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Innovative Workplace
(the future of work)

See the opportunity ahead and feel confident and empowered when you think about the future of work in your organisation.

Let us keep your eyes wide open. Our research and insights can help you and your clients adjust and innovate for what’s coming.

Why do I need to future proof my workplace now more than ever?


Demographic change, generational diversity, technological advances and new societal values are creating opportunities for businesses to work differently. Those that embrace these changes and prepare for them will continue to be able to attract the talent they need. Those that don’t will lose out. Talent will choose other options that fit better with their lifestyle needs and values. It is thought that 40% of the US workforce is already freelance and by 2027 it will be the majority. In the UK, 50% of the workforce will be freelance by 2028. People aren’t choosing this out of necessity but out of choice. Organisations must start thinking about the future of work and the impact of these changes now.

Our ongoing research means that we’ve been helping our clients answer questions about the future of work, like:

Given we have 5 generations in the workplace are they all motivated and engaged by the same things?

How will the changing demographics impact my business?

How can we maximise the impact of new technology to give more flexibility on when and how we work?

What future-focused challenge is on your mind right now? Share it with us and get the insight you need.


The impact of demographic and social change has resulted in more different generations, working side-by-side, than ever before. FIVE to be precise. Given the diversity of experience and expectation within a multi-generational workforce, how can leaders frame this situation as an opportunity rather than a problem? Fundamentally, this requires a thorough understanding of the challenges, and the mindset and necessary skills to tackle them effectively. We do it under three broad headings:
a. The Millennials: Managing the expectations of the internet generations; b. The Baby Boomers: Making the most of your older workforce; c. Cross-generational Team Work: Leveraging diversity. We can help you overcome your challenges in all these areas.


There is an upcoming skills shortage in the developed economies, meaning that the number of qualified young people coming into the workforce will not compensate for the older ones leaving it. A more immediate pinch point for organisations reliant upon deep specialist skills, is the shortage of successors in technical talent pipelines. A different social trend may offer a solution to this problem; an increasing number of Baby Boomers are interested in alternatives to traditional retirement and are prepared to ‘extend’ their careers. Organisations ask us questions like: 1. How do we engage our talented mature workers? 2. How do we make staying with the organisation a more attractive option than leaving to start one’s own business? 3. How do we prevent experienced employees becoming progression blockers for talented and ambitious younger workers? We have the answers.


Automation is fast enabling organisations to future-proof their business models. There are already many examples of human workers being replaced with robots to boost productivity. This is set to continue. And, at the same time as replacing or downgrading jobs for humans, technology is shaping how we go about doing our work. For many knowledge workers it offers us flexibility in terms of where we can work, and so, we are seeing the rise of the freelance economy, as people choose greater control of their work life. These shifts challenge the status quo and require businesses to apply fresh thinking to how they build and develop their talent bases. We can support that thinking as a result of our continued research on the future of work, and we can offer you an exciting range of workshop, facilitation and education sessions on how to build an innovative workplace.

Innovative Workplace FAQ

What are the challenges and opportunities shaping the future of work?

A complex and unpredictable environment
The VUCA acronym (standing for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) may derive from a military context, but its use in strategic leadership conversations is increasingly commonplace, and with good reason. Change is relentless and the landscape in which we work is constantly shifting. Disruptive challenges that once took months to emerge, now strike without warning. To stay ahead of the competition, businesses need to continually innovate. What got you here won’t get you where you need to go.

We live in a Millennial world
The so-called ‘new generations’ don’t just use social media like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat — they invented it. Generations Y and Z are fundamentally different from their Gen X and Baby Boomer predecessors, and getting the best from them requires new thinking and enlightened leadership. A life spent online for the new ‘30-somethings’ has shaped attitudes like these:

  • All ideas compete on an equal footing
  • Contribution counts for more than credentials
  • Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed
  • Leaders serve, rather than preside
  • Tasks are chosen, not assigned
  • Groups are self-directing and self-organising

These ideas translate into their expectation of leaders; that great leaders should coach and facilitate, rather than try to control. What’s more, as Millennials are used to ‘just in time’ communication and collaboration in their personal lives, they expect the same at work.

A new generation of consumers
The new generations think and act differently as consumers too. Here’s how:

  • They don’t just want to be sold to, they want to be entertained and stimulated by something interesting
  • They want products and services that speak to their conscience
  • They want things that make them happy
  • They want a quick stimulus, and then to be left alone

Get ready, because they:

  • will expect to have conversations with you about your products, and to be heard
  • are diligent researchers who will expect to test your products, physically or virtually, before they buy
  • want to be able to get creative with your products, to customise them to their needs
  • will want to know your company’s position and activity around recycling, conservation, green choices and community activity

The pervasiveness of the internet
A commentator recently said that in the development of the Net and its impact on society, we’re at a point equivalent to Gutenberg having just invented the printing press. Things have changed so much, in such a short period of time, that to make long-term predictions seems more impossible than ever.

One thing we can be sure of, is that the amount of data that can be gathered and analysed will continue to increase. This will create opportunities, for example, in the ability to customise products and services to meet the needs of customers and employees. It will also present challenges, as people scrutinise and publicly comment, for good or ill, on an organisation’s behaviour.

Scientific discovery
While some developments in brain-sensing technology are outside talentsmoothie’s scope, findings into the way the brain reacts in different learning situations are very relevant. Recent research, into the types of environments and challenges that create stronger memory, has important implications for learning design in the future.

A talent shortfall
The demand for educated talent is altready outstripping supply in the UK and many parts of the world. In the UK over the next ten years there will be 13.5 million job vacancies, but only 7 million school and college leavers to fill them. The implication, for businesses reliant on knowledge workers and those with deep technical skills, is that we are facing a chronic shortfall in talent. The good news for the economy and society at large is that there is an untapped source of people who can potentially fill this gap.

Baby Boomers aren’t finished yet
According to a recent talentsmoothie study, 60% of older workers would rather continue working than retire. The prospect of an extended career, beyond the normal retirement age, appeals for financial and personal satisfaction reasons. The challenge arises because our research indicates that most organisations invest little effort in understanding what their older workers want. In the absence of an open conversation about individual preferences and future opportunities, organisations run the risk that their marketable employees will vote with their feet.

The lure of self-employment
In the past three years in the UK, the over-50s accounted for 85% of new business start-ups. This trend is not restricted to older workers. It is thought that 40% of the US workforce has already chosen to work freelance. The challenge is how to create an environment within the organisation that’s more attractive than self-employment or entrepreneurship.

What can organisations do today to future-proof themselves?

Organisations will need to innovate continuously to stay ahead of the competition, and new approaches to innovation will be required to develop winning products and services. Innovation comes from people, people with their finger on the pulse of what is happening outside the organisation, and who are prepared to challenge traditional ways of doing things. Your workforce needs to reflect the diversity of your customer base.

Collaboration and networked intelligence
If it’s the professional information and brilliant ideas in your people’s heads that make the difference, then increased collaboration is the way to tap this potential. This is partly about assembling experimental project teams, but also about promoting a culture of collaboration across your firm. Remember, your young people want and expect to do this. Encouraging employees to build and leverage their internal networks will help innovative solutions to emerge. And don’t ignore external networks. Few organisations have adopted creative ways of working with external resources, and yet accessing this networked intelligence may provide the extra help you need to tackle your most complex problems.

Organisational purpose and design
When an organisation goes through tough times, employees and customers need to have confidence in its core values and purpose. This is what attracts people in the first place, and builds their commitment and loyalty. As organisations evolve and change, it’s important that their senior executives connect the past with the future. As regards the future, the Millennial generation will want to know where the company stands on issues such as corporate ethics and environmental responsibility. In this environment, how do organisations successfully re-invent themselves? It’s clear that top-down, control-based organisations are becoming uncompetitive in a world where most work is done via lateral, rather than hierarchical, processes. Leaders need to be resilient and agile, while at the same time providing sufficient clarity of focus for people to be motivated. Businesses need to learn to manage matrix organisations with three or four different dimensions. Resources, particularly top talent, need to be shared across the firm and concentrated where they are needed most.

Company culture
Too often, senior leaders assume that changing structures will automatically deliver the desired results. However, it is changes in human thinking and behaviour that make structures work.

Leadership development
Leading adaptive, networked organisations in a world of complex interdependencies and stakeholder expectations requires a new leadership paradigm. Commentators have variously described this as ‘collaborative’ and ‘eco’ leadership. At a practical level we will need to develop great leaders who are capable of: balancing tensions; fostering innovation, but managing the steady state; coping with ambiguity, while listening and building trust; getting things done through influencing rather than control. We need our leaders to be great ‘talent spotters’ too. They will have to identify diverse and unnoticed people from the periphery of the organisation, who have something special and different to bring to project teams, and eschew over-reliance on more conventional ‘movers and shakers’.

How can I future-proof my Employee Value Proposition?

Talentsmoothie’s work helps clients to develop a winning and sustainable Employee Value Proposition (EVP). A ‘People Deal’ that’s fit for the future.

Starting with a rigorous assessment of existing employee opinion survey data, we gather new information via interviews and focus groups to establish what really matters to your people in your business context. Pilot testing the draft EVP provides employees with the opportunity to shape the final approach, and is an enjoyable and stretching employee engagement activity in itself. Finally, we help you to operationalise your customised strategy, by ensuring that all your communications and people processes align and reinforce your EVP. Where does your EVP need re-vamping, and how might you benefit from the objective and experienced perspective that talentsmoothie brings?

Do you have any free Innovative Workplace (the future of work) resources?
Five Generations (the future of work) Position Paper pdf cover image talentsmoothie

Our free-to-download Position Paper Five Generations in the Workplace explores the latest generational diversity issues now being faced by organisations, with five generations of employees in the workplace. It provides a useful check-list so you can assess how well your organisation is coping with this demographic shift. (Find more details on our Insights page.)

The Ageing Workforce (the future of work) research report pdf cover image talentsmoothie

Our research report The Ageing Workforce: What’s Your Strategy? is also free to download. We asked 850 baby boomer employees their views on retirement versus working longer and 13 organisations their views on the ageing workforce and what plans they have for change. It includes a diagnostic tool so you can assess what action your organisation should take now to reduce the risk of a talent shortage in the future. (Find more details on our Insights page.)

Or, you can download our free printable Innovative Workplace Factsheet PDF on our Insights page.

Can you give Innovative Workplace examples?

All our work is infused with our insights concerning the future of work. We are known for the sustainability of our Employee Value Propositions. You can find our case studies on our Results page.

You might also like to watch our YouTube videos (below) on generational topics, Interviewing Gen YGen Up: the case for a generational diversity strategy, and Simon Walker speaking on Gen Y –

Whatever stage you’re at with your Innovative Workplace, we’d love to help.