How Prepared (Really) Is the Middle Strata for AI in the Workplace?

Why the Middle Strata Will Rule the Workplace of the Future

2C59703F-66D9-49A0-B59E-0FED1746F93C

I’ve had a number of readers ask me why my Seeding Change site focuses on training and preparing the middle strata: Program / Project Managers, Change Practitioners, and Mid-Level Leaders. 
 
So, I figure it’s faster to respond via a blog post. 
 
It’s not that we’re exclusive of who can join our Seeding Change community—career professionals are welcome from entry level to seasoned pro. But it makes sense to focus on the areas where my 30+ years practical experience lies, and where I believe the next capability demand will occur in the coming years, especially as automation scales and AI adoption gains traction.  
 
I know both the value that middle strata professionals bring to the table and the pain that they experience in managing the challenges of the “organizational squeeze” or what’s commonly known in the US as between a rock and a hard place. 
 
It’s the middle strata that gets squeezed by leadership teams that demand more output with less budget and resources, squeezed by direct reports, stakeholders, and functional teams who demand time and energy, and squeezed by vendors and suppliers who look to them for day-to-day operational direction.
 
The good news? There’s no such thing as a wasted experience.
 

Triggers and Trends

Let’s look at four areas that will continue to disrupt the workplace in the coming years and that will continue to provide the middle strata with business and career opportunities. 
 

1. Contingent / Freelance Employment

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock during the last decade, you’re well aware of the growing trend of companies replacing benefits-laden employees with contingent workers who provide temporary coverage and contract work to companies. 
 
Freelance workforce growth is accelerating and has outpaced overall US workforce growth by 3x since 2014.
 
There are benefits and risks associated with hiring / working within the gig employment space. Working for yourself does require that you become your own safety net—financially fluid and survivable given that contracts can dry up in a heartbeat and responsible for funding your own upskilling and reskilling in order to keep yourself competitive in the marketplace.
 

2. Demographics

Five generations in the workplace—youth to elder. Perhaps, the definition of aging in place will be redefined in the near future as more elders choose to remain (or relocate to) business clusters where it may be easier to locate part-time or full-time opportunities. 
 
According to a recent AP poll, one in four Americans don’t plan to retire and expect to be working beyond the age of 65. 
 

3. Mergers & Acquisitions

Ongoing industry mergers and acquisitions have created these mega-sized corporations that frequently outsource core functions following an acquisition, which might include Finance & Accounting, IT, Procurement, and HR. This allows the mega corporations to refocus their efforts on strengthening and growing their core businesses. In the process, they’ve created, enhanced and enriched the rise of boutique companies focused on managing M&A back office integration.   
 

4. Advanced Technologies

As companies introduce artificial intelligence and smart machines, while electing to automate more of their day-to-day functions in the next 3-5 years, increasingly it’s the middle strata that will be pressed to implement and integrate the new ways of doing business, while preparing their organizations for the operational changes impacting functions.  
 

Reinventing the Boutique Business

So let’s connect a few dots here. If we look at the four triggers and trends above—economy, demographics, mergers & acquisitions, and advanced technologies—new boutique businesses will sprout up and existing boutiques will reinvent their services to address the evolving needs of the mega corporation. 
 
Although the demand will grow for skilled program/project managers, change practitioners, and mid-level leaders, middle strata professionals will still need to continuously reinvent themselves and pursue revolutionary transformations in order to take advantage of these opportunities. 
 
By focusing our Seeding Change training on the middle strata, we’re better able to prepare the community for the future of work— applying existing skills in new ways while identifying and closing capability gaps. 
 
Consider joining our Seeding Change learning community as we explore during our Skills Development Clinics (SDC’s) how middle strata career professionals can prepare for and position themselves now for the sweet spot opportunities of the future.
 
 
26BF8DF0-EE29-4116-A73E-A14B5A125CDC
 
 

Specialty Track: Learning & Development Talent Excellence 

Unless legally required for compliance purposes, in the coming years we’ll likely see mega corporations getting out of the business of areas typically associated with Talent Management / Human Resources: Recruiting, Staffing, Assessments, End-to-End Training.
 
As the adoption of artificial intelligence gains real traction in the next 3-5 years, end-to-end training will include both humans androbots. All-inclusive or pay-as-you-go cafeteria plans for services that range from apprenticeships and internships to employee and contingent workers would also include smart machines that can hit the ground running on Day 1.
 

Specialty Track: Corporate Entrepreneurship / Intrapreneurship

Areas of focus for this track could include Research & Development Centers, New Product Innovations, Machine Learning Collaborations, and Workflow Automation.
 
The Corporate Entrepreneurship track would require capabilities associated with entrepreneurial thinking and doing—creativity, critical thinking, responsible risktaking, high-impact decision making, complex problem solving and, of course, innovating. 
 
This track could also be where mega companies seek to spin off seed ideas with promise. The boutique track could serve as an early stress test, product development sandbox, and even a product rollout if things pan out. 
 

Specialty Track: Sustainability & New Growth

This particular track would focus on the areas associated with sustaining and maintaining a business from day-to-day operations to process improvements and managing special teams and programs.
 
Succession planning would likely fall within this area, although it could just as easily be included in the E2E training services offered by an L&D Talent Excellence boutique. If handled by the Sustainability / New Growth track,  individuals in this track would still want to partner with the adjacent track in order to ensure that a shared customer would receive seamless delivery of services—a full talent lifecycle.  
 
Ideation for new business products, services and models often come from doing something on a regular basis. Remember when you had your last aha moment after wondering what if I did this or did that. It’s our ongoing curiosity and exploratory nature that helps us to connect dots in new ways. 
 
 

 

Additional Resources

Trends 2019: Adapting the Training Function to the Complexity of Today’s Business Environment
 
 
Why the Onboarding Process and Training Are Not the Same
 
 

Comments