Lessons Learned From FUTURE.WORKS Conference

Lessons Learned From FUTURE.WORKS Conference

I recently attended Future.Works conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

It was a good opportunity to learn about the current trends and needs of the local Tech job market in Portugal, see how it differs from what I know of the IT arena in Israel, and open up to new opportunities.

As an L&D professional with a kink for learning, I was particularly curious about the aspects of Reskilling (acquiring skills to take on new and different roles) and Upskilling (adding a skill set within a role) in the digital age.

So here are three ideas I took away from this conference: 

1. Remote work is here to stay

 In his keynote talk, Liam Martin distinguished between Remote-First and Remote-Forced companies. 

Remote-First are those companies for which remote work is in their DNA. They thrive in an asynchronous environment, giving their employees the freedom and autonomy to work from wherever they want, whenever they want. These are companies like WordPress, Shopify, and CoinBase, to name a few.

Remote-Forced companies, on the other hand, were forced to adopt a remote work environment and struggled to adapt to new ways of remote management. They keep the traditional synchronous rituals of office work, such as the daily standups and the glorified all-hands meetings. Once the Covid restrictions were gone, management insisted on calling their employees back to the offices.


Martin made a compelling case for the benefits of remote management practices on employee productivity, well-being, transparency, and inclusiveness. Remote First management practices, says Martin, will have a substantial competitive advantage in the market.

Remote work is much more than just a fad. On that, I can agree. But I wouldn’t be so quick to throw office work out the window. Maintaining company culture, cross-team collaboration, mentorship, and emotional support can only exist synchronously. Management should respect that employees tend to be happier and more productive when given the autonomy to manage their time, save precious time on daily commutes and spare themselves from unproductive office politics.  There’s a fine balance to be made.


2. "Work" is Redefined in the Digital Age

According to work futurist Andrew Spence, technology and innovation enabled the creation of a decentralized workforce and invented new ways of working. In fact, six out of ten people today do not hold a “formal job, that is, people with a formal employment contract with a company. 

Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see “Work” in all shapes and sizes – Playborers for example, are people who mix play and labor. Think of the 12-year-old kid playing video games from his bedroom, making big bucks along the way. Oh, and then there are the Solopreneurs, the Digital nomads, and the side hustlers that join the Multi-Billion dollar gig economy on platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, and Uber.

Employees have more opportunities to seek alternatives to traditional nine-to-six jobs, learn new skills and pursue multiple career paths that align with their values and lifestyle. On the other hand, employers can tap into a global talent pool, which allows them to establish on-demand teams of talent, be lean and agile when hiring full-time employees, and compete for global talent.

Andrew Spence's Keynote Speak - A Future Without Jobs

3. The competition for talent is global

Employers are struggling to hire talent locally. In the past few years, Lisbon has rapidly grown and established itself as an attractive Tech hub for ex-pats, digital nomads, and entrepreneurs, and for good reasons. Sunny weather, good food, low cost of living (it’s all relative), and friendly culture, to name a few.

With so much talent around, why do so many companies struggle to hire and grow?

Many factors come into play. Some argue that the local bureaucracy makes the hiring process slow and cumbersome. Others say it’s the uncompetitive salaries that Portuguese companies can afford to give. Whatever the case, it is pretty clear that this is an employee market we see here. The competition has become global, and companies need to adapt quickly and think of creative ways to obtain and retain talent to stay in the game.

Experts Forum - International Hiring

To summarize, the future of work looks exciting. The ability to adapt quickly to the market reality, and pick up valuable new skills is more important now than ever. If I were to choose one word that captured what I learned, I would choose “Adaptation.”

What would be yours?

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