The Future of Work – The Humanization of Work Design (Trend #4)

Five Trends Changing the Nature of Work

The world is changing again – and it is simultaneously driving several trends changing the nature of work, our workforce, and our economy. These five trends are:

Taken together, these trends speak to a working environment quite different from any time in our past, and one which only some companies are preparing themselves for today.

The Humanization of Work Design

This pace of Industry disruption and the rise of Industry 4.0 technologies is having an unusual effect on work design. As they respond to future challenges, organizations are discovering they must first focus on designing the human dimension of work. [i]

A 2020 Accenture article tees up the challenge nicely.

Fundamental shifts in the business landscape are driving the need for a different approach to today’s strategy. The foremost shift is the pace of disruption today. The impact of new technologies, disruptive new business models, and the need to continuously innovate makes it hard for business leaders to determine how to optimize their financial, technology, and talent resources and investments. Secondly, increasingly changing customer expectations have forced businesses to up their game when it comes to how they interact with customers. Businesses are no longer being compared only to direct competitors but to all other customer-facing businesses. Finally, the impact of dwindling trust has emerged as a growing concern as more customers demand increased transparency from businesses…. The answer lies in something new: combining a design-led approach, which is naturally rooted in human-centricity, with their strategy—deeply rooted in data and analytics. This blend of human and business is a powerful combination, with 89 percent of leaders acknowledging the value of this balanced approach. [ii]

This trend is happening across the entire organization, from marketing to information technology (IT), strategy to customer service, and everywhere in between. Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends refers to it as “super jobs” and explains how the design of work is shifting.

Removing routine work [through automation] actually makes jobs more human, enabling the role and contribution of people in work to rise in importance and value. The value of automation and AI… lies not in the ability to replace human labor with machines but in augmenting the workforce and enabling human work to be reframed in terms of problem-solving and the ability to create new knowledge… jobs are evolving to require new combinations of human skills and capabilities. This creates the need for organizations to redesign jobs—along with their business and work processes… These new types of jobs, which go under a variety of names — “manager,” “designer,” “architect,” or “analyst”… bring together technical skills and data analysis with “soft” skills in areas such as communication, service, and collaboration…the result can be significant improvements in customer service, output, and productivity. The shift from the redesign of jobs to the recoding of work itself —integrating machines and humans in the flow of work and creating meaningful roles for people… [is] not just rewriting job descriptions, but rather starting with a broader canvas and composing the work so it can take advantage of machines, workers in alternative work arrangements, and—most importantly—unique human capabilities such as imagination, curiosity, self-development, and empathy. [iii]

For learning teams, this trend is driving a new focus on the design and evaluation of learning and performance solutions, which has instructional designers including design thinking and employee experience principles in their adult learning theory.

Learning Experience Design (LXD)

Over the past five years, a new field has been emerging into the learning profession. Learning Experience Design (LXD) is an interdisciplinary field that draws from instructional design, neuroscience, human-centered design, design thinking, environmental design, branding strategy, storytelling, and social learning. Heralded by Josh Bersin in 2016, “I believe most HR teams will stop designing “programs” and start designing “experiences.” [iv] His Bersin associates expanded, “For many L&D departments, creating great programs—and then facilitating and delivering those programs—[was] always the main focus. Increasingly, however, these tasks represent only a portion of L&D’s purpose within the organization. Changing the focus from creating and delivering content to enabling learning empowers the organization and takes advantage of additional resources… considering the entire employee experience rather than only the experience provided by one course or interaction… helping employees recognize how learning that happens in the day-to-day course of their work.” [v]

In the classroom, learning experience designers consider everything that affects the learner ‘in-the-moment’ from how they learn about and sign for learning experiences to the impact learning environments have on learner behavior to how the learners’ emotional states during class (boredom, fear of looking foolish, engagement, etc.) impact their learning. In the workplace, LXDs consider how developmental staffing assignments, project choices, and networking relationships inside and outside the company provide and shape career development. In the digital realm, they consider how to deliver the best customized, curated support resources in the flow of work and how participation in virtual learning communities and cohorts can support employee development over time. It is a holistic approach to talent development that is experience-centered, goal-oriented, and design-focused.


  • Holistic – meaning it is not just focused on knowledge, skills, and abilities but on everything that affects learning, including education, experiences, and exposures. It looks at all forms of development, from professional, career, and workforce development, to performance improvement and change adjustment. It looks at classroom experiences, digital experiences, work experiences, and outside work experiences.
  • Experience-centered – meaning a) human-centered – not technology-centered or focused on cognitive development alone, but focused on social, emotional, and environmental factors; and b) learner-centered – focused on what the learner is taking in, not on the content or what the instructor is delivering.
  • Goal-oriented – meaning focused on doing something relevant and motivating to the learner which has practical application to both the individual’s and organization’s performance, whether it is in a classroom, work team, online, or outside the company.
  • Design-focused – meaning it is a form of applied art and allows for individual and subjective interpretation. It employs structured creative processes, which include user-centered analysis, research, ideation, experimentation, prototyping, iterative design, and user testing to methodically build the user experience into every aspect of development, delivery, and evaluation. [vi]

End Notes

[i]        Friedman, Craig W. “The Humanization of Work: Building an Organization Around your People” Marquette Human Capital ©2020. 21 pgs.

[ii]       Bill Theofilou. “Adding a human-centered approach to business.” January 20, 2020. Accenture Strategy Research Report. Human-Centered Approach to Business | Accenture

[iii]      E. Volini, J. Schwartz, I. Roy, B. Denny, Y. Van Derme, M. Hauptmann, J. Bersin “From Jobs to Superjobs” 2019 Global Human Capital Trends: Leading the social enterprise: Reinvent with a human focus. p. 28. Deloitte Insights 2019.

[iv]      Bersin, Josh. “Predictions for 2017: Everything is becoming Digital”, Bersin by Deloitte. 2016.

[v]       Janet Clarey & Dani Johnson. “Capabilities for Invisible L&D,” Bersin by Deloitte, 2017. Dani Johnson. “Invisible L&D” Bersin by Deloitte. 2016. 

[vi]      Weigel, Margaret; “Learning Experience Design vs. User Experience: Moving From “User” to “Learner.” Six Red Marbles. | April 2, 2015.; “What is Learning Experience design” What is learning experience design? – Learning Experience Design (