Today’s workforce is changing dramatically. In the United States, demographic shifts have created tremendous opportunities for employers to leverage the rich and diverse population to seed innovation and productivity in their organizations; however, at times employers are slow to embrace change. There is an urgent need to develop organizational capacity and appropriately value a diverse and balanced workplace.

Millennials are entering the workforce with skill sets that are different from the baby boomers who have led the organization for decades. For example, younger workers communicate through their technological expertise, yet they are accustomed to receiving frequent feedback on their job performance from managers. Those same managers are not as tech savvy and expect their employees to have the critical thinking skills to solve problems on their own. These starkly different skill sets threaten to limit innovation and decrease productivity in the workplace by limiting two-way communication.

Technology and a global economy are changing the way organizations approach their definition of a work environment. Today’s employees can work in teams, complete training and socialize with colleagues around the work from their home office. Organizations must develop innovative methods for maintaining their organizational culture and developing workforce capacity while simultaneously taking advantage of the innovative workplace thinking.

Workforce development at the societal level contemplates the policy initiatives that expand the opportunity to work. The workplace is more than an opportunity to acquire economic means to sustain life. It provides a place for socialization, belonging, and self-actualization. For many communities such as the homeless or veterans returning from war, work is a challenge. Our society needs to continue to seek solutions for underserved populations through policies and research to expand our reach to those who are less fortunate.

For the near future, our society must engage in long term education planning to grow a 21st Century Workforce. Society must embrace the notion of education as a lifelong endeavor that requires strategic planning on the part of higher education institutions, employers, as well as local, state and national governments. The WELL Center serves as a nexus through which these stakeholders will collaborate to inform the Workforce of Future. The Center works with students in the Anderson College of Business to create experiential learning opportunities that will have a global impact. We work with stakeholders in the for-profit, government and nonprofit sectors to create workforce development opportunities throughout the Front Range and to impact policies across the United States.