There’s a lot of great material being published on the ‘future of work’ – a fascinating subject given the pace of change taking place all around us. Clearly, organisations are facing change at an accelerated rate and struggling to cope and see the way forward.
For example, Deloitte report that ‘companies face a radically changing environment for the workforce, the workplace and the world of work. These shifts are changing almost every aspect of how they lead, support and develop their people.’ It’s technology and the onset of the digital world that are the real issues. There’s no question that things are changing and it’s impacting all of us.
Critically, organisations are struggling to deal with the people impacts presented by the new world of work. The whole fabric that makes up how a successful organisation is structured is shifting enormously.
92% of CEOs in the Deloitte survey said they’re not confident they are organised correctly or have the leadership skills to deal with the changes they are seeing.
Let’s be clear; this isn’t about technology taking over jobs. Experiences in the 1980s and 1990s (for example, the introduction of the laptop into the workplace) suggest that jobs aren’t lost by the introduction of technology. But people’s work changes and they need to learn new skills.
This is the important point. When automation comes, people have to learn to work differently to survive.
So, what’s driving the new world of work?
Here are the key developments that we see:
- Workers are being bombarded by a huge amount of new technology; for example, voice, video, messaging and all forms of communication media. Whilst there’s very little evidence to suggest that these changes are driving up productivity, there’s no doubt they are having massive impact on the way we all work and behave (Deloitte – Americans check their smart phones 8 billion times per day)
- The amount of data that companies are collecting is huge and there are masssive implications for functions such as HR. Indeed, Deloitte estimate that the data collected by organisations in last two-years is nine times greater than previously collected in all of humanity. One in eleven companies now use data to predict staff performance and potential. Also, 15% per cent of companies have data that predicts staff fraud and none compliance. Email communications are now being analysed to show how the pattern of work in one organisation compares to another. Data is even being collected by companies on their employee fitness and health using on body devices such as Fitbits
- The Gig economy is expanding. Gallup estimate that 40% of workers in the US participate in the Gig economy. There is a slow and steady increase in the rise of the contingent worker and the impacts may not all be positive. Research shows that these workers often receive poorer pay and benefits and the rise could drive income inequality
- Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more important. There have been great leaps in the use of AI recently in medicine, agriculture and finance. For example, it’s now possible for an insurance claim to be fully processed end-to-end by a computer seeing a picture of a damaged car and being given the details of the drivers involved. We should all take note as big companies are investing big money in this area. Amazon has 1000 employees working on the Amazon Echo – the voice assisted automated personal assistant – and many other Global companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook and IBM are investing in AI. Big companies making big bets
- Diversity and generational differences are becoming much more important issues in the work place. On diversity, for example, there has been a huge drop in birth rate in Australia, an economy we have been studying recently. The birth rate there is now the lowest since 2001 (‘The Australian’ March 11th 2017). Put simply, economies that expand and grow will become reliant on labour from elsewhere
- Millennials now make up 50% of the workplace. Many articles have been written on how they have different attitudes and outlooks to previous generations. Interestingly, Millennials don’t see diversity as an issue.
Here are our five predictions about the future of work. Remember, the future of work is all about people: it’s not about technology:
- Careers will completely change. Previously employees joined a big brand company for life. This is so far from the truth today and it will be further from the truth in the future. Research by the US Bureau for Labor Statistics predicts that young people of today will have average careers spanning over 60 years. The same research predicts that these people will change jobs seventeen times during their careers (yes, seventeen times). This means that workers will have to constantly reinvent themselves to deal with the new world of work
- Employers will need to make it possible for staff to reinvent themselves. Recent research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that staff will leave their companies if they don’t have the opportunity to learn about new technology and keep up-to-date with digital technologies. Successful companies will facilitate learning – and provide a culture and activities that encourage learning. This will increasingly be seen as part of the ‘employer brand’
- The danger of workers becoming overwhelmed are greater than ever and this will continue. Some 70% of employees say they are ‘overwhelmed’ at work and employee engagement is at low levels (32% actively disengaged). Gallup found that the average US employee doesn’t use five-days of their vacation ever year. The same Gallup survey found that 57% of employees work over 50 hours per week and that 40% of US workers don’t believe it’s possible to have success at work and have a balanced home life. Most people at work are not keeping up. Companies need to understand this and help people deal with it
- Employee engagement, employer brand and culture will become even more important. There is evidence that there is much more investment being made in portraying the employer brand (what it’s like working around here) in the same way as the consumer brand – see for example this video by Starbucks from their careers page. Flooded with new technology and changing jobs, workers are worried and it’s the culture at work that binds them together. 89% of organisations the Deloitte survey rate culture as an urgent issue. This is all about leadership and investing in the ‘softer’ side of the organization
- Finally, organisations will effectively become a network of teams. Teams will be made up of internal and external staff and will be real and virtual. The trend towards team working will drive a major shift in the way the way people think about work. For example, Cisco now plans it’s entire talent strategy based on team working. They found that there are 30,000 active teams in Cisco and team work is emphasised in their careers video. Deloitte doesn’t have an organisation chart – people work in teams. In the future, leaders will need to learn how to coach teams, assess their people by how they work in teams and compensate people based on their contribution as a team member.