Managing the Future of Work - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Managing the Future of Work

Course Number 1677

Professor William R. Kerr
Associate Professor Christopher Stanton
Spring; Q3Q4; 3 credits
28 sessions

Career Focus and Educational Objectives

The nature and scope of work is rapidly changing, creating massive business and political challenges. HBS launched a major initiative in 2017 on Managing the Future of Work to define these workplace issues and highlight their implications for business leaders.

This EC course brings the initiative’s major ideas to life for contemplation and debate. The course covers the perspectives of business, policy, and workforce development institutions in advanced economies. The material is necessarily broad in nature, with a modest edge given to implications for business leadership in larger corporations (i.e., what can Apple or Siemens do?).

The course focuses on actions business leaders can take. Embedded in the approach is the assumption is that tackling these complex workplace issues will require new competencies for business leaders, including working in close collaboration with policy leaders, educators, and labor leaders.

This course is a great fit for students who want to be a part of the initiative as it explores what lies ahead for work and how businesses can seek better for themselves individually and for society.

Course grades will be based on class participation (50%) and an exam (50%). The class will be co-taught by Chris Stanton and Bill Kerr.

Course Content and Objectives

The course covers the following core topics (class counts are approximate):

  • The workplace of future: The first ten sessions consider major technological trends that are reshaping the workplace. Prominent attention is given to automation/digitization, artificial intelligence, robotics, and augmented reality/virtual reality.
  • The “gig” and “care” economies: Four sessions evaluate the recent increase in gig/contractor work and new workplace arrangements towards the increasing care responsibilities born by employees (young children, aging/elderly parents, etc.)
  • Human capital of the future: Four sessions tackle the middle-skills gap, evaluating the approaches to better match critical workers with employer needs (e.g., apprenticeship models), assess and evaluate employees, and define the “durable” skills of tomorrow. These sessions consider firm, industry, educator and regional perspectives.
  • Global talent access: Two sessions evaluate how businesses, especially those outside of major talent clusters, connect with and effectively utilize the extremely mobile global talent that is vital for work today. Examples include satellite facilities, virtual headquarters, and cross-border teams and staffing strategies.
  • Inequality and spatial pressures: Four sessions consider the increasing economic inequality in society, both within major talent clusters themselves and also across regions. Classes consider factors leading to the rise in disparity, potential policy responses like universal basic income, and the role of labor and labor institutions for the future.
  • A few sessions are reserved for student presentations of their own work and ventures towards Managing the Future of Work and/or external guest panels.

Class sessions include case studies, primers that lay out the core issues on topics, and playbook reports designed for business and policy leaders. Class guests are frequent.