Planning for 2025: 3 Trends for your People Strategy

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One of the biggest disconnects in adapting to changes in the world of work lies in the gap between how individuals eagerly embrace these trends and how managers and leaders in organizations often fear them. As individuals, we connect deeply with the idea that work should be better integrated into our lives. We see this in the demands of the younger generation and feel it ourselves in the desire to experience the “future of less work.” However, the moment we don our organizational hats, we struggle to see how it’s possible to manage this way and often try to explain why it won’t work. But trends are trends, and the future always arrives. The question is, will you be ready?

People Are Not Human Capital

Since 2020, we’ve been reminded time and again that life is short, and every day we spend at work is a day of our lives invested. This exchange should be valuable. Like you, many of your people work not because they have to, not because you tell them to, and not because you measure them on it. They work because they choose to, for what matters to them. They understand that work is just one part of what matters in life. Consequently, they are now redefining the social contract around work and expect you to remember that they have lives outside of it, and that work should fit into those lives.

The evolving world of work is shifting the balance between work and life. If there’s a struggle, life will always win. Your role now is to avoid creating that struggle. Signs of a “future of less work” are evident across all continents and industries, especially as employees vote with their feet against traditional work demands and structures. Your people are asking themselves, “How much is enough?” and “Is this how I want my life to look?”

You can’t ask people how they’re doing and then not listen to the answer. This isn’t about another department fun event or a wellness budget. They need you to integrate their well-being into the core of business and managerial decisions, fundamentally changing many organizational processes. They want you to replace the absolute prioritization of work needs with a mutual win-win for the organization and its people. Because 2025 is the year we start to understand that we can no longer “go back” to what we think we lost in the past few years and realize that we are here, now. Today is the day we work and live. Or live and work.

Questions to Guide Your People Strategy: How do you help managers understand what their people need? And what do you need to change or offer to provide that? What does flexible work look like in jobs that cannot be done remotely? How do you measure managers on addressing the holistic needs of their employees? What are the implications of the “future of less work” for the organization?

Career Scale Walls, Not Ladders

Precisely because they are now managing work within a broader life context, your people are not limiting themselves to the traditional organizational ladder. Instead, they are shaping a personal career climbing wall. On this journey, employees continually decide whether to take the next step with you or elsewhere. According to Gallup, for several years now, about 50% of employees have been exploring opportunities outside their current organization. These opportunities span a sea of possible work modes that no longer fit the narrow definition of a full-time job with a single employer over many years.

The implications of employees’ career climbing walls extend far beyond holding a “career week” and “development programs.” By breaking down roles into tasks and projects, you’ll find you can connect people to work in a way that aligns with their needs and desires and even attract individuals you couldn’t employ under the old model.

Questions to Guide Your People Strategy: What does the employee life cycle look like now, and what is our role before and after their tenure with us? How do we redefine roles and tasks to attract those we want to engage? What does employee retention mean now? Who are our potential employees? How do we create a workplace where people keep learning and stay up-to-date with their skills, especially as AI becomes more common?

Manager Manage People, Not Work

When people need to be seen and understood regarding their life and career needs, much of the responsibility for handling these needs must shift from the organization to managers. This means expanding the flexibility of managers within the organizational framework to do the right thing for the right person at the right time with the right tools. If you examine your procedures, you’ll find that managers have much more freedom in managing budgets and work than in managing people. A manager who can issue a work order for hundreds of thousands of dollars cannot spend a small amount to help an employee solve a personal problem, freeing up time for work.

Moreover, technology is changing the power base and the role of the manager. The democratization of knowledge and capabilities means that knowledge is no longer centralized at the top of the pyramid. Now, even authority and decision-making are becoming decentralized, moving away from headquarters and managers. Organizational power structures are evolving, with much work happening in teams that are not necessarily managed hierarchically. Many of your people work in teams led by others, which means the role of managers is less about managing work and more about managing people so they can effectively manage the work.

Questions to Guide Your People Strategy: How do we maximize human-machine collaboration? What is the role of managers in a networked organization? How do you redefine an expanded framework for managers to allow them flexibility and personalization in managing people? What should management development now include?

Looking ahead to 2025, we see a future full of both challenges and opportunities. The real trick will be moving from catchy slogans to real, impactful actions. By blending what we need to do to succeed as an organization with what our people need to live fulfilling lives, we can build a workplace that’s dynamic and resilient. This means embracing people-centric trends, giving managers the flexibility to really support their teams, and creating a culture where continuous learning and adaptation are the norms. The future of work isn’t just about getting by—it’s about thriving together, making sure both the organization and its people grow and succeed hand in hand.

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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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