The term “The Golden Age” is usually associate with a time when some aspect of human endeavour flourishes.

The Golden Age of Hollywood which spanned the 1930s to the 1960s saw movie studios create iconic films and film-stars. The 15th and 16th Centuries are considered the golden age of art, literature and philosophy in Europe because of the explosion of creativity and scholarship. In Japan the 8th and 9th centuries are considered A Golden Age because so many of the icons of Japanese culture were birthed during this time.

Why then do I pose this question? Could we be entering the Golden Age of Work?

As we come out of the pandemic it is clear that our relationship with work has shifted. How we work; why we work; where we work; what we expect from work.

New models of work are emerging which embrace purpose, meaning, creativity, well-being, autonomy, flexibility, sustainability – replacing the industrial model where people were treated more like automatons. Employees are being seen less as ‘resources’ that must conform to rigid role descriptions within rigid organisational structures and more as whole humans who have depth and range of talent, ideas, emotions, experiences and aspirations with which they can make unique contributions to the organisation. The worker-employer relationship is being redefined.

As a result of the new hybrid models, life and work flow around each other with less arbitrary separation from each other (as if they are opposing forces rather than in flow). We see workplace performance becoming correlated to joy and happiness. Wise leaders are calling out the folly of short-term revenue or productivity gains at the expense of long-term business health, success and relevance.  These leaders are recognising and welcoming their new role as talent curators, people developers and community builders.

The proliferation of technology within the workplace is ironically liberating humanity within the workplace. Organisations have discovered that investing in technology does not result in workplace productivity and innovation without a commensurate investment in people.

A New Model of Work

All this is leading to a model of work that:

  • Places the employee at the centre
  • Invites talented people to live and work with purpose
  • Shape their roles in ways that makes their job more meaningful for them

Workers are endorsing this new model through trends such as The Great Resignation. They are speaking with their feet and walking away from organisations that do not value them enough to facilitate their growth and development or give them more autonomy over HOW and WHERE they work. Organisations that don’t create a great employee experience will lose their best talent. This in turn can potentially pose real risks to the resilience and future relevance of the organisation. That means that investing in people has become a business-critical activity.

These trends suggest that we are heading into an age where employees are likely to experience higher levels of satisfaction, autonomy, purpose, joy, fulfillment which in turn can lead to higher levels of productivity for the organisation.

We are still on the cusp of this great transition. Whether these emergent patterns become normalised remains to be seen. If they do, we could be in for a Golden Age of work where people flourish within organisations – which in turn leads to increased productivity, creativity and innovation for those organisations. We could call that the ‘Golden Circle’ – the self-perpetuating loop that elevates and benefits everyone.