Book Review: The Future of Work by Jacob Morgan


Jacob Morgan

Learning leads to more learning. Networking leads to more learning. It just can’t be helped! I am a case in point – you might remember that I blogged about taking Jane Hart’s course, Modernising Training Content (she is British hence the spelling of Modernising), in April. She is one of our major influencers. In the course resources posted, Jane Hart referred to a Forbes article by Jacob Morgan that had a great diagram of the 7 principles of the future worker. I then followed links to his other Forbes article, The Evolution of the Employee. I began following his blog and viewed the podcasts he had on his web site with interesting business leaders, all talking about the future of work. 

Morgan is of the millenial generation, but has a global perspective on the future of work. I enjoy reading his blogs, articles in established publications such as Forbes, and visiting his site. When an email arrived in my inbox asking me if I would review his book on Amazon and offered a free eBook copy of The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization to do so, I immediately said yes! I am glad I did, and decided to not only review it on Amazon but to highlight the book here in our blog as it is very congruent with what we have been blogging about.

Most resources, Harvard Business Review and Forbes among them, report from the business or organizational perspective. For a good portion of this book, Morgan takes the worker’s perspective. His view is that although most companies are still stuck doing work in old ways, the influx of millennials will bring changes to the workplace whether companies are ready for them or not. Morgan cites a 2013 report by Ernst & Young that found:

….. in the past 5 years 87% of millennial workers took on management roles, versus 38 % of Gen X and just 19% of boomers.

Already millennials have positions of influence, and often are managing boomer workers. Morgan does not think this is an alarming thing. To the contrary, he sees a free interchange between millennials and boomers and Gen X’ers as good for the company and good for the employees. Boomers provide the experience and history, and millennials provide new thinking and ways of using technology to do the work.

Morgan sees that anytime groups of people are brought together they will have different ways of learning, working, and being. Age does not matter. Early in his book (pg. 29 of the eBook edition) he states:

The future employee isn’t just a younger employee it’s an employee with new attitudes about work and new styles of working – regardless of whether they are 22 or 62.

What are millennials bringing to the work table? Using digital tools, social media, and other technologies as a part of their lives for their entire lives will help companies move towards what Morgan identifies as the 7 Principles of the Future Employee. This diagram from his Forbes article from September, 2014 shows the shift that is already occurring and will continue to spread to more and more workplaces.


From these changes, Morgan identified the 7 Principles of the Future Employee:

Jacob Morgan 7 principles

The book goes into detail about each of the 7 principles, and what they will mean for individual workers no matter what their age. Here is a summary:

Flexible work: 

  • Work anytime: set your own schedule that fits with your lifestyle, family, friends.
  • Work anywhere: home office, bed, coffee shop, the mall.
  • Focus on outputs: the quality and originality of the work will determine employee worth, not seat time or showing up to an office.
  • Retain workers: working when and how one wants and being evaluated on the quality of the work = loyal employees.
  • Different workplace structures: co-working locations allowing for workers of different companies to co-mingle and provides an ad hoc office to those who want it. Collaborative, more open workspaces in the corporate office encourage more informal networking and  spark innovation (See our blog, 5 Steps: Tear down those cubicle walls and unleash the genius within for more on collaborative workspaces).

Customizing Work:

  • Putting career paths in the hands of employees, not corporate structures.
  • There are 3 categories: voice, self-organization, and choice. All depend on sharing.
  • Voice: Internal social networks and collaborative platforms allow employees to be heard, share ideas they are working on, find co-collaborators on projects and to explore ideas – work out loud.
  • Self-organization: employees self-organize to work on projects. Employees see what projects are available and select the ones they want to work on. Morgan calls this a “hybrid freelancer environment”. This mirrors the economic trend toward more and more workers becoming freelancers. In this system, managers become obsolete. (See our blogs on the freelance economy: BYOD (+SD) to freelance where and when you want; The new economy of contingent workers – will it work for you?; Hollywood Project model: new work norm?)
  • Choice: employees choose how they want to work such as how many hours, how much traveling, or making lateral moves within the company. This requires a nimble workplace with an investment in custom technology to handle the changes. Currently some companies accommodate employee choice on an annual or semi-annual basis.

Shares Information:

  • Social media platforms have reshaped the way we share, collaborate, and communicate in our personal and work lives. In the future, work sharing will be a sharing of information in many forms.
  • Sharing engenders a greater sense of engagement and empowerment – everyone’s ideas are explored by everyone in the company.

Uses new ways to communicate and collaborate:

  • Email is a secondary form of communication and collaboration.
  • Collaborative platforms replace email as they are more effective and efficient. They can incorporate video conferencing, document housing with the ability for a group to edit and reframe without sending a file back and forth, people profiles to search for those working on similar projects or to find out who is on a project team, and more.
  • Employees use their own digital devices, not a mandated company computer and platform. Working with collaborative platforms means there is no one way or mandated technology.

Can become a leader:

  • Hierarchy dies and there are no longer managers who are supposed to lead, and workers who are followers. Leaders are no longer appointed, but are created by building a following through social platforms, good work, and creative thinking.
  • Employees active in the internal and external social sharing platforms will emerge as leaders. Just as employees will be evaluated by the quality and creativity of their work, leaders will emerge through the quality, reliability, and relevance of the information they share.

Shifts from knowledge worker to learning worker:

  • Knowledge and experience will no longer be primarily valued, but the ability to learn and apply learning in new and unique ways will be.
  • Academic degrees will not be as important to advance your career as more learning opportunities keep developing online, such as MOOCs, informal learning through YouTube, TED talks and other media, and more and more students opt out of the high cost of higher education.
  • Morgan quotes Thomas L. Friedman from his article “Need a Job? Invent it!” in the New York Times on March 30, 2013 : “…The capacity to innovate— the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life— and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge.”

Learning and Teaching at will:

  • Educating and teaching employees will not be the responsibility of HR or managers. Employees will be able to learn from each other, online resources such as YouTube, discussion forums, and Google or Bing searches.
  • Employees will teach each other through these same internal and external collaborative platforms, and giving back to the common good will replace hoarding information to maintain a power edge.

The book goes on to describe the role of new work structures (manager-less workplaces and the freelance economy) and roles for management and organizations in meeting the new workplace changes. These include encouraging employee investment in being self directed, focused, change-oriented, amazing communicators, and do-it-yourself learners.

Whether working in a company, organization, or as a free lancer in the ever widening world of the freelance economy, we all can pay attention to what Jacob Morgan has outlined in the Future of Work to get ready for what is ahead. Spoiler alert: what he predicts is already here.

Given this summary of the employee focus of the book, where are you in being able to perform Morgan’s 7 Principles? What skills do you need to be a future worker? What have you done to learn and teach at will?

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