Most boards and CEOs understand that leadership development is an investment in both the future of the organisation, and its future leaders. What is less understood is the speed at which the future of work is changing: some roles are becoming obsolete while others are being created, and along with this change, the required traits and experiences of our leaders are also changing. Any investment in leadership development needs to fulfil the needs of the business now and in the future.

One of the major shifts will be the structure and size of the workforce. Korn Ferry’s recent report on The Future of Work reveals that firms will rely on smaller core teams playing bigger roles at higher levels. My colleagues at the Korn Ferry Institute have researched this future state and note that the nature of jobs will also change: they will be more fluid than stable, with an even greater emphasis on collaboration and managing complexity. As relationships between jobs become increasingly complicated, job descriptions will become ‘person’ descriptions, influenced more by the talent of the person who fills the role than by traditional business requirements.

Learning agility is likely to trump experience in the jobs of the future. The ability to quickly learn new roles and adapt to changing circumstances will be highly valued. Sourcing and developing this talent will be a core part of the organisation’s growth strategy. For some organisations, their well-established learning and development systems will be unable to meet the growth demands of the business. New models will be required, along with a different approach to understanding ‘what good looks like’.

The future of work will not only have new roles, but new reporting lines. Korn Ferry sees new roles in the ‘inner circle’ created at two levels: one reporting to the board, and the other reporting to the C-suite.

Reporting to board level, we expect to see these leaders:

  • Chief data officer (CDO)
  • Responsible for enterprise-wide governance and deployment of information as a core business asset.

  • Chief information security officer (CISO)
  • Responsible for security of personnel, physical assets, and information in both digital and physical form.

  • Chief experience officer (CXO)
  • Responsible for the overall experience and impact of an organisation’s products and services.

Reporting to the C-suite, we expect to see this talent:

  • Data scientist
  • Responsible, as a strategic rather than support role, for mining data and building models for business forecasting.

  • Digital security master
  • Responsible for ensuring digital security of all organisation assets, including information, physical assets and personnel.

  • Experience marketer
  • Responsible for the overall experience of an organisation’s products and services.

  • Future ready
  • Link roles, strategy.

To source and develop leaders for the future, organisations must first map the talent required to achieve the growth strategy and identify the roles that must be enhanced, created or phased out. Boards and executive teams who succeed are those who understand that the way people work is being altered, not only by technological innovation but also by factors such as population demographics, increased competition and globalisation. The environment organisations thrive in is fast changing, as is the process for developing the best leaders. We do not know everything that the future of work holds, but we do know that it is decidedly human.