The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the working lives of people around the globe, accelerating the transition into the Future of Work. Yet many questions remain unanswered, and many more are emerging as people gradually return to the office. UZH’s «Leadership in the Future of Work» Summer School invited 47 students from around the globe to tackle these questions and shape a human-centered Future of Work. As this is the first time this course has been conducted, we provide a deeper insight.
Research conducted by the University of Zurich Center for Leadership in the Future of Work (UZH CLFW) suggests that leveraging human qualities alongside technological superiority will be a driving factor of success in the decades ahead. «But with the recent emphasis on empathetic leadership brought about by the pandemic, many leaders have also realized that placing people and their emotional experiences at the center is easier said than done», says Prof. Dr. Jochen Menges, director of UZH CLFW and course director of the Summer School. «Now more than ever, future people leaders need to be equipped with advanced knowledge on the human aspects of the Future of Work – and that’s why we created the Summer School for students from across the globe, preparing them today for tomorrow’s challenges.»
The Summer School ran over three weeks in July, in a fully virtual format. Forty-seven students of eighteen different nationalities embarked on a virtual journey to explore the Future of Work. UZH lecturers were joined by peers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Peking University, University College London and the Geneva Graduate Institute, bringing in a genuinely global perspective. «What COVID should allow us to do is to realize what uncertainty is versus risk, to understand what constitutes a complex system versus a complicated one. We are still very much in a risk mindset, not in an uncertainty mindset», explained Prof Cedric Dupont of the Graduate Institute.
World-class practitioners located in Switzerland, Austria, South-Africa, the U.K. and the U.S. also contributed valuable knowledge from the frontline. Alain Dehaze, CEO of The Adecco Group, shared inspiring insights gained through his leadership journey. «With the rise of hybrid working, managing a remote team requires a new type of leader», he explained. «One of the key skills required will be emotional intelligence, in being able to connect with, and motivate people, in a virtual way.» In a subsequent session, Dr. Nakeema Stefflbauer, CEO of Frauenloop, remarked that «leaders who fare best are leaders who treat technology neither as the solution nor as the decider, but rather as a tool to address the pain points of human lives.»
The balanced mix of instruction and hands-on exercises successfully equipped students with the knowledge and skills to better understand, prepare for, and ultimately shape the Future of Work. In collaboration with others, students developed concrete plans as to how they will bring about change. Equipped with solid storytelling skills, they presented their compelling visions in a Grand Finale held on July 23rd. «We envision a world in which we recognize and support each other’s minds», shared students Fabienne Allenspach, Tobias Ilg, Stephanie Schuth, James Smith, and Charlotte Wright, introducing the novel idea of a collective contribution to mental health. Yenly He, Milena Lapsinka, Eugene Ong, David Thomasian, and Mirac Yilmaz proposed to leverage technology to reinforce mindful working. Several action plans outlined concrete milestones for greater gender and disability inclusion, including in a remote working environment.
Reflecting on the students` learning journey over the three weeks, Dr. Inez v. Weitershausen, head of learning and outreach of UZH CLFW and summer school course instructor said: «I was deeply inspired by the many human-centered solutions proposed. These students have truly started to shape, rather than merely await, the Future of Work and I look forward to seeing what they will be doing next.»
About the UZH Center for Leadership in the Future of Work