I truly believe that there will be a shift in how we see professions and job roles, actually, I think this shift already happened but we still think that if we look another way it will eventually go away. Professions and especially their lock-in into the job roles and titles make little sense nowadays (IMHO).
Just take a look at most of the X Manager positions, they imply mid-senior position in leading a project/product or a group of people but yet if we look at just a few job posts on LinkedIn we can see that it means so many different things. It can be a Junior role, it can be a Senior role, it might mean managing something but most of the time it implies managing your own time and tasks. So not only that the job titles do not represent professions and true callings they are also a bit meaningless (from the practical point of view). And it is not only about wording.
When I look at my career I can't pinpoint one thing I am good at, I am a psychologist and HR professional by vocation, but not only, and I managed projects and programs not related to HR, and I also have experience with tech communities and talent attraction strategies. And a large portion of my time is dedicated to research and content writing. So… that makes me HR Talent & Community Program Content Writer Researcher Manager?
No! It makes me someone skilled in many things. My professional path is fluid because I have interest and am good at many different things, and I am lucky to found a company where they actually recognised this and assigned to me projects that perfectly blend my talents. Like in life we are not just one thing, and we have many roles — the same happens at work in our professional endeavours. By letting me do what I am good at without fitting me into certain box have benefits for me, as I put in practice my tier one talents, and for the company, as they can have the best of me without worrying how we are going to call it and if this role exist in the known nomenclature.
I really believe this is how the future of work will look like — fluid professions/roles, cross-functional training and knowledge and a lot of digital savviness in almost every area of business. Gartner considers that one of the future work trends, especially in a post-covid world will be the separation of critical roles and skills, meaning that organisations need to focus less on roles — which group unrelated skills — and more on specific skills needed to drive the organization’s competitive advantage and the workflows that fuel that advantage. And not only for organisations, but this is also important for individuals who can learn new skills and reinvent themselves and by joining two or more (earlier) unrelated group of skills create a critical profile to strive in this world of constant ambiguity.
Having focused and streamlined roles within an organisation is important for efficiency, but efficiency is not the priority in the wake of the world where Darwin´s law is reminding us of how important is to adapt to the new environment. Again relying on Gartner´s research, another important trend for those that want to see them succeed in the future is the transition from designing for efficiency to designing for resilience. In the last three months, we saw, that resilient organizations were better able to respond to change and they were able to correct their course quickly. That´s why it is important to design roles and structures to increase agility and flexibility and formalize how processes can flex.
So here are few small tips for more resilient organisations, investing in a workforce that has cross-functional knowledge and experience, creating an environment where individuals are able to focus on what they are good at without being limited to narrowly designed roles.
- Complex roles — allowing people to define their own roles that are not defined by rigid lines but rather by what they are good at, creating complex and versatile roles. Your procurement person might be very tech-savvy and rather than working on the procurement tasks can use that knowledge by working closely with IT and low-code tools in creating an optimised solution for the procurement processes. It is a complex role and hard to fit in two words, but it will make your department more agile, tech solutions better suited for the needs and a team member living its full potential.
- Tech-enabled roles and processes — Not all of us are supposed to be coders, nor we have this part of the brain very well developed, but we are all using technology every single day in our lives. That means that Karen can not complain about creating a digital signature in order to improve processes established in the 90s. Tech-enabled people and processes (ideally both) will make your organisation agile, more resilient and faster in adapting to change.
- Re-skilled and upskilled roles — Importance of learning and development has been recognised a long time ago, so why not instead of providing vertical knowledge we offer to employees the opportunity to become good in something different from their original role. Your best recruiter becomes good in analytics and helps you predict hiring trends, optimise procedures and remove biases in hiring. A business analyst can become techy with low-code and help in creating really good tools with his business acumen and business knowledge specific for the organisation. It's not likely you could find a better profile in the market.
Complex roles and organizational complexity can complicate career paths, that is why providing reskilling and tech enablement in many ways can blur the lines between different roles or even departments, but can also help everyone be more resilient, flexible and productive.