The future of work – HR trends in New Work / the new working world

Selma Mohr 15, Sep 2020 6 min
Future of work - HR Trends in New Work

When thinking about the future of work, many concepts come to mind. But what exactly are the goals of the new working world? What HR trends are evolving? The main concepts of the future of work involve:

  • the world of work
  • structures in organizations 
  • and managers/leaders

With the main goals of creating:

  • a good output (productivity & innovation)
  • employer satisfaction

So how do we bring all of these concepts together? In this post we will cover key trends of the future of work and why they are so important.

1.Autonomy and self-organisation: freedom / self-development 

Goal: Adaptability & Speed

Adaptability – Awareness and reaction

Companies can no longer operate solely on the principle of “command and control”, but must adapt towards the principle of “sense and respond”. Teams should be able to perceive changes and react to them quickly, while at the same time continuously developing themselves.

This is also reported by the Human Resource Executive: In the face of these radical changes, companies will need to focus on employees’ AQ (adaptability quotient), which focuses on resilience and flexibility, to ensure they’re ready and able to evolve no matter the conditions.

Solution orientation

Companies of the future must think in terms of solutions. While it is important to discover (sense) the problems, ways must also be found to develop solutions (respond). This includes testing theories and using data to make better decisions. It is about achieving continuous improvement, not perfection. 

Self-determined and self-directed work

Hierarchies in companies have their advantages: they bring clarity. Employees receive instructions and know what they have to do. But such pyramid structures also have a major disadvantage because they generally slow down change.  

The common direction of objectives enables employees to act and decide independently. Instead of being the recipient of orders, each employee takes responsibility and has decision-making powers to make changes if necessary. 

Distributed leadership & business success: 

Everyone should be able to contribute to parts, where they are an expert. Although responsibilities should be defined, this does not mean that a position/role has to be restricted or limited. On the contrary, it is important that everyone is able to think outside the box and that continuous feedback is obtained. The boundaries between managers and employees will become increasingly blurred in the future. In the future, a person can have different roles, whether being the leader of a team, or a team member. 

Optimization for full-potential

What skills do individual employees have and how can they be put to best use? The roles and skills should match. When determining the required skills and competencies, it is important to analyse whether the candidates/employees are able to contribute effectively to the purpose?

2. Participation: Being involved / Being noticed / Listening 

Goal: To create added value for all parties involved.

Why: Because everyone has different needs. For more and more employees, work is an important part of their identity. What expectations and needs do employees have?

Purpose Orientation

Since work takes up a large part of a person’s lifetime, the trend towards “work-life integration” challenges managers to develop working environments that create a meaningful connections with people. 

Companies must identify and clearly communicate their purpose, also called WHY. Why does the company exist? The purpose is something, employees can identify themselves with and a basis for goals/strategies.

Companies must think about ways to communicate the purpose and determine which goals and strategies can be used to achieve the purpose.


Employees increasingly want to be involved in decisions. Especially those that influence their daily work. It is therefore essential to provide some room for participation:

  • Participating in strategy development or objectives, such as defining OKRs/KPIs
  • Learning & Development: Allowing to choose the learning courses/methods they prefer themselves. Being allowed to decide for themselves regarding what topics to up-skill for or how they want to educate themselves.
  • Instruments/tools: Co-determining which tools could be used, what “tech-stack” or “martech stack”
  • Planning working hours
  • Designing bonus models

Feedback Culture

Transparency and open communication are fundamental to a successful feedback culture. It is often difficult to know what information is useful where and when. However, as many processes become more complex and agile reactions are required, the information should be available to all employees. Some are building a “work-wiki” – where important information is collected and made accessible. 

Team effectiveness is important. To be effective, team members must be able to give feedback and learn from it at all times. This also includes solving conflicts constructively. However, it is also important to know: how do I continue to work with the feedback results?

Teamwork & Remote Work

Another challenge for companies is decentralisation. 

More and more employees want to work from home or “remotely” distributed around the world. Therefore, responsibility must also be organized decentrally so that everyone can participate in decision-making processes. In order to make companies fit for the future, teams must be strengthened in such a way that cooperation is possible on a decentralized level. 

The 5 autonomy levels of decentralized work, developed by Matt Mullenweg, show the 5-step process for the realization of a decentralized work organization.

“Any company that can enable their people to be fully effective in a distributed fashion, can and should do it far beyond after this current crisis has passed.”

Our work is becoming more complex, more individual and is developing. The boundaries between work and professional life are becoming increasingly blurred. Many companies have a lot of catching up to do in terms of globalization, digitization and changes in values, all of which have an impact on the world of work. Those who want to modernise their companies should above all remove unnecessary hierarchies and promote employee participation. In doing so, they should also move outside the comfort zone and question: where do we manage to do things differently and new?

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