The real idea behind ‘the future of work’

The first thing you need to realize whenever anyone discusses a topic like “the future of work” is that said concept varies drastically from A-Place to B-Place in the world. How could someone in an office park in Topeka, Kansas feel the exact same way about work as someone doing finance in Nairobi? It’s nearly impossible. (Heck, it’s nearly impossible for someone in Topeka to feel the same way about work as someone in Kansas City, relative to factors like their boss, their industry, their salary, their office layout, etc.) No one has all the answers here.

The second thing you need to realize is that, broadly, we still live in a society where you can’t talk about certain topics, one of which is money/salary/compensation. That leads to a good deal of people being confused about what their salary actually represents — which in turn executives and CFOs tend to exploit back to their own personal bottom line — but that’s neither here nor there. What I mean to say here is this: sometimes we claim “Oh, salary isn’t important!” because it feels like a good thing to say on a survey. In reality, salary is important. It’s not the essential key to happiness, no, but it will help you have the type of life you want to have.

Now let’s talk about some research about what exactly employees around the world seem to value.

Here’s a chart from Hubspot research:

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If you look at almost any region of the world, then, “opportunities for growth” is No. 1. Like I said above, though, that can mean “a higher salary” to some people (heck, to most people) but they feel saying “opportunities for growth” is a better angle at it. “Work-life balance,” which is a farce, is typically No. 2, and then “compensation” and “culture” are 3/4.

Here’s what Hubspot itself says off its research:

In fact, according to a LinkedIn survey of 7,350 members across five countries, the #1 reason workers quit their job was because they sought greater opportunities for advancement. The best job candidates are attracted to companies that give them room to grow, develop their skills, and move up in the organization — and if your company doesn’t offer opportunities for them to do that internally, then they’re going to look elsewhere.

Caveat No. 1: Most Hubspot users are in marketing or sales or IT. So there is a grain of salt element to the results here off that.

Caveat No. 2: Again, for a lot of people “greater opportunities for advancement” means “a higher salary.”

But then again: We know from other research that employees, by and large, do want access to skill development and training — in fact, that’s the No. 1 thing that tends to separate “good companies” from “great companies.”

I’ve argued before that maybe “respect” is the core future of work tenet, which comes a bit off this chart:

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It doesn’t seem that complicated to me, however, to have a ‘culture’ (buzzword to many, yes) centered around both ‘opportunities for advancement’ and ‘respecting others.’ In fact, one way you can respect others is simply by giving them opportunities to do more, learn more, and make more money. I realize you’re trying to protect the bottom line and shareholder interest, but remember: who is a bigger shareholder than the people who make, promote, and organize your products and services?

My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money:

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