The Future of Work Capsules: The future of work. Are we prepared for the change?

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How would work be for us all in the future? What will be the future role of our businesses in Ghana? What do you think could be some of the ways in which talents could be attracted by businesses in the future? Is Ghana prepared for the change?

 

One of the newest topics since 2017 leaving plenty of room for deliberation from various expects is on what impact automation technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will have on jobs, skills, and wages in the future. It appears the future of work leaves us with more questions than answers. 

We’re having an interesting time in our history due to the concept of the future of work. This tête-à-tête comes up in almost every conversation whether with professionals, entrepreneurs, students, workers, CEO’s, and or policymakers. It’s the topic of the day. And typically, when this topic comes up, there are three or four issues embedded within it.

First is on the impact artificial intelligence and automation will have on work and jobs, and weather Ghana will have enough work and jobs left?  Secondly, the changing models for work and work structure, involving around independent work, the gig economy, and what people sometimes refer to as fissure work—whether people work as outsourced services or not.  Which of these kinds of evolved work models are going to become the future, and would people work effectively and sustainability earning living wages with enough support—in that kind of world or with more varied type of work as put forward by James Manyika, chairman and director of the McKinsey Global Institute.

Since the start of my career I’ve witnessed considerable changes in the way we work and how we manage our people. I’ve been lucky to work and experience some very different and contrasting industries, but I’ve generally found that whatever the nature of a business or organization, they are rarely immune to change.

And change is happening faster than ever, right across the globe: environmental pressures, population growth, massive advancements in technology, and significant shifts in the demographic of the workforce to name just a few. In step with these, people’s aspirations and desires for their work are also changing. Of course, this presents challenges, but many organizations also see it as a wonderful opportunity to create positive change and to start to build purpose-driven organizations that priorities people and planet alongside profit as put forward by Anna Gowdridge , Virgin Unite’s Head of People in the B -Team report.

The future of work suggests incomparable prospects, as well as substantial challenges. Globalization, technological progress and demographic change are having a thoughtful influence on society and labour markets. It is critical that strategies and policies are map up to help workers and society at large to manage the transition with the least possible disruption, while maximizing the potential benefits thereof.

There are new technologies emerging in our time and age contributing to helping us do our jobs much more efficiently and effectively now than before. For now, most workers are finding work to do through many online platforms which hitherto was not the case. Most organizations are getting mindful of the climate change discourse and are doing away with paper applications as much as possible. We are caring for the environment and as such do print only documents we really need printed during meetings, interviews, events and at other gatherings while soft-copy documents are heavily been circulated and used. Most job advertisements demand applicants to apply through an e-mail or online portal as against massive paper documents few years back.

We are learning great and better ways of collaborating with colleagues and families across the globe in new ways of doing things as these benefits are shared and enjoyed by everybody across the globe.  These new ways of doing things is causing many to experience some negative effects of growing inequality in wages, opportunities and risks. These are worrying trends of what the ideal future of work looks like leaving room already for unresolved challenges and fear. The answer to our identified challenges and fear the future of work poses to the economy lays with our perspective and the lens at which we peruse the subject matter on the future of work and possible steps we take to address the future from today.

In seeking and contributing to a positive future of work, we looking forward to considering the future of workers or the future of work. What do we mean when we talk about the future of work? Are we not already working into the future? Is work not expected to be a continuous process? These remind me of my basic accounting 101 lessons on business concepts and conventions. The “going concern concept’ have it that businesses must operate indefinitely into the future and make plans for it. The going assumption states that businesses should be treated as if they will continue to operate indefinitely or at least long enough to accomplish their objectives. In other words, the going concern concept assumes that businesses will have a long life and not close or be sold in the immediate future. Companies that are expected to continue are said to be a going concern. Hence the future of work addresses the future of work itself and that of workers as well.

Our perspectives and ideas about work and fostering solution-oriented conversations across sectors and countries will help us manage our expectations and fears of what the future of work holds for all of us. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), together we can build a better world of work for all through collaborative efforts.

In Ghana this collaborative effort is demonstrated already by the telecommunication, financial and service sectors just to mention but a few. We are in the digital age in Ghana and this is a welcoming news. Hitherto, most activities and transactions were conducted manually including but not limited to banking, payment for goods and services including, purchases of mobile credit for voice and data bundle use, payment for services such as Ghana Water, Electricity power, sewage collection, ticket for events amongst others. Seeking the services of, for instance the Ghana Registrar General’s department to register a business was a very herculean task then. With digitization coming our way most of our systems have been improved promoting efficiency and effectiveness to work systems and transactions across board. Massive technological advancement is shaping the way we work now and for the future. But is Ghana ready and prepared for this wholistic change?

Mobile money payments interoperability has been a huge success for us in Ghana. The Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS), the Telecos and financial institutions have ensured that mobile money platforms were interoperable to make banking services more accessible to the large unbanked population estimated to be 70% by the World Bank. Interoperability is the ability for customers to undertake money transfer between two accounts at different mobile money companies. This has enhanced transfer of money between mobile money accounts and bank accounts very successful and now customers can move money from their bank accounts to mobile money accounts as well. Ghana now has a financial transactions engine that is multipurpose, efficient and robust.  Our next focus will be for Ghana to venture into cross border arena, to enhance an effective and efficient payment system to support sub-regional and intra Africa trade especially now that Ghana will host the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) secretariat in Accra.

The mobile phone is offering competitive advantage in our time. With just a mobile phone, a Ghanaian depending on the model and functionality is able to operate his/her office from the comfort of the palm anywhere. We manage our office work on the mobile phone using it as a desktop computer or laptop, as an information gateway system as most news breaks first on our phones through various social media portals before hitting our television screens as news headlines. Most mobile phones are used for checking and sending emails, processing (word), formulation (excel), presentation (power-point) and archival (scanning and record keeping) functions. All these are supporting workers to working remotely now which hitherto wasn’t the case.

Working in the future will mean a mastery use of these and many more work-related equipment digitized to offer efficiency and work effectiveness. But will this affect the way we work in Ghana. Yes, people’s desire for work and work processes and systems will change. Let me tell you how; most businesses work the standard eight (8) hours commencing at 8:00am and closing at 5:00pm offering one-hour break for lunch. Going forward, employees will demand more freedom and opportunities. The focus may be shifting from an employer market to an employee-focused market. Interestingly enough, that change may be slow-paced but will happen as per research.

This freedom and opportunity will promote the employee well-being. The employee well-being will drive engagement helping to manage individual, team and organizational performance, meaning and purpose, well designed jobs and an enabling environment. The engagement will assist manage stress issues as many can work remotely, cut down on long hours work as the rush hour traffic could be avoided amongst others. The concept of a permanent job may not exist anymore as many employees may prefer working on several projects and on contract with several employers at varied times for their income. That being said the future of work will address the future of leadership.

The future of leadership will see employees being given far more freedom and opportunity. The days of successful leaders being overly controlling are numbered as new ways of working means flexibility and empowerment will become central to businesses large and small”. It’s interesting to note from the B-Team report that the future of work will offer five things we can learn from.

  1. Working with an organisation with purpose
  2. Expectation of lifelong growth
  3. Management of the ‘always on’ culture caused by technology
  4. Need for ‘Hybrid leaders’ in high demand.
  5. The concept of a job for life won’t exist. 
  • People will want to work with an organisation that has purpose. As Tim Brown (CEO and President of IDEO) observes, only organisations with a “reason for being” will be sustainable and successful in the future and attract the next generation of talent. This is because the new generation of people coming into the workforce want to work for businesses that are innovative, creative, fun and that are inspiring change. Not sure what this communicates to you yet?. Pause and smile and activate your thinking lenses.
  • People will expect 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.

 

  • We will have to help manage the ‘always on’ culture caused by technology– its interesting to note that at Virgin Unite, amongst other things, unlimited leave has been already introduced, which support personal development goals. That is not all; the Virgin Pulse programme is in place as well to help support employees to sustain their own health and wellness. Maternity leave duration offers direct benefit to the family, the organization and subsequently the nation. Currently the Ghana Labour Act 200, Act 651 article 57 clauses number one to nine spells out the maternity leave provisions in the law and offers at least three months (twelve weeks) maternity leave for Ghanaian employees with full pay in addition to the person’s annual leave. The World Health Organization (WHO, 2003) has recommended among other things that mothers exclusively breastfeed their new born babies up until six months on breast milk only; a recommendation which can be attained with greater support from government, employers and family. This policy directive can only be effective in Ghana when a policy change is considered to reflect this change.

 

Interestingly enough, although the country’s statutory laws propose three months maternity leave, in contrast, the World Health Organisation and medical experts call for six months exclusive breastfeeding for the new born to enhance good health and prevent future health related diseases. Conversely, how do we juxtapose Ghana’s legislative provision of three months leave duration to the proposed and globally accepted six months exclusive breast feeding?  It appears we envisage a future where we applaud policy makers for building bigger hospitals and not wholistic centers to support us nurture and promote healthy living. The fact remains that once these health facilities are built, the facilities need to work. These facilities will need sick Ghanaians to patronize their services. These sick Ghanaian may include our families, co-workers and friends. Think about it.

  • ‘Hybrid leaders’ will be in demand.Hybrid leaders are leaders who can work collaboratively across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors and use business solutions to tackle the world’s social and environmental problems. According to the B-Team report, the Unite team includes former consultants, lawyers, accountants, public servants and entrepreneurs, all of whom add diverse and innovative ideas and approaches to the mix. The new year just commenced and barely two months old, perhaps this article may offer some perspective for your consideration in constituting your team for the year and beyond. Remember change is the only constant.
  • The concept of a job for life won’t exist. Changing workforce expectations, the ability to use technology to perform more project or 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. Therefore, the concept of a job for life won’t exist. Do you agree? What do you think?

 

Not having a job for life prompted my curiosity to research for skills needed in the workplace for the future. According to the B-Team report, people with a novel and adoptive thinking, cross cultural competency, new media literacy, design mindset, sense making skills amongst others will drive innovation and the top tier skills will be in very high demand. New media ecology, rise of smart machines and systems, extreme longevity, computational world et al.

 

As a country, it’s imperative we prepare. This preparation should excite and involve the government, the business leaders, the entrepreneurs, students, families and churches. Let’s not perceive these conversations taking place in policy and business circles as been too early for us. Let’s all be forward looking as most policymakers have commenced the rethinking and restructuring process and the engagement fora to consider the right ways to approach the future of work as a people.

 

As Ghanaians, we need to start preparing for choices, have an embracing conversation as a people, face up to the transitions and challenges we envisage. In subsequent features, we will be discussing the subject matter in relation to how these will impact our educational system, government and the way civil servants work in Ghana, the banking sector, the law profession, medicine, TVET and other professions in Ghana. You can join the discussion. Let’s hear from you. Hashtag #theFutureofWorkCapsules, #FoWC.

 

Baptista is a human resource professional with a broad generalist background. She is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and SHRM Forum Ghana. Building a team of efficient & effective workforce is her business. Affecting lives is her calling!  She is an HR Generalist, strategic planner, innovative, professional connector and a motivator. You can reach her via e-mail on [email protected]  You can follow this conversation on Linked-In: Baptista Sarah Gebu and on twitter @SarahTista.  Call or WhatsApp: +233(0)262213313. Follow the hashtag #theFutureofWorkCapsules #FoWC

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