The 3 key areas shaping your future workforce strategy

By Cranfield Executive Development
Expert faculty from Cranfield School of Management describe three key areas of consideration for talent leaders tasked with creating a people strategy fit for the future.



In a recent live online event with IEDP, Professor Emma Parry, Associate Professor Ruth Massie and Professor Michael Dickmann, shared their insights on the people management strategies needed in a future workplace.

As a wave of disruptive trends transforms the workplace of tomorrow - AI technologies, new career trajectories, flexible working, new skillsets, sustainability, cyber challenges, global diversity and more - Cranfield School of Management’s experts identify three areas of focus for workforce strategists to consider.

1. A changing societal context
These mega-trends will continue to influence tomorrow’s workplace:
  • Demographic - The ageing workforce, increased diversity, migration, health trends
  • Environmental - Climate change and the push towards net-zero carbon
  • Technological - Emerging AI driven technologies

These contextual trends are affecting the way we work, the skills required, and attitudes towards work. Technology is driving the need for new skills. Combined with an ageing workforce, individuals increasingly must upskill and reskill throughout their careers. Organizations are not only looking for digital skills but also for soft interpersonal, decision making, and critical thinking skills.

Attitudes and expectations are changing too. “For younger people it's not just about salary and career progression - there’s an expectation to do meaningful work,” observes Parry. Besides which, she adds “individuals now expect to have a voice in the workplace.”

Attitudes and technology are affecting the structure of work - most obviously allowing people to work remotely.

QUESTION A: How can you move your people strategy from recruiting fixed skillsets, to recruiting people that have learning potential and the capacity to change their skillsets over time?

QUESTION B: How can your organization, and the roles you recruit for, be designed to allow for effective flexible and hybrid working?

QUESTION C: How can you better engage with employees so they have a voice in decision making, and recognize the need for meaningful work that people seek?

2. Going global

Global businesses with cross-border operations need to develop in three ways:

  • To enhance knowledge transfer and innovation within global operations
  • To establish control and coordination to create an integrated culture
  • To fill local capability gaps rapidly

To meet these demands organizations must “strengthen their global leadership pipeline,” says Dickmann, and “support global business acumen through talent development.”

Assigned expatriation will decline in the future; whereas people working virtually across borders, boosted during the pandemic, will continue to grow dramatically. Business travel, especially for short trips, will decline.
Organizations will need new global people strategies to allow for different mobility patterns—to move work to people, not just move people to work - and a smarter approach to innovation and knowledge transfer.

A more sophisticated engagement approach will be needed to allow a transfer of some power from head offices to the local operating units and to staff working from home. Communication will be critical.

QUESTION A: So as to give more power to local business units, how can you enhance talent development to strengthen the local leadership pipeline?

QUESTION B: How should you deploy human resources to take advantage of ever greater global connectivity vis à vis assigned expatriation?

QUESTION C: What opportunities are there to move work to people rather than moving people to work across global operations?

3. Workplace consequences of the cyber age

The digitally enhanced workforce will need underpinning with highly developed cyber capabilities.

Using machine learning and data analysis, organizations need to be aware of unconscious biases. They also need to consider if employees, particularly gig workers, are equipped with secure computers and good internet connections.

IT support needs to be provided for remote workers, even across different time zones. It is essential that home workers have access to, and clear policies from IT experts to reduce the likelihood of cyber security breaches.
Finally, as data is a central driver of the cyber age, organizations need to think, not just about its storage and security, but also about the legal implications of using data—particularly when used globally across different jurisdictions.

QUESTION A: Are your policies on data privacy as strong and clear as they should be? Is the collection and use of data legal in all territories you operate in?

QUESTION B: Are your IT policies and support services readied for the uptick in flexible working? Are home workers given clear guidance on how to avoid cyber security breaches?

QUESTION C: As AI and machine learning aids are introduced, are staff trained to ensure unconscious biases are successfully countered?


About the Authors

Dr Ruth Massie is a Senior Lecturer in Cyber Resilience Leadership at Cranfield School of Management. Ruth’s research area is organisational resilience with a primary research focuses on understanding how Board level Directors engage with information, contextualise it, and incorporate it into their decision making. This is particularly in the context of cyber and how Board’s view the complexity, and risk, in relation to their organisations. Her secondary research focus is on tertiary education as a profession. Ruth’s teaching focuses on both Cyber Leadership and Business Continuity.

Emma Parry is Professor of Human Resource Management and Head of Changing World of Work Group at Cranfield School of Management. She is a recognised expert in Human Resource Management (HRM) and plays a leading role in a number of global research projects in this area. These include Cranet, a worldwide network of over 40 business schools that conducts comparative HRM research, and 5C, a global research project involving around 30 academic institutions, examining cultural and age differences in attitudes towards careers; and acting as Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Human Resource Management (IJHRM).

Professor Michael Dickmann has several years of work experience with major consultancies and companies. He has a first class honours degree in Economics from London University and an MSc in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from LSE. Michael has conducted a variety of consulting and research assignments with cutting edge multinational organisations mostly from the financial, automotive, telecommunications, chemical, electrical engineering and electronics industries. He has also consulted humanitarian agencies, government and the United Nations.

Tags: article, changing world of work

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