Future of work

The future of work is one of the hottest topics in recent years. Whatever your age, one of the most crucial questions you face is how the future of work will develop and the impact on you and the organisations of which you are a member. As technology develops at an accelerated pace, cognitive abilities and tasks that were once thought to be reserved for humans are increasingly being carried out by machines, causing growing concern about the impact on jobs and the subsequent risks for government, business and people. In addition, globalization, demographics, climate change and geopolitical transformations are already making a significant impact on the work landscape.

The forces at play

Two main forces are at play, when we study the future of work: technological advancements and demographic change. Both of these forces have impacted the way we work, communicate, live and interact with each other.

· Technological trends:

o Artificial intelligence has created an increased demand towards new products and services. At the same time, it has led to the disappearance or reconfiguration of certain occupations.

o Automation has led to an increase in employment in knowledge-intensive, digital and creative sectors and reduced human intervention in production processes.

o The emergence of non-standard’ forms of work, enabled by technology which allows for remote work has led to flexible forms of working and the move of a portion of workforce off-campus. At the same time, it has created a continuous demand for skills.

· Demographic and societal trends

o Increased mobility has created a larger diversity in individual nations, as well as growing shortages of skilled workers in some occupations or regions.

o Ageing and a shrinking workforce has brought changes in profiles of goods and services demanded by an older population. At the same time, it has affected the duration of careers and the labour supply preferences of younger workers.

A mixed workforce and the implications

All of the above, have led to a need to redefine the workforce to include different types of workers, based on the location from which they choose to work from, as well as their relationship with their employer. A Deloitte analysis, clusters workers into four types:

· Traditional workers: a costly option for employers, the traditional workers work on-site, at their place of employment in a relatively homogeneous environment.

· Tenured remote workers: they work off-campus and depend on digital communications. They are usually isolated from the rest of the workforce.

· Outside contractors: this type of workers are usually hired on a project-basis and do not blend with the rest of the workforce, but they may work on-campus.

· Transactional remote workers: like outside contractors, this type of workers are not part of their employer’s workforce. They usually work off-campus and rely on digital communications.

Changing perceptions

Younger generations would prefer to work for little money in a job they love than for lots of money in a job they hate.

Work-life balance

Young generations (such as generations Y and Z), as opposed to baby boomers and generation X are conscious towards work burnout and for this reason they are focused on changing the traditional way of working. But with globalisation and rapid technological advances, boundaries between work and home are blurring and demands on workers and enterprises have never been higher. Generation Y are the first employees to work exclusively in a setting with email instead of fax, social media instead of printed media, and more importantly –mobile. The implication of this ‘mobile world’ however is that the line between work and home has been further blurred.

Purpose-led work

It is also a growing belief that people will want to work with organisations that has purpose. Generations Y and Z want to be inspired and motivated and their job has to mean something to them. The new generation of people coming into the workforce want to work for businesses that are innovative, creative, fun and that are inspiring change. The implication of this is that only organisations with a “reason for being” will be sustainable and successful in the future and attract the next generation of talent. The younger generations feel less of a need to earn lots of money. They would instead work for little money in a job they love than for lots of money in a job they hate. All they want is to earn enough.

A new approach to careers

Changing workforce expectations, the ability to use technology to perform more project / portfolio work and skills shortages in many industries have all transformed the jobs market and the way people approach their careers. This has all brought greater expectations of the ability to move between projects, organisations and roles and a radical shift in the traditional models of attracting and retaining talent.

Lifelong growth

People are constantly curious, and keen to learn and develop their skills and knowledge. Technology has made learning available at the click of a button and that means we need to continue to develop new approaches to developing our people so that they can stay relevant and feel that they are growing. A central question about the future, is whether formal and informal learning structures will evolve to meet the changing needs of people.

The implications for jobs, education, businesses and policy-makers

Reskilling and upskilling strategies will be critical if companies are to find the talent they need and to contribute to socially responsible approaches to the future of work.

· Impact on jobs and skills

o Demand for STEAM skills and cognitive, analytical, and soft skills: Employers won’t be looking for a degree that signifies what a candidate knows: they will be looking for someone who can learn, combine and analyze, problem-solve, create, and adjust.

o Need for competency to understand and anticipate the impact of an intended manipulation or sudden change in architecture or complexity

o Lifelong learning: People will need to learn how to learn and essentially become life-long learners

· Impact on education

o Are students learning how to handle high complexity, and be flexible or are they being fed information and told to memorize?

o Are they developing high social cognition and using cognitive enhancement tools to accomplish complex tasks?

o Are they learning how to make the invisible visible and how to make good decisions using data and analysis?

o Are educational systems structurally ready to re-skill millions of people?

o Are there solutions that don’t cost an arm and a leg and last four years when the industry needs a software engineer who is also a psychologist to create a product that detects the mood of drivers and auto-shuts off the car appropriately?

· Impact on business

o Workforce agility to become top priority: collaboration communities and supportive / inclusive cultures

o Impact of big data on recruitment processes: workforce analytics to forecast hiring needs, recruiting marketing analytics to source candidates, statistically validated staffing assessments to guide hiring decisions and machine learning to predict hiring outcomes.

o Address the cultural issues associated with a blended workforce — recognize the issues that arise when contractors and temporary employees work alongside full-time employees.

· Impact on society and policy-makers

o How do we reconcile social security protections like pensions, unemployment benefits, and medical insurance with more fluid forms of work?

o Individuals should set their sights on longer careers with multiple stages, each involving ongoing training and reskilling.

o Leaders should prepare to redesign work and jobs to take advantage of the growing capabilities of machines and the need to retrain and redeploy people to higher-value and more productive and engaging jobs, working alongside smart machines and many types of workers.

o Public institutions should proactively prepare for educational challenges, including funding for ongoing education, programs to mitigate the transition costs, and updating regulatory frameworks to support new types of work and workers and a more entrepreneurial economy.

As the types of skills needed in the labour market change rapidly, individual workers will have to engage in life-long learning if they are to achieve fulfilling and rewarding careers. For companies, reskilling and upskilling strategies will be critical if they are to find the talent they need and to contribute to socially responsible approaches to the future of work. For policy-makers, reskilling and retraining the existing workforce are essential levers to fuel future economic growth, enhance societal resilience in the face of technological change and pave the way for future-ready education systems for the next generation of workers.

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