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We are now seeing longer working hours, automation, digitization, computerization, changing employee demands and standards. Our current context is constantly shifting and mapping future challenges and their potential influence on the labor market and the workplace has become a necessity. Dirk Coffé, Hilde Willems, Heidi van Herweghe, and Christoph De Haene are following the Future of Work program, and share their thoughts on the future with us.

Dirk is a business developer at NNOFCARE, a business and knowledge partner of the Antwerp Management School from 2017 to 2020 through the Next Generation Work Expertise Center, so it made sense for him to apply for the Future of Work program. It has helped him develop a more up-to-date and future-oriented vision of potential labor market changes. “Integrating that vision into our company’s business development model ensures we are ideally placed to support companies looking to improve their work space (Future Proof Workplace) and create an environment which prioritizes and promotes employees’ well-being and productivity.”

 

"This vision supports companies looking to improve their work space (Future Proof Workplace) and create an environment which prioritizes and promotes employees’ well-being and productivity.”

Heidi, who has been active in HR for 20 years, is enthusiastic about the program. “As an HR manager, it is fascinating to look at (future) challenges to the labor market and the impact on our company (culturally and structurally), leadership styles, and collaborative working. I feel HR is now at a tipping point.” As a sociologist, she thinks it important to look at systems and find out how changes in the environment influence the way we work and live together.

Social developments

According to Dirk, the program covers important social developments: “In our current social context, the manager plays a connecting role, ensuring teams and individuals can manage their own work as well as tackling subjects like the ageing society and people having longer working lives.”

“Employees want to manage their own life and career. They want freedom to self-regulate, freedom of choice and to be recognized as an individual."

Another future challenge to the workplace that Heide feels we must consider is the shifting power ratios on the shop floor. “We are evolving to a bottom-up culture in which employees manage their own life and career instead of just having a boss telling them what to do. They want freedom to self-regulate, freedom of choice and to be recognized as an individual. Lots of companies and managers are stuck in old ways of thinking and need to start working towards a results-driven approach, inspiring confidence and becoming the kingpin in a network organization.”

More than a theory

By learning to think about this issue and apply acquired insights to our business, the program translates directly into practice, says Dirk. Furthermore, drafting a future plan along with full implementation details helps participants to keep things specific. Heidi adds: “You learn a lot from professors and experts, but also from other participants. It’s fascinating to hear about their experiences.”

Hilde is the manager of the Janssens Pharmaceutics’ Talent Fit Center and finds it interesting to hear how other organizations are tackling these issues. She also found it very helpful to look at it theoretically. “It encourages you to keep questioning your approach and to be flexible,” she explains.

After this program, I want to transition to a more tolerant business model in which everyone can show his or her best side. Change is ongoing, and employees have no choice but to go with the flow, or just go.”

Christoph also experiences some tension between his job, the management, and the other employees, situated as they are in a changing environment. As a learning expert, he guides organizations with their learning and development and prepares them for the future. “After this program, I want to transition to a more tolerant business model in which everyone can show his or her best side. Change is ongoing, and employees have no choice but to go with the flow, or just go.”

A view of the future

This may be just a six-day program, but participants’ acquired insights and plans will continue to resonate far into the future. Using his acquired knowledge, Dirk wants to develop a current and future-oriented vision and determine how he can include it in his company’s business plan and thus develop a Future Proof Business model.

Within her company, Heidi, in turn, wants to focus on career opportunities and formulate a clear career proposition to her employees. “In addition,” she says, “I am now in a better position to make managers and the executive aware of social challenges and how we as a company, both policy makers and managers, can deal with them.”

 

“I am now in a better position to make managers and the executive aware of social challenges and how we as a company, both policy makers and managers, can deal with them.”

According to Hilde, Future of Work answers the vital question: “How do you create an environment in which employees are steering their own sustainable careers, a culture which encourages moving and connecting and therefore collaborating and innovating?” Christophe indicates that the program has already resulted in many significant conversations within his company. “The issues aren’t resolved in the course of the training course, but the course offers interesting insights that can help the management team to make decisions which will benefit the company.” It’s therefore a great way to get the change process underway.

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