You don’t have to be a people scientist to know that good ideas often spark more good ideas. That’s the reason for this roundup of bright, timely thinking from HR industry leaders who recently gathered for Forward, a LinkedIn Live event on the future of work. 

Those who missed the livestream can check out 3 Key Insights on the LinkedIn Talent Blog and watch the full program. Keep reading here for eight big “what ifs” to get your creative juices flowing, alongside inspiring words from the HR leaders who brought the ideas to life.

And if these notions aren’t enough to ignite your energy and optimism, consider this extra boost: One of the event’s speakers, LinkedIn’s Chief Economist Karin Kimbrough, has examined LinkedIn data and sees pandemic clouds starting to clear. “The recovery is underway,” Karin says. “There is a hunt for talent. We’re seeing hiring rates accelerate even in some of the industries that have had a hard time.” 

Here are the eight brainstorms to capture that momentum and propel your organization onward.

1. What if competitors could work together to create more economic opportunity?

“COVID has wiped out whole industries and skill sets, with more significant impact on women and people of color,” says Lauren Gardner, corporate VP of global talent acquisition at Microsoft. “If we manage this company by company, we’ll get there very slowly. 

“But if we can galvanize and work together to rebuild skill sets, we could make a significant difference around the world, addressing issues of underemployment, and giving more people the opportunity to compete for fantastic jobs and competitive wages.”

2. What if we could redefine career growth to build richer, more flexible skills? 

“For a long time, career growth meant upwards mobility and getting promoted,” says Jonathan Reyes, director of talent acquisition operations at Uber. “Now we’re talking about what it means to develop your skill set and grow as an individual from a lateral perspective, an experiential perspective, and a formal learning perspective. 

“So we’re really mixing those three things up. Being proactive about the skills we’re going to need as an organization is really important.” 

3. What if capability could be more important than experience to spark more inclusive hiring? 

“When you’re looking to hire someone, let’s hire for capability,” says Ramcess Jean-Louis, global chief diversity, equity & inclusion officer at Verizon Media. “Let’s not necessarily hire for linear experience. Let’s not necessarily hire because this person happened to have a similar title working at another large tech organization.”

4. What if the world could speak the same language about skills?

“At LinkedIn we’re trying to create a common language around skills,” says Karin from LinkedIn. “We’ve created something called a skills taxonomy. This is the idea that we’re all going to talk about skills using the same terms no matter what language we speak or what industry we’re in. 

“So we’ve created this taxonomy to get that conversation going, to create a little bit of understanding for both the talent that wants to upskill and the recruiters who are looking for that skilled talent.”

5. What if work flexibility could be a lasting silver lining of the pandemic?

“I see 30 to 50% less office space in our offices across the world,” says Leena Nair, CHRO at Unilever. “I see office space being reconstructed for more collaboration, with productivity and focus zones more at home. 

“We all have different needs, different roles, different lifestyle choices. So one size doesn’t fit all. It would be the tragedy of our times if, after COVID, we all go back to doing exactly what we did for 100 years before.”

6. What if more leaders could learn how to tune in to well-being?

“Not all leaders are fully equipped to recognize when someone is burning out or stressed or experiencing something even deeper and stronger,” says Amy Freshman, senior director of global workplace enablement – HR at ADP.

“As organizations, we should be thinking about what we can do to better enable our leaders to turn their antennae up just a little bit more than what was there before, asking: ‘How are you doing? Is there anything I can do for you? How’s the family?’ ” 

7. What if productivity could take a back seat to other important outcomes?

“We’re trying to think more about the whole person and the impact on their whole life, not just the productivity of the company,” says Dom Price, work futurist at Atlassian. “How do we build team cohesion and social connection in a distributed world? And then how do we get people to bring their best selves to work in that remote, distributed, hybrid environment? 

“We do that by measuring effective teams. We do that when the team forms, as they evolve, and as they become higher performing. This is very different from, ‘Were you productive today? Did you move those five things? Did you turn a widget out?’ “

8. What if more people could ask more questions about the systems of work?

“We all have a sphere of control to change things,” says Laura Long, VP of national equity, inclusion, and diversity at Kaiser Permanente. “The systems piece is so important. Otherwise we’re going to sell a disco ball, and when folks come in and they see that disco ball is empty, they’re probably going to leave.

“It’s important that we really start interrogating our systems and making sure that acquisition, onboarding, talent development, leadership development, performance management, all of that is not having disparate impact on certain populations. Once we start interrogating those systems, we’re going to have better outcomes and better culture.”

Final Thoughts: A few more ideas about experimentation and skills 

Many people have already said it many different ways: COVID-19 accelerated big changes that were already underway in the world of work. “I don’t think we were particularly ready for the experiment [of the pandemic],” Dom says with deadpan understatement. “But, interestingly, I think the only way we can build the new future is to experiment. Experimentation is going to become the superpower of leaders in this modern time.”

Because experimentation benefits from flexibility, it’s helpful to have a worldwide wealth of adaptable and relevant skills. Unfortunately, trends are heading in the wrong direction. “Skills gaps are increasing with the speed of technology,” Karin says. “These gaps are transforming our economy and showing up in more and more places and occupations.”

Which is a good transition back to idea No. 1: what if we could all work together to bring maximum creativity to create economic opportunity? 

For more ideas and resources about the new world of work, visit the Glint Resource Center.