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How Location Strategy Must Embrace The Future Of Work

To prepare their organizations for the future, CEOs need to nurture a workforce that strikes the balance between human and machine talent.

Location selection and footprint optimization must shake historical norms around workforce composition and skillset profiles. They must consider a rapidly evolving landscape around the Future of Work: its implications on the nature of work (what is done by humans or machines), who does the work (drawing from an open talent continuum), and where the work is performed.

Location strategy has traditionally leveraged historical business norms and technical workforce profiles as a template for use in the selection of new sites, or optimization of existing sites. Exponential developments in technology are dictating that, prior to selecting new sites, business leaders must now ask themselves “what is the Future of Work for my organization, how will it affect how we work, and how will it impact where we work?”

Organizations are being pushed to reinvent how they think about work tasks, the geographic work location, and the work environment. To prepare their organizations for the future, CEOs need to nurture a workforce that strikes the balance between human and machine talent, and which expands the definition of the human workforce. CEOs and their leadership team should consider:

1. How to orchestrate workforce augmentation by integrating machines to increase productivity, automate routine tasks, and leverage human skills to drive unique competitive advantages. Business leaders need to determine the intersection between human activity and machine activity to elevate capabilities and increase productivity.

2. How to leverage the emerging continuum of talent. The workforce of the future will be made up of full-time employees, freelancers, gig workers, the crowd and robots working side-by-side. Simultaneously, the diversity of the workers in terms of experience and viewpoints is increasing as Millennials and Gen Z already make up almost 40% of the workforce and are demanding evidence of this diversity as they select employers. This complexity has implications for employee engagement, inclusion, talent development and productivity. Ultimately, it should lead to uniquely more interesting and challenging work.

The scarcity of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) talent, not only in the United States, but across the globe, is well publicized – however many companies are awakening to the reality that they should equally source the softer, human skills of which machines are currently incapable. These include:

• Customer centricity
• Problem solving
• Communication
• Agile thinking and growth mindset
• Cross-discipline collaboration and influence

As such, companies selecting new sites must seek evidence of an additional component to STEM – the “A”… “Art”, makes STEAM. The increasing pressure on companies to source a set of skills less technical in nature, and able to drive broader business acumen has led to a more complex profile of skills to recruit for and build within organizations. It will likely require seeking new talent pools, such as college graduates with liberal arts background, to complement recruits with analytical backgrounds.

The evolving nature of the workforce dictates that companies must seek locations that enable them to access talent with a diverse set of skills. This requires assessing both the talent supply and demand for those skills in a selected location. It requires not simply looking at the current workforce in a location but building a projection three to five years out on what the available talent will be with proficiency in critical skills, considering the desirability for population growth in that location. CEOs frequently share stories that site selection decisions made based on low cost eventually turn out more expensive, as the time to fill critical roles drags out beyond expectations since there is a lack of available talent needed to meet business need.

Preparing for the future of work means being prepared to continuously pivot to meet unknown workforce challenges. Location remains a critical lever for companies to use to their advantage as the type of skills needed tomorrow continues to evolve.

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