Beyond Roles: Crafting a Task-Oriented Future for 2024

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Work@War poses unique challenges. Surprisingly, the evolving world of work brings promising solutions. These innovative strategies cater to the unpredictability of workforce availability, addressing both the physical and emotional aspects. They also tailor to managing individuals juggling extraordinary personal and professional hurdles. In these times, when wellness is far from ordinary, our solutions too, are anything but conventional.

One innovative approach involves deconstructing roles into tasks.

Traditionally, we’ve organized work through roles, creating structures that encompass various responsibilities needed to achieve desired outcomes. For instance, a sales representative is tasked with meeting sales targets, while a customer service manager focuses on ensuring customer satisfaction.

For Work@War however, this method presents challenges. What happens when the sales manager is called up for reserve duty? Or if the development team leader can’t work as usual because her spouse has been deployed? Or when there aren’t enough customer service staff because they’re in a conflict zone, evacuated to hotels where operating remove service is impractical?

The challenges we face in the future workplace bear a striking resemblance to those encountered while working amidst conflict. Beyond the context of war, we’re witnessing an era marked by heightened uncertainty, swift transformations, novel tools, emerging employment models, and evolving expectations from new generations of workers, all intertwined with technological advancements. On top of all these current discussions are focused on restructuring work to effectively leverage GenAI. This dialogue unmistakably points towards the need to redefine work, shifting from traditional roles to a more task-oriented framework.

Traditional job definitions aren’t set in stone. To grasp this evolution, it’s essential to dissect the components of work. ‘Work’ refers to the objective or the desired outcome, such as achieving sales targets or enhancing customer satisfaction. ‘Tasks’ represents the specific actions needed to accomplish these goals, like drafting a report or analyzing data. The roles within an organization aren’t divinely ordained; they are simply aggregations of tasks that have been shaped into organizational roles over time through management processes. Currently, these rigid definitions hinder our organizational agility. Case in point: during the initial turmoil of war urgent situations arose, like restocking milk during a crisis, we effortlessly reassigned office staff to this task, despite it falling outside their regular ‘job’ description.

Numerous benefits arise from maintaining this flexibility and deconstructing roles into tasks, only to reassemble them in new configurations. This practice fosters organizational adaptability and creates role designs that align with both the demands of the work and the needs of the employees. Embracing task management compels organizations to transition from hierarchical structures to network models. The focus shifts from querying, “Which role does this task belong to?” to considering, “Who is the most suitable individual for this task, based on factors like experience, development potential, workload, as well as personal interest or diversity?”

As Deloitte’s ‘Generative AI and the Future of Work’ report points out, the arrival of GenAI on the scene presents a compelling reason to master task management over traditional role-centric approaches. GenAI doesn’t perform jobs in their entirety; it executes specific tasks within those jobs. This distinction is crucial as it reshapes roles and the skills they require. GenAI will absorb tasks it’s adept at, such as data analysis or processing large volumes of content. This shift can liberate us to focus on different tasks, or in the context of Work@War, to address the unique challenges that come with it.

Even if it seems impractical to focus on implementing GenAI in your organization amidst war or any other urgent challenge, this is precisely the right time for such a discussion. This paradox is familiar from routine scenarios, like when you need to hire additional staff due to a shortage, despite the added pressure it brings. The process of onboarding new employees adds to the workload, but we recognize the immediate investment as crucial for future growth. The same principle applies in a wartime work environment. With some staff absent or functioning at reduced capacity, who has the time to learn about GenAI or integrate it into processes? Especially when, faced with the need to prioritize for business continuity, many have shelved such projects to address immediate needs.

Yet, as we plan for 2024, working in tandem with an ongoing conflict, we must adapt to a reality fraught with uncertainty and constant change – hallmarks of the evolving world of work that we can’t afford to ignore. This necessitates a different approach, both for the sake of the work and the well-being of our people. Just as hiring new employees eventually lightens the workload, integrating GenAI can liberate time for human workers by handling specific tasks. In the past, we might have said this allows employees to focus on more critical tasks. In a wartime context, it might simply mean freeing them to tackle the unique challenges of these times, both professionally and personally.

In light of the current need for flexibility in both work and personnel management, the year 2024 should be earmarked as the time for deconstructing work into individual tasks and reassembling it using the tools of a new era:

Break Roles into Tasks: This is a fundamental shift towards flexible work management. Tasks, when framed as types of “projects,” can be delegated to others, whether human or technological. If your organization hasn’t already, it’s time to develop a platform that facilitates task assignment based on skills, availability, and interest. Many organizations have implemented such processes for temporary projects, enabling employees to enrich and diversify their work experience while contributing to tasks that are genuinely needed. In times of conflict, this approach is particularly effective for bridging the gaps left by those who are unavailable for regular work duties.

Leverage the human work cloud: There’s a vast pool of talent available — individuals who can work on your tasks without being on your payroll. This concept has been a growing trend in the ever-changing work landscape, allowing organizations to maintain an integrated workforce through new and flexible work forms. Certain tasks can be outsourced to freelancers, or to individuals actively seeking more work, and even to cloud-based platforms. Currently in Israel, there are many people unable to engage in their normal work routines who would be eager to take on project-based work.

Teach employees to work with GenAI: To effectively utilize digital assistants and liberate time for human workers, it’s crucial to familiarize employees with these tools and facilitate their integration into everyday tasks. The initial step in GenAI training involves recognizing the skills these tools excel at, understanding how they can serve us best. Unlike top-down complex automation processes, it’s more effective to encourage a bottom-up approach, empowering employees to reshape their roles and processes.It’s about comprehending how to collaborate with technology in a manner that enhances not only the quality of work but also each individual’s ability to manage time and efficiency, both professionally and personally.

These initial steps will set you on the right course. As you progress, you’ll need to assess how roles have evolved, identify the requisite skills, and understand the implications for management and organizational culture. However, every significant change begins with small, manageable actions. These are your foundational steps for the 2024 work plans, strategies that will ensure your workforce remains flexible enough to handle the demands of working alongside conflict, while simultaneously building skills for the future workplace, benefiting both the organization and its people.

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Nirit Cohen

Nirit Cohen is an expert in the future of work, bridging the gap between emerging trends and practical solutions, providing valuable insights for careers, management, organizations, and broader societal systems.

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