for shaping business strategy and leading change in their organizations. Against the backdrop of a complex and fast-moving business landscape, these programmes help leaders prepare and plan for the specific challenges and practical issues they face in building the organisation of the future. The focus is on challenging and expanding the client’s own leadership experience and ‘models’ to create a positive impact on their employees as well as thriving as individuals and leaders themselves.
Another addition in the Future of Work training suite is the Employee of the Future programme that explores the opportunities and challenges employees themselves face and helps participants identify the skills they will need to thrive in the future of work. The programme includes taking participants through the WorkMatters Personal Agility model, a research-based assessment process designed to help employees understand and develop the competencies needed to thrive in the future of work. “Employees themselves also need to take ownership and accountability for their own futures,” says Empey. “Our programme helps employees make sense of what is changing around them, what they can do to control their own future careers and also how they can thrive in increasingly fast moving and agile work environments.”
The Role of Agility in Shaping the Future of Work
WorkMatters also recognizes the critical part that organizational agility plays in digital transformation, innovation and rapidly changing business models. WorkMatters’ Organizational Agility programmes help clients address the specific people, cultural and leadership aspects of shaping and enabling an agile organisation. This includes their AgileHR certification programme (in association with ICAgile and Agile People) that is designed for HR professionals aiming to adopt agile HR thinking and practices as part of their HR strategy and operating model. The two-day certification program equips participants with Agile HR and people management practices needed for increasingly fast moving and agile business environments. WorkMatters also focuses on leadership agility that aims at balancing the need for short term focus and long term perspectives, creating a culture of empowerment, trust, and performance. This, in turn, helps leaders generate meaning and purpose for their organisation in areas that have particular relevance and impact today. “We essentially help leaders deal with people and organisational implications of greater digitalization and agility which are taking an increasingly prominent role in how organizations operate today” remarks Empey.
Supporting Organizations to Adapt and Transform
WorkMatters also provides direct consulting support to enable their clients progress their own change and transformation agendas. Among WorkMatters’ client consulting engagements is that of an engineering firm looking to reimagine its future workforce planning model and process. The workforce of the future project set out a vision for identifying the activities, tasks and skills required in the future including those could be automated or augmented through technology. The project also highlighted where adding talent platforms, gig working, and contingency working approaches would complement a changing core workforce for the company. “This process simply helped the client’s business leaders re-imagine their organisation and workforce and take advantage of the variety of methods available and emerging to get work done in a more agile and adaptive way,” states Empey. WorkMatters also helped the HR function to think through the implications of this changing workforce model for their talent management strategy, employer brand and HR processes.
For another client in the insurance sector, WorkMatters helped to identify the key people, cultural and leadership changes it needed to make to successfully deliver on their digital transformation and change programme. “The company were making all the right structural and technology changes for the delivery of their digital strategy,” recalls Empey. “But the underlying culture and leadership behaviours were still largely rooted in their traditional, historically successful ways of doing things in the past. With a few exceptions, they were trying to apply a traditional ‘analog’ people and cultural operating model to the new ‘digital’ world they were trying to create. Our job was to help them identify these key gaps and to align the people and leadership aspects with the new ways of working for the future.”
What Makes WorkMatters Different?
As a boutique firm, WorkMatters acts as a trusted partner, talent developer and coach to clients by enabling them to maximise the performance potential of their people and leaders while improving working life for employees. “Whether through our consulting or training activity, our goal is to leave leaders and their employees more energised, enabled, and equipped to progress their own future of work and transformation objectives,” says Empey. To meet its goal, the company constantly stays abreast of market changes by working with local and international partners. This way, WorkMatters can empower its clients with the innovative and practical solutions and services they need to succeed in an increasingly complex and fast-moving business environment. “Our partners include a network of national and international industry leaders from areas such as future of work consulting, design and innovation, leadership development, organisational agility and culture transformation. All our partners share a common mission, which is to enable leaders, organisations, and employees thrive in the changing world of work,” he notes.
In addition, WorkMatters’ efforts to continuously enhance its programmes are supported by its founder, Empey, who is also a leading voice in labour market activation and the changing world of work. In fact, he is a member of the Irish Government’s Labour Market Council and is also the founder of Worklink, an internationally recognised coaching and mentoring network which was established during Ireland’s economic crisis to help unemployed jobseekers find full-time employment. Under his leadership, Worklink won several coaching, HR and social entrepreneurship awards for their work in tackling unemployment. In addition, Empey’s award-winning research work that focuses on the practical organisational and human implications concerning the future of work further adds to WorkMatters’ training programmes and consulting work.
WorkMatters is looking to continue the development of its consulting and development solutions to meet the evolving needs of business leaders and their organisations in the changing world of work. The company intends to scale its activities through alliances with partners around the world. In keeping with the changing world of business and work, WorkMatters has co-created a number of effective assessment tools, particularly in the areas of organisational agility and future of work diagnostics. The company expects this collaborative aspect of what they do to continue more into the future.
As Empey remarks, “The future of work is already here, we just need to shape it together the best we can for the benefit of organizations, for employees and ultimately for society at large.”