Consider this. It’s 2025 and the world we knew 6 years ago has changed dramatically. The workforce no longer hinges on hierarchies and what worked in the past. It’s about what could be possible and new agile systems schematics. Data Analyst has toppled Dentist as the top job and Tech Ethicists are highly sought after.
And those are only a smidgen of what I imagine will be different in the 2025 world of work. We’ll be scratching our heads as we think back on some illogical and inane practices, unwritten rules and beliefs we worked by.
Here are my top 5 head scratchers on the workforce and why they’ll seem absurd in the near future:
1. Why was there an invisible barrier between employees and leaders?
I get it – executives are busy people. In the past they opted to put their faith and time into a tight circle of people surrounding them. So how could they possibly tap into the ingenuity lying below them? They often didn’t.
Conversely frustrated experts and innovators weren’t able to affect the value chain without ruffling feathers trying to leap over their manager to access senior leadership.
There’s a reckoning now with Millenials and Gen Zs; they’re unimpressed with hierarchies and prefer cross-functional relationships within an organization. They expect access to whomever they need in order to work collaboratively and achieve results.
We’re more comfortable now with flatter organizations and less hierarchy with glass ceilings in between.
2. Why did we believe high performers automatically made good managers?
It’s an easy assumption to make. If an employee proves to be a superstar in their role as a subject matter expert and sole contributor, why wouldn’t they make a superstar manager?
Did we ever get that wrong. Finally we realize that leading and inspiring others requires it’s own unique expertise. And, most people don’t come with the natural aptitude to be successful managing others.
Companies invest in their managers, ensuring they have the critical people skills to guide and nurture their teams to success.
Companies have figured out the path to healthy employee engagement: having a specialized stream of people managers, whose only or primary role is the responsibility to develop, lead and motivate teams of people.
This also enables experts to become functional managers focusing on what they’re good at, without the added stress of human resource related issues.
3. Why did we believe employees be required to manage people to get a promotion?
This organizational policy always baffled me. Sure, in theory it may have seemed like a good idea as a way to build soft skills and get a different perspective on leadership. But like head scratcher #2 above, it ran the risk of demoralizing both the manager and their direct reports.
A 2011 CareerBuilder survey revealed that more than a quarter (26%) of new managers felt underprepared for their new responsibilities and a staggering 58(%) reported receiving no management training.
The result? Gallup’s recent workplace survey found that almost half of all employees left their jobs because of their manager. This begs the question: why have this policy when the potential for failure is 50%?
4. Why did we believe there was only one way to solve a problem?
For years we followed tradition. When success followed a certain approach to our work, we continued to rely on that method. Sure it may have moved us forward, but the kinds of challenges that are emerging don’t always lend themselves to “old think”.
I remember being referred to as a “maverick” by my supervisor because I challenged the status quo. I was always looking at new ways of getting buy-in to change and looking at possibilities rather than “tried and true” methods.
With increased globalization, complexity and ambiguity, we’re in a time of disruption: everything we know to be predictable is on the chopping block.
This means addressing challenges in new ways. Whether it’s how we work, how we developing new insights to inform decision-making or shifting our focus on new technologies.
5. Why did the 9 to 5 work schedule ever last so long?
Just ask Camilla Kring why this was never a good idea. Founder of Denmark’s Super Navigators aps, she’s on a mission transform the industrial work culture towards one that’s more flexible.
Her research on our personal circadian rhythms debunks the long held beliefs that to be successful we need to be an early bird. That’s great for certain people, but the rest of us may have family dynamics, work methods and biological rhythms best suited to working later in the day or evening.
Think about it. Are companies supporting flexibility more likely to have engaged and happy employees? Apparently yes according to Kring.
But that’s not the only reason for workday flexibility. With globalization, many of us need to be available to work with clients and colleagues in other time zones. It’s a 24-hour world; being able to adjust our schedules is now a necessity.
The Future is Now
As we move ahead in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complexity, ambiguity) world, questioning the status quo is required. Being open to possibilities, collaboration and asking “what if?” will become the norm in order to solve challenges and ignite new approaches.
Are you already scratching your head?