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The Evolution of Work: Reshape Today, Reimagine Tomorrow

A man takes notes while in a virtual team meeting
9 minutes

By Parth Vats

In the summer of 2023, a group of students from Humber College’s Research Analyst postgraduate certificate program, including myself, joined Humber’s Office of Research & Innovation (ORI) as interns. Little did we know that the next five months would be a transformative research journey into the New World of Work (NWoW). Our team’s mission was to explore the possibilities and research this continuously evolving workplace landscape, and this was made possible under the leadership of Jeremy Staples, Research Specialist; Raeshelle Morris-Griffith, former Innovation Program Manager; and Fatima Momin, Project Coordinator, at ORI. Thanks to their guidance, we attained valuable insights and results. This endeavour has been a great learning curve for us in every aspect as we applied various research methodologies and gained valuable, hands-on experience.

Three research assistants sit at a desk with their laptops
New World of Work project’s research assistants. From left to right, Bella Sunny Mannarath, Ansh Garg and Parth Vats. Photo by Gurpreet Kaur.

NWoW is a complex area on which to conduct research due to its ever-evolving nature. We knew it was not going to be an easy task. We had to keep our research up-to-date and conduct research on the most recent available data. However, our team demonstrated competent skills and determination to simplify and explore this complex domain of NWoW successfully.

Welcome to the New World of Work (NWoW)

The transforming dynamics of work in this digital era define NWoW in a nutshell. Now, in order to understand this, take the example of Marvel’s Avengers, a team consisting of several dynamics. Each theme in NWoW is a hero in its own right that brings its strengths and uniqueness. Just as Avengers cannot be complete with just one hero, NWoW remains incomplete without the integral themes of talent management, workforce innovation, a flexible working environment, artificial intelligence, a multigenerational workforce, revisioning retirement, and the linchpin holding all these elements together—”organizational culture.” The world of work is constantly evolving, and significant shifts are seen in technological advancements and employee expectations. The world of work was already undergoing transformations before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the global crisis significantly accelerated these changes by bringing out several workplace shifts sooner than anticipated.

Currently, organizations all around the world are experiencing a myriad of challenges. The demand for talent is one of them, and many organizations are looking for ways to attract and retain talent. The generational shift is also happening simultaneously—millennials and Gen-Z population are making up the largest segment of the workforce while baby boomers are retiring and Gen-X are continuing to transition into leadership roles. As this generational shift takes place, there is also an increase in life expectancy and a decrease in birth rate, which has been a concern in several countries such as the US, Canada, Japan, and China. Due to this societal shift, some countries are heavily focused on increasing the retirement age. The increase in retirement age means that there has to be a parallel increase in the learning and development of those individuals due to the shifts in technology. With Artificial Intelligence (AI) booming, it is crucial for everyone to stay well-informed about current practices and technologies. This can be achieved by implementing new innovative approaches to employment and learning methods that highlight the urgent need for workforce innovation in organizations. All of the above issues mentioned are influenced by organizational culture, as it is the culture that sets the tone for how change is integrated. In this article, we discuss the following themes driving the New World of Work: Role of the rewards system, enhancing performance through innovation, tech evolution adaptability, breaking generational norms, revisioning retirement and cultural influence.

Role of the rewards system

Gone are the days when the primary competition among organizations was solely based on superior technology or production capabilities. In the modern job market, it also depends on the quality of talent the organization attracts and retains. The rewards system is a key differentiator for attracting and retaining talent. As a result, it is arguably one of the most crucial elements of talent management. The reward management system includes intrinsic and extrinsic rewards like salary, bonuses, recognition, praise, flexible working hours, and social rights (Skaggs et al., 1991). Human resource management oversees determining which rewards are best for their firms and implementing them more frequently. The organization must reflect on its culture and structure to choose the best rewards.

“Genius is the gold in the mine; talent is the miner that works and brings it out.”

—Lady Blessington, Irish novelist, journalist, and literary hostess

The need to retain talent has prioritized learning and development initiatives. The major focus is to upskill and reskill employees and enhance talent. A robust feedback mechanism within the organization, careful staff planning, onboarding process improvement, and constant training opportunities are essential to an effective learning and development strategy. Prioritizing learning and development within the organization helps find the right talent for the right job and attracts a higher calibre of talent as more employees are focused on increasing knowledge and skills. People quickly develop new skills and skill depth: it was found that 40 to 60 percent of an employee’s human capital value (knowledge, attributes, skills, and experience) can be attributed to skills acquired through work experience (McKinsey and Company, 2023). This highlights the importance of promoting learning and development.

Enhancing performance through innovation

Innovation has become the need of the hour to cope and adapt to the evolving work landscape. Innovation is usually associated with technology, but innovation has many other faces. Organizations need to be prepared for the future by understanding their workforce capabilities and skills. Workforce innovation is constituted by developing and testing new approaches in response to the evolving dynamics of work.

“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”

—Albert Einstein, Theoretical physicist

One of the trending approaches to innovation is a flexible working environment. Flexibility is being considered a widespread option for many organizations worldwide due to the current competitive business environment. More employees are seeking work-life balance. Flexibility also offers a sense of autonomy, which helps employees think more creatively as they have control over their work arrangements. A new study by Atlassian listed in Forbes shows that when people have flexibility in working options, 71% report their team is innovative, compared with 57% without flexibility (Tracy Brower, 2022).

Tech evolution adaptability

Artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay, reshaping ways of living and working worldwide, and its influence continues to grow. In many ways, AI enhances human capacities, promotes efficiency, and opens the door to more complex decision-making processes. AI is forecasted to create 97 million jobs by 2025 (Nathan Reiff, 2023). However, as AI grows, people worry it will take away their jobs. Indeed so, but more importantly, it will also create many new jobs. Strategies like reskilling and upskilling programs should be implemented to cope with the challenges of job displacement. Employees need to have a lifelong learning mindset as new technologies that require an evolving skillset are constantly being developed.

“Our intelligence is what makes us human, and AI is an extension of that quality.”

—Yann LeCun, French computer scientist

The balance between AI and human collaboration is a crucial factor in determining the success of the workplace. What sets humans apart from AI? We are unique and possess emotional intelligence and critical thinking, to name a few. Humans have a nature of being resistant to change. As new technologies are being developed, the fear of machines taking over jobs is an important factor affecting people’s decision to adopt a new technology. It has become of utmost importance for many organizations to adopt new technology as soon as possible to cope with the changes and utilize its benefits. One of the benefits of AI for businesses is that it handles repetitive tasks across an organization so that employees can focus on creative solutions, complex problem-solving, and impactful work (Cristian Grossmann, 2023). Therefore, instead of prioritizing one over the other, it will be wise for organizations to maintain a balance between human potential and new technologies.

Breaking generational norms

Baby boomers, Gen-X, Millennials, and Gen-Z are the current multigenerational workforce. A significant factor contributing to workplace conflicts among different generations is the persistence of preconceived perceptions and stereotypes within organizations. Stereotypes exist not only for an individual generation but for each of them that comprise the current workforce. These stereotypes, such as assuming that “older generations struggle with technology” or “younger generations are less diligent at work,” can significantly hinder collaboration, directly impacting productivity and engagement. On the other hand, as different generations have different perceptions and ideas, knowledge sharing can be positively influenced. This will ultimately lead to productivity and efficiency at both individual and institutional levels.

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it and wiser than the one that comes after it.”

- George Orwell, English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic

Revisioning Retirement

“Population aging” is a current issue prevalent in most parts of the world. People over 65 made up 5% of the world’s population in 1950, but this percentage is expected to increase to 16% by 2050, according to data from World Population Prospects: the 2019 Revision (Susan Wilner Golden, 2022). Retention of older workers has become vital, and job satisfaction plays a crucial role in achieving the concept of revisioning retirement. Revising current retirement concepts to include them in the workforce is vital. Financial reasons, health, purpose in life, choice of interest, and a higher salary are the main determinants for deciding retirement timing. Flexible retirement options, such as raising the retirement age, phased retirements, bridge employment, self-employment, and employee retention, enable aging employees to stay in the workforce. As life expectancy is continuously rising, the retirement age requires attention for reconsideration in several countries. Debunking stereotypes, organizations will benefit from recognizing the value of older workers and shifting their focus to understanding the positive contributions of an aging workforce.

Cultural influence: A key factor

An organizational culture serves as the foundation of workplace values that determine the success and longevity of the organization. Culture is very much influenced by the top hierarchy of the organization, where leadership plays a crucial factor in fostering a mindset that guides the organization in the right direction. Employee engagement, work-life balance, and learning and development are growing concerns and importance in many organizations. Organizations must prioritize these concepts as they are significant in determining the growth of their employees and the organization itself. A survey by Deloitte showed that 83% of executives and 84% of employees rank having engaged and motivated co-workers as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company’s success (Adam A Coleman, 2023). Employees’ expectations are changing along with the changes in generation, technology, and nature of work. To thrive in this changing landscape, organizations must enhance their employees’ experience by promoting an open culture that brings out the best in their people.

It is important to note that all the themes discussed in this article are tied to organizational culture. Often, it is culture that is reflected upon and becomes the groundwork for organizational strategies. Hence, a healthy organizational culture is one of the keys to succeeding in the new world of work.

Connect with us

As we continue to learn more about the New World of Work (NWoW), we encourage you to join us on this journey of exploring deeper into the themes of talent management, workforce innovation, flexible working environments, artificial intelligence, multigenerational workforce, revisioning retirement, and organizational culture. These are shaping the current workplace landscape in meaningful ways.

Please feel free to reach out to us at to learn more and engage in discussions on shaping the future of work. Stay connected for more updates, and remember that together, we can bring positive change and innovation to the ever-evolving world of work.