The Defining Characters of the Future Workplace

The workplace environment has transformed over the years driven by various forces. For instance, Granton (2011), while presenting characteristics that will shape the future working environment, as expressed by executives of companies that participated in two phases of the Future of Work (FOW) consortium, noted technology, globalization and carbon to be the forces that are already shaping the nature of the workplace. Evaluating the forces that will play a role in the coming decade, Granton notes of additional forces such as social trends and demographic challenges. This paper makes an analysis of the impact of such forces based on other literature and my work experience at Saudi Aramco.

Analysis

Among the forces noted in the article, the effects of technology and globalization on the workplace are already evident from literature and my experience at Saudi Aramco. The impact of technology is for instance evident with the increasing incidence of virtual teams whose members work from distant locations via the connection enabled by the internet (Berry, 2011). At Saudi Aramco’ the integration of technology in all of the entity’s activities is a core aspect of its strategy. For instance, the entity plans to move from a user of technology to become a producer of technology in the future (ATP 2). Such a move is likely to see effects noted by Granton (2011), where “artificial intelligence, avatars and cognitive assistants” will increasingly define work, replacing individuals who currently work in such tasks (p. 248). In this respect, I thus agree with the opinion that technology will continue to shape how work is carried out in future.

A second driver of changes that has support from both literature and my workplace experience is globalization. Apart from the outsourcing potential that results from globalization as noted by Granton (2011), globalization has increased the incidence of a multicultural workforce by facilitating mobility of labor (Seymen, 2006). Such implies that the future workplace will increasingly be comprised of individuals from diverse cultures, an aspect that will necessitate strategies that recognize aspects such as communication differences of various cultures. At Saudi Aramco, such impact of globalization will be evident as it transits from a predominantly Saudi Arabian company to a Global company as envisaged in the strategic plan it has established (ATP2). Thus as the entities become increasingly global, the work rearrangements noted in Granton’s article will become evident as they source workforce from the global pool rather than the labor force within their parent companies.

Although Granton notes of accelerating carbon forces to be a driver of work arrangements that encourage employees to work from home, such is not evident in Saudi Aramco. Similarly, the tension among different generations of workforce, the increasing demographic challenges, which Granton notes to be a force defining the future workforce are not clearly defined at Saudi Aramco. For instance, a communication strategy that caters for different needs of employees from different generations is not a pronounced feature in the entity’s human resource practices. Among the social trends that are deemed to shape the future of work, urbanization of the population is the most prevalent aspect at Saudi Aramco. Urbanization in this respect has arisen from the increasing importance of Saudi Arabia as a business hub, which has necessitated developing of competent human resources who can work globally. Such a need is for instance evident with Saudi Aramco’s partnership with various universities to develop the country’s knowledge economy (ATP2). Other social trends noted to have the potential to influence the future of workplace, i.e. balanced-man phenomenon and reflexivity, may however only have a limited effect due to the moderating aspects of values espoused by different cultures across the globe.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Various forces noted to influence the future of workplace by the future of workplace are applicable even in my current work experience. The effect of technology and globalization are evident in the increasing use of technology and the clamor for Saudi Aramco to transit into a global company from its current position as a Saudi company. The effects of other forces are however not prevalent in Saudi Aramco, currently, but pose significant implications for the entity as it seeks to have operations in different parts of the globe. Accordingly, the entity needs to:

  • Establish programs that will allow the transfer of knowledge from older generations to younger generations as it seeks to expand to global locations
  • Establish flexible work arrangements that will enable the entity retain talent from a generation that clamors for flexibility in the work place
  • Develop the technological capacity to support working arrangements that involve individuals working from distant locations.

References

Berry, G. R. (2011). Enhancing effectiveness on virtual teams: Understanding why traditional team skills are insufficient. Journal of Business Communication, 48(2), 186-206, doi:10.1177/0021943610397270

Gratton, L. (2011). Workplace 2025 – what will it look like? Organizational Dynamics, 40(), 246-254, doi:10.1016/j.orgdyn.2011.07.002

Seymen, O. A. (2006). The cultural diversity phenomenon in organisations and different approaches for effective cultural diversity management: A literary review. Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, 13(4), 296-315, doi:10.1108/13527600610713404

ATP2 ….

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