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The future landscape of the workforce

The workplace to come is drastically different than today’s and yesterday’s.

Business, Markets | August 1, 2023 | By: Melissa Furman, Ph.D., MS, DBA


Organizations need to be thinking about tomorrow and, more specifically, how the future of work, the workforce and the workplace will be dramatically different from what we know today. And more important, from what it has been in the past. 

Warp-speed changes ahead

Let’s start by thinking about today and taking a pulse of the current landscape of labor and talent and then transition to techniques and strategies for navigating the future landscape.

• Business is moving at a rapid pace, and the pace will only get faster in the future. Due to the rapid pace of change, simply tweaking old systems based on old rules will no longer be effective. To remain relevant in an ever-changing business landscape, organizations need to refresh and rebuild their systems, protocols, products, services and infrastructures to successfully meet the modern demands of consumers, employees and stakeholders. 

• Employees, clients and customers are experiencing high levels of burnout due to prolonged exposure to psychological stress. This is resulting in increased frustration and decreased patience, resiliency and tolerance for conflict. 

• The workforce is more diverse than ever as it relates to generations, cultures, ethnicities and genders. This diversity may not align with the current paradigm of business that was predominately designed by white men. The current paradigm is not right or wrong, just different and possibly misaligned with the mindsets, preferences and expectations of diverse populations.

• Organizational leaders are navigating unique challenges and are expected to do more with less and to make decisions faster with less information. 

That’s a lot to process, and thinking about the current landscape can be overwhelming. But don’t get stuck thinking about today; instead, start thinking about the future. 

Looking to the future of labor and talent, organizations are faced with two options: 1) become an “employer of choice” or 2) expand the applicant pool. Since expanding the applicant pool is a larger, more community-based challenge, let’s focus on becoming an employer of choice. 

One size does not fit all 

It’s important to recognize, appreciate and leverage the diverse workforce. To become an employer of choice, organizations need to customize their recruitment and retention strategies to align with the needs and preferences of diverse populations. 

Don’t assume that you know what current or prospective employees want. Instead, ask them. This can be done via: 

Stay interviews. Interview your current high-performing employees to solicit input and recommendations. Ask: What do you like most about working here? Where can the organization improve? What can the organization do to help you maximize your success? What ideas do you have regarding recruitment and retention of employees? 

Surveys. Survey your employees to solicit their input and feedback regarding recruitment and retention. The survey needs to be short and easy to complete, and survey collection methodologies need to be inclusive. For example, allow employees to complete the survey via paper, QR codes, website links and phone calls. 

Focus groups. Focus groups provide an opportunity for employees to brainstorm ideas and provide input. It’s important that these focus groups are small and are conducted by professionals experienced in focus group facilitation.

Junior boards. Many organizations have a board of directors or a committee of senior leaders tasked with the responsibility of providing assistance with decision-making. A junior board of younger employees and stakeholders can provide diverse insights and recommendations for the organization. 

Beyond money, food and pingpong 

Although employees often state a desire for more money, the issue may be about more than money. Employees frequently request additional pay because 1) they feel like they are being treated unfairly as it relates to pay or 2) they are unhappy with other areas of their job, but if they get more money, they will tolerate the dissatisfaction. 

Many organizations also try to recruit and reward employees with food and other tangible items such as pingpong tables in the break room. However, most employees really want the following:  

Fair and competitive pay. You don’t have to be the highest-paying employer, but you do need to pay a fair and competitive wage.

Effective training. Employees want the knowledge and skills needed to successfully complete their jobs. This is done through well-designed, well-planned training. Remember to refresh your training methodologies to appeal to younger employees and diverse learning styles. 

Planned onboarding. The onboarding process is the foundation for employee success. Invest the necessary time to properly onboard and introduce your new employees to your organization. 

Challenging assignments. Provide opportunities for employees to accept challenging assignments to further develop their experience and expertise.

Personalized mentoring/coaching. Help employees assess and articulate their development needs and then provide them with access to a portfolio of skilled mentors and coaches. This means also providing training to employees who choose to be mentors and coaches. Simply delegating mentoring or coaching responsibilities without training and assigning mentees does not result in successful mentoring/coaching relationships. 

Ongoing appreciation. Most employees want to be appreciated more than recognized, and it’s important to appreciate employees in the way they want to be appreciated. Ask employees how they want to be appreciated and find ways to provide ongoing appreciation. 

Trusting relationships. Successful employees trust their leadership, and successful leadership trusts its employees. 

Promotional/mobility opportunities. Provide opportunities for employees to move up and around the organization. Don’t assume that all employees want to move or advance, but for the ones who do, provide and promote opportunities. 

Inclusive and respectful environments. Recognizing diversity within an organization means providing inclusive and respectful work environments. Solicit input and recommendations from employees to identify ways to create a more inclusive work environment. 

Future success requires a strategic shift

Successfully navigating the future landscape of labor and talent is going to require a mindset shift. It will require strategic assessment and a refresh of your organization as a whole. Start by reviewing your current policies, recruiting practices, hiring practices and job descriptions/requirements. Then assess your workplace environment to identify ways to increase inclusion, flexibility and innovation. This assessment and the resulting changes will ensure a more relevant organization that naturally breeds the brand of an “employer of choice.” 

Melissa Furman, Ph.D., MS, DBA, is the founder and owner of Career Potential LLC, a consulting, training and coaching organization. She also served as an assistant dean and professor at Hull College of Business at Augusta University in Georgia for more than 10 years. Her expertise includes generational diversity, unconscious bias, leadership success and emotional intelligence. She will be teaching one of the workshops at this year’s Advanced Textiles Expo. Find out more at

SIDEBAR: Future work

Here is a snapshot of workforce trends according to

• 85% of jobs in 2030 will not have existed in 2017.

• 65% of female employees report that the pandemic made them rethink the place work has in their life.

• Automation has the potential to eliminate 47% of U.S. jobs by 2030, or 73 million jobs.

• Up to 37% of Americans will be working from home by 2030.

• Total U.S. employment is projected to grow by 8.3 million jobs between 2021–2031.

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