The Future of Work Depends on Flexibility and Training

Gary Shapiro

This fall, many white-collar workers returned to the office for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We all know now our time working from home changed how, when and where we work, as well as what we expect from our jobs. 

Many businesses are adapting to this “new normal” to meet the expectations of a changed workforce. Almost all technology companies, for example, now offer a hybrid work model, according to a new study from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). Within this hybrid work mode, 45 percent of technology companies designate teleworking days, with most working remotely two to three times per week while choosing which days they come into the office. Other tech companies, like Amazon, Twitter and Microsoft, offer a fully remote work option for employees based on personal preference, job function or management approval to allow for greater flexibility.

Companies are also making sure their benefits, policies and culture meet emerging needs. More than nine in ten companies say that flexible work arrangements, such as scheduling and remote work, are key for retaining employees. They are also looking at health insurance, incentive compensation, paid time off and retirement plans. If flexible work is the top non-salary benefit employees want, fast-moving companies should take notice.

This shift from working in the office five days a week is accompanied by one of the biggest challenges companies face: finding qualified employees. Right now, 80 percent of technology companies have trouble finding candidates with the right skills and abilities for their open jobs. Specifically, companies need workers with technical skills such as project management, data analytics and engineering. To bridge this gap, technology companies are offering programs like apprenticeships, internships, boot camps and other training workshops to properly equip employees with in-demand skills. 

This week, National Apprenticeship Week, focuses on a solution for companies who need great employees. Training and apprenticeship programs not only address staffing challenges, but also respond to the needs of a rapidly changing workforce. CTA member companies IBM, Bosch, and others have found success with apprenticeships programs. They prepare American workers for careers in fast-growing fields and build new pathways to find talent.

Bosch leveraged an apprenticeship program to fill some of its hundreds of open software engineer positions. Even with challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, Bosch pivoted to launch its apprenticeship program remotely and its first apprentice cohort will graduate to full-time positions during National Apprenticeship Week. More companies need to consider apprenticeship programs nationwide.

The way we work has changed—probably forever. As companies adjust to these changes, they must prioritize flexibility and training to attract and retain talent in a competitive marketplace, while also preparing for the future of work.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) ®, North America’s largest technology trade association, and a New York Times best-selling author. He is the author of the book Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation.