Predicting the future of work in 2021 and beyond

No one could’ve predicted the challenges of 2020, and with a new year, comes a new set of challenges. Will a vaccine change the way we’ve learned to live and work? Will companies return to in-person work? And, will customers feel comfortable stepping into your store?

While there will always be unknowns, Salesforce executives believe there are important scenarios and technologies businesses must plan for in their approach to the new year.

Below, some of Salesforce’s global execs outline their predictions for 2021:

Employee experience and customer experience will become inextricably linked — Customer experience has been the topic du jour for the better part of a decade now, but as we shift to an all-digital, work from anywhere world companies are starting to realise they need to prioritise employees just as much as customers.

In fact, according to Forbes Insights, companies that succeed at both employee and customer experience see almost double the revenue growth as those that do not. As a result, processes like onboarding, provisioning devices, wellness, and benefits will see a significantly increased focus in 2021. – Tiffani Bova, global growth evangelist

A more intentional office experience — Absence makes the heart grow fonder. While many employees have welcomed the flexibility that comes with remote work, many are hungry for the collaboration, networking and innovation that comes with going to the office. In 2021, employers have an opportunity to recreate the magic of the workplace.

Gone are the days of a sea of desks — offices will be reimagined as community hubs and places for innovation. We expect offices to become a “one-stop shop” for employees – combining office, retail, and additional services all in one place – as employers seek to create seamless new experiences for their employees, customers, partners, and the community. – Brent Hyder, chief people officer

Delivering in store experiences, virtually — This year, every day felt like Black Friday for retail and consumer goods companies — global digital revenues have grown by 54% year-to-date. Despite the pandemic, customers still want to receive the same, in-store — online.

Companies will use AI to deliver those experiences customers want. Expect to see more virtual try-ons, smarter delivery and pickup options and interactive virtual event marketing. – Adam Blitzer, EVP & GM, Digital

The rise of the appointment-driven economy — In 2021, we’ll see the continued rise of the appointment economy — and it won’t be limited to just restaurants or doctor appointments. Businesses everywhere will embrace appointments (virtual and in-person) as much-needed lifelines to stay afloat — especially as customers seek out safe experiences for a semblance of “return to normal.”

Expect businesses like banks, retail stores, amusement parks, zoos, and much more to usher in a new appointment-driven economy. – Eric Jacobson, VP, Field Service

The rise of bots — In 2020, bots are widely being deployed in customer service apps, but will soon spread to sales management — from connecting with Account Executives after a sales call, to even sitting in for you in a meeting or call when you’re double-booked. Bots should be an integral part of your strategy to support employees in delivering a human touch. – Bruce Richardson, chief enterprise strategist, Market Strategy Group

Business as a platform for change will become the (new) business as usual — This year’s challenges showed the importance of a values-driven culture, one that outlasts a pandemic. As businesses, we are rewriting the corporate narrative with every action we take. Lip service has never been enough but some companies have been able to hide behind it – until now.

The current challenges have cemented the importance of a business’s role in corporate citizenship.

The role of business as a platform for change will no longer be the exception, but the standard, and the work that used to happen on the fringes will become the central source of transformation.

Eventually, there won’t be task forces or special ops for this work, it will simply be (the new) business as usual. – Ebony Beckwith, chief philanthropy officer

Climate change solutions will go mainstream — Climate change is happening before our eyes, with the Arctic burning, wildfires and other natural disasters impacting individuals, communities, and the economy.

As we head into 2021, individuals, governments, and corporations will catalyse global systemic change by going beyond immediate relief to build a more equitable future where everyone has equal access to clean air, water, and energy.

Solutions like technology, trees and teamwork will all play an important role in climate action. Climate change won’t wait, and we all have a responsibility to become more sustainable for now and future generations. – Suzanne DiBianca, chief impact officer

While the future is uncertain, the biggest success stories in 2021 will be the organisations that are nimble, that embrace new technology, all while listening to their stakeholders and honoring their values.

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Predicting the future of work in 2021 and beyond