When the future of work is mentioned, most people tend to think about robotics or artificial intelligence; that it’s a concept that may or may not impact them in five to ten years’ time. But, the Future of Work, accelerated by the pandemic, is already here and is actually touching everything from changing business models and processes to how we are developing as a society.
Many organisations are talking about transformation where automation and digitalisation will drive changes in current jobs, transforming the way we work. It instills a sense of vulnerability in some sectors where there is a fear that robots will take over the jobs and tasks that workers have been doing. The reality is organisations need to understand how humans and technololgy will work together in the future.
But, we are not necessarily talking about a radical transformation. It’s more an evolution of the society in which we live and work. In fact, what we’re experiencing now is the fourth industrial revolution and is driving the change in how we live, interact with each other and how we work. The acceleration in technology is not just impacting how we work but is influencing society as a whole and how we engage with society. Rather than talking about the Future of Work, we’re really talking about the evolution of work.
If we look at how this evolution is impacting on how we work, there are some significant changes that we need to be cognisant of.
Before the pandemic, we were already seeing a trend in people looking to work with purpose-led organisations; business with a genuine societal conscience. This has been accelerated during the pandemic. As humans, we want to make the right decisions for ourselves, our family and society and we want to work for and engage with organisations that have the same vision.
New jobs and skills
Automation, digitalisation and changes in traditional business models are effecting existing job roles and skills of our workforce. We will see the development of new jobs and roles and, at the same time, other roles will disappear or change in the way they we’ve come to recognise them. For us to be succcessful as a society, and not simply a workforce, we must be prepared for the change that is underway, build awareness for the change and create opportunities for development.
New war for talent
The evolution of work is creating a war for talent as organisations try to attract the critical skills needed for the new roles. The skills gap between what employers are and will be looking for and what is available on the market is getting bigger. At the same time, in many sectors, employees are experiencing growing competition for work. The impact of this is a potential growth of inequalities in society; a smaller proportion of the workforce getting richer, while the majority of workers struggling to keep up with developments.
Diversification of working conditions
Since 2019, there are five generations in the workforce; something we’ve never seen before. There is also a more culturally diverse workforce with varying needs and life situations, all of which is putting pressure on the individualisation of working conditions – our relation with work and work-life balance has changed. The rise of the gig economy really highlights this change as well as the increase in remote and hybrid working models. This has also led to conversations about our physical working environment and the future role of the traditional office.
Evolution of collective leadership
The current hierarchical organisational structures, invented in the 1900s, are outdated. Workers want responsibility, they want to have the trust, autonomy and space to make decisions. And as a result, we will see, and organisations need to see, a growth in creativity and innovation. It is time that we updated ourselves to the new circumstances and evolution in society and work.
What’s next for organisations?
One of the valuable lessons the current global health crisis has taught us is that we must be resilient and adaptable, as humans and as businesses. There needs to be an increased flexibility and agility to help us adapt to new situations and prepare for inevitable change.
Alongside the named trends above, there are other key influencing trends that all organisations needs to take into account. Whilst there is still uncertainty about the economy and what the future of work will bring – there is certainty that the world of work has changed, will continue to change and those organisations who do not embrace it, will be left behind.
Patricia Fors, Lead Consultant, Future of Work, Adare Human Resource Management