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Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024


During the next decade, Orange County possesses the precious elements necessary to become the brightest economic center in California—leading the state in a post-COVID recovery.

These elements include world-class universities, an excellent healthcare ecosystem, an established set of thriving public and private companies, innovation centers to support startups and entrepreneurial businesses, as well as access to a highly regarded venture capital network.

There is one wildcard, however: the ability to gain and retain exceptional talent. This last element is especially important because human fuel can create the competitive edge.

Last year, the World Economic Forum said that the Fifth Industrial Revolution is already upon us:

“In contrast to trends in the Fourth Revolution toward dehumanization, technology and innovation best practices are being bent back toward the service of humanity. In the Fifth Industrial Revolution, humans and machines will dance together, metaphorically.”

The Fourth Industrial Revolution focused on high-tech while this dawning age is all about high-touch—bringing humanity to the forefront by connecting innovation to purpose, inclusivity, collaboration and flexibility. The business community that prepares for and embraces this talent revolution will lead the pack.

What does that mean in today’s world? What does it specifically mean for Orange County? What impacts from the global pandemic have accelerated this revolution?

Combining the teachings of a COVID-19-impacted workplace with the advent of the Fifth Industrial Revolution, we should no longer talk about the future of work paradigm. Instead, we should be talking about the “Now of Work” because it is already here.

True, it may have arrived with us kicking and screaming, but progress prevails. We should embrace what this talent revolution offers to create a work environment in Orange County that provides the competitive edge to succeed.

The Now of Work: Four Critical Features

1. Virtual & Flexible

Recent research confirms the trend: talent no longer wants to work at 9-5 jobs. This trend is not just about millennials either as even Baby Boomers look for more flexible options. The way we work is changing dramatically. Deloitte’s “2020 Global Human Capital Trends” report highlighted flexibility in schedule, location and workstyle as one of the five critical, positive differentiators for employers of choice.

The pandemic has taught us valuable lessons about what is necessary, what is not, and what is possible. Take, for example, the lessons learned from working parents who have adjusted to extremely nontraditional work patterns to carve time into the day to care for family members, work from home, and teach grade-school children. Or consider the workstyle changes for the newest generation of workers who are working remotely from parents’ homes, RVs, newly rented beach houses in this country and beyond.

Few individuals today miss the long commutes, business travel or business attire. People prefer taking a walk outside while on a business call, sitting down for family dinners and preparing for fantasy football with friends while working from a common location. Knowledge workers overwhelmingly state a preference for a hybrid approach to workstyle in a post-COVID recovery. By continuing to embrace technology and being purposeful about in-person collaboration opportunities, we can achieve the best of both worlds while keeping communication, productivity and culture strong.

For example, Glaukos Corp.—a San Clemente-based ophthalmology treatment company—is already embracing the Now of Work as up to 80% of its employees are working remotely.

2. Borderless

Another trend toward virtual work is the adoption of more creative recruitment practices where location matters less than vocation. The ability to recruit outside the company’s immediate geographic vicinity can open entirely new channels of exceptional talent. Think about the new “Zoom Towns” growing in California in nontraditional locations like Truckee and Mendocino. If full-time, on-site delivery is no longer required, recruitment networks can expand far and wide to connect to sought-after talent choosing to live outside urban sprawl. The ability to build diverse teams from alternative locations can also align with the needs of a distributed customer base to improve user experience.

3. Human First

Bringing humanity back to the forefront—ala the Fifth Industrial Revolution—also means aligning community and corporate performance. Long championed by BlackRock Inc. CEO Lawrence Fink the concept of profit with purpose has only strengthened in 2020. As he put it last year: “Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them.”

Accelerated by the health crisis of COVID-19 and the groundswell of support to end systemic racism, purpose matters more than ever to the workforce of today and tomorrow. Talent will migrate to those employers who chose to galvanize their organizations by doing good—and doing well.

4. Blended

An essential priority of the post-COVID recovery will be organizational agility and nimbleness. The most competitive, successful companies in the world like Google, McKesson and Unilever have embraced different talent engagement models to deliver exceptional outcomes.

Staffing Institute Analysts projects that 30%-50% of the corporate workforce will be classified as “contingent or flexible” by 2025—including gig workers, outsourced providers, temporary talent or robotics.

Innovative companies in Orange County need to prepare for these shifts by reframing the purpose of the human resources organization into a world-class talent function developing core processes for the fair and ethical treatment of alternative providers with strong management and communication frameworks. These professionals should be building a talent supply chain for their organizations with purposeful alternative engagement models to deliver greater impact.

Orange County can and should embrace the Now of Work—now. OC can be the benchmark for the rest of the state. By respecting the shifts accelerating in this Fifth Industrial Revolution, we can be the business community in California with the most sought after and innovative human fuel.

Editor’s Note: Kate Duchene is CEO of Resources Global Professionals (Nasdaq: RGP), an Irvine-based global consulting firm whose clients include 89 of the Fortune 100 members. It has 3,600 employees and generated $703.4 million in revenue in fiscal 2020. Duchene is on the boards of the UCI Foundation, Collectors Universe, and the Orange County Community Foundation.

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