THE FUTURE OF WORK: TRENDS AND REALITIES

It is noteworthy to mention that discussions on the future of work are not a new phenomenon. In fact, a lot has been said about the future of work in many research works with so many predictions about what the future may look like – workwise. But no matter how long this topic has been discussed it can never be exhaustive. Why? The future will always remain in the future and there will always be new trends that may change the dynamics.

The Covid-19 pandemic for example presented a new reality before each one of us- a reality that some have described as the “new normal”. Individuals and businesses are fast adjusting to the new realities they are faced with as a result of the pandemic. In the first and second months of the year 2020, no one imagined that a city as busy as Lagos will be locked down for days. The reality however is that the lockdown has affected major countries in the world.

The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected business operations and the working arrangement of many organizations around the world with so many of them adopting the remote working arrangement which seems strange to a number of organization especially in Africa. This further necessitates the need for discussions about the future of work.

The future of work according to Deloitte is “the growing adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the workplace, and the expansion of the workforce to include both on- and off-balance-sheet talent.” Obviously there’s no way we can discuss the future of work without the mention of AI which is also described as the; “capacity given by humans to machines to memorize, learn from experience, think, create, speak, judge and make decisions’’.

In today’s world AI is one of the most commonly used terms in many organizations. AI technology is very important to the success of the digital transformations that can be seen in many organizations today as they seek to position themselves as industry leaders while capitalizing on the ever-growing generated data.

Pre-Covid-19, most of us had never used zoom but now it has become normal to have meetings, interviews and other gatherings virtually through Zoom and other related apps like Microsoft team, Connectals etc.

It’s obvious that the future of work involves changes in work, the workforce and the workplace.  There are closely knitted change catalyst impacting these three dimensions of an organization- attention is on perceived or noticeable trends. For example; “with increasing robotics, cognitive, and AI technologies; what work can be done with smart machines? (What work can be automated?). Considering the new talent platforms and contracts there is also the question of “who can do the work?” And with new combinations of collaborative, teaming and digital reality technologies, how are workplaces and work practices reshaping where and when work is done?”

We can safely say that the future of work is designed and regulated by how modern societies progress, stagnate, or regress because of their local or regional economy, or the global economy; at the same time it’s being influenced by forces and trends for the new workplace. The future of work is about how jobs are created, destroyed or the formation of the future working classes. There is a growing fear from many that task automation is moving at a fast pace when compared with  job creation rate which is considered low. Consequently, the number of jobs might fall faster than the global labor force when existing jobs are substituted by automation and other systems operated by artificial intelligence.

McKinsey for example estimated that “automation could replace 45% of activities currently carried out by humans”. It is believed that in the future, humans will spend more time doing the things that machines or robots cannot do; activities such as knowledge application, people management, and communicating with fellow humans. It is also believed that with automation the labor landscape could be unsettled world over with a shift in workplace based learning from less developed countries, less economically developed countries (LEDC), medium-industrialized countries or underdeveloped countries to developed or industrialized countries. As developed countries continue to increase in the rate at which they take advantage of robotics and new innovation and production techniques that requires advanced level of skill, this will result in the reduction of labor costs. Where are you in all these? Are you afraid of losing your job to machines?)

The future of work transcends beyond designing new ways to work and acquiring new workspaces, it goes beyond how AI provides alternatives to already existing jobs and careers.  It’s also about how we can improve new human capabilities, blend them into the workforce, thereby paving way for future organizations designed to meet the needs of businesses and the society at large. There is therefore a heightened need to on the ‘employee experience’. By harnessing AI effectively, organizations are able to discover new ways of evaluating the total employee experience. With Such innovations employee retention could be positively impacted to engender business growth. Organizational leaders need to be more concerned about identifying how to create a more cherished environment where continuous learning and development is engendered.

Organizations should be interested in enhancing and assisting in training their employees to enable them acclimatize to change while instilling in them the culture of continuous learning. It’s also important that organizations begin training future leaders to embrace a leadership style that permits them to not only overcome the challenges of the future of work but to also embrace the need to invest in  developing others for the assurance of teams and organizations success.

 

PREDICTIONS ABOUT FUTURE JOBS

Recently there was a video on social media of king of Bahrain being guarded by a giant robot. What does that tell you about the future of that job (bodyguard)?

According to forecasts by Dell Technologies and Institute for the Future “Eighty-five per cent of jobs in 2030 have not yet been invented”. Also British innovation foundation and University of Oxford future-gazers from the Oxford Martin School reported that “jobs that look set to grow in the face of technology’s encroachment including; teachers, biotech researchers, and nurses”. From the report, skills that were most common among the jobs that had the greatest prospect of growing in the future were identified.

Below are top five desirable future work skills identified in the report:

  • Judgment and decision making: Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Fluency of ideas: The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
  • Active learning: Learning strategies—selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
  • Learning strategies: Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Originality: The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.

 

WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Although we can’t know or predict all the changes that may happen in the future, we are aware that there are some things you and I can do to prepare for the future. Instead of surrendering to the seeming impending calamity that “robots will take over all the jobs,” it is better to maintain a positive outlook believing that humans should get the opportunity to do work that demands their creativity, imagination, social and emotional intelligence, and passion. The best advice is to embrace disruptions.

To prepare adequately for the future, you need to engage in lifelong learning – that way you can easily adapt to changes that may happen. The lifespan for any given skills is reducing, therefore it is imperative to continuously invest in acquiring new skills. The shift to lifelong learning needs to happen immediately because changes are happening rapidly.

You must take responsibility for shaping your career. You need to seize the opportunities that come with pursuing your passion. The possibility to achieve more of your potential as you begin to think of work beyond your salary is open to you.

Organizations need to start doing things differently, they must rethink and rejuvenate their recruitment process. They must ensure new hires possess the skills that are less likely to be automated in the near future, including emotional intelligence, critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills.

Another way organizations will need to adjust operations is to create a structure and culture that engenders lifelong learning and celebrates creativity. It’s time for employers to assess their benefit and incentive programs to ensure they are providing the motivation the next generation of employees will want in order to attract the best talent.

In conclusion, nothing is certain. We must all begin to prepare adequately for a future where robots and other machines become our co-workers. If we don’t begin to embrace and adopt the changes now, it may be difficult to catch up in the near future.

In this article, we have attempted to capture some of the realities in our world today and their impact on the workers, work and the workplace. We have also suggested some strategies that both organizations and individuals can adopt to stay relevant now and in the future. Do you have any challenge preparing your organization and employees for the future? We can help you and your team prepare appropriately, reach out TODAY! –  training@kennediaconsulting.net

This article was written by Williams Amubiaya (Employee Relations Manager) – Kennedia Consulting

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