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Forget Geography, Embrace The Gens, And Adapt To Adapting

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The workplace never stands still, but right now you can feel the ground shifting underneath your feet. Among the biggest changes, technology is reshaping how organizations collaborate and communicate with huge implications for how, and where, teams are built. Beyond that, companies are welcoming new generations and perspectives into the workforce (hi, Gen Z!)  just as jobs and the skills required to do them are evolving in double time.

Of course, changes come with challenges, but there are also huge opportunities for the ways you and your team work and grow. Here’s a peek at what’s coming, plus thoughts on how you can take advantage of these changes to reshape the world of work in smart, inspiring ways.

Tech Will Break The Constraints Of Geography
For a long time, you’ve no doubt heard tech makes it easy to collaborate anytime, anywhere. While it’s true that working together across distance has been getting steadily easier, the industry is finally at a moment when distributed workforces are going to be as easy to manage, and just as productive, as in-person teams. Between tools for collaboration and countless ways to have quick chats and critical meetings, you’ll finally break the constraints of geography for good.

This is epic—it means you and your global colleagues will have the opportunity to build teams that are more heterogeneous since you won’t be limited by location or the talent pools in specific cities. If you’re strategic, these teams will better reflect your customer bases, bringing a broader range of perspectives and experiences to their work. This, in turn, will help companies create products and services that more closely match what their real-life customers need.

Unhooking from geography also has massive implications for employees’ lives. Just as companies won’t be limited to a particular location, employees won’t have to shoulder the burden of living in expensive cities to work at cutting-edge companies. As the workforce becomes more distributed, cities will begin to rethink their urban planning and transportation infrastructures.

Generations Will Bring Out The Best In Each Other
There’s lots of talk about how Gen Z—the first generation of true digital natives—will reshape the world of work. They bring new skills and perspectives, and the key to welcoming this new generation is bidirectional learning. Business leaders have a lot to learn from Gen Z, and they have a lot to gain from Gen X and the Boomers, too.

Companies can welcome the change by helping the generations bring out the best in each other. Through mentoring programs and thoughtful listening, Gen Z can begin to absorb what the Gen Xers and Boomers know about working with people, building teams, and collaborating on projects in ways that get the job done well.

Gen X and Boomers, on the other hand, can draw on what Gen Z knows instinctively from a lifetime with technology. This new generation brings critical insights into what digital natives expect from their customer experiences, and they’re uniquely willing to throw out old processes when a new one makes more sense.

To make the most of the intergenerational workplace, you’ll need to listen. One of the most productive ways I’ve found to do this is to lead with open-ended questions. For example, I recently opened a conversation with a group of interns by saying, “Tell me how you work.” They told me that they despised a particular enterprise tool because they thought it was too cumbersome.

This particular tool was so entrenched that none of us had thought much about it, but the interns saw the problem and took the initiative to create a new process. As I listened, I realized their way made a lot of sense, so we encouraged the whole team to make the change. A fresh perspective and a willingness to try something new gave us all a more efficient way to work.

You’ll Learn To Learn In A World Of Change
One of the biggest changes—and you’ll feel it, no matter your geography or generation—is that change itself is accelerating. More than ever, everyone in the workforce needs to skill and reskill over the courses of these careers—and you’ll have to adapt and help your employees adapt as the culture at work changes.

To keep up, companies can provide their teams with just-the-right-fit resources to gain new skills. Smart use of technology can help us personalize training opportunities so every employee can get what they need—whether it’s an in-person seminar, a learning project, or a series of videos to quickly fill a knowledge gap.

Once you begin to think of training as personalized and modular, you can take the drudgery out of learning something new—gaining skills will feel organic when the process meets your specific needs at the right time.

Finding The Sweet Spot Between Planning And Flexibility
Embracing the future means finding just the right spot between a good, solid plan and a lot of flexibility. The changes heading our way aren’t just going to reshape the workplace; they’ll change how cities move people, how our communities form, and how you prepare for and navigate our careers. There’s a lot to look forward to—if you’re ready to grow with the changes.

This article originally ran on HR Technologist

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