Let’s discuss matters arising out of the changing nature of work and the workforce as we explore the impact of technology, automation and global disruption on the job market, and examine the challenges and opportunities that these changes present for workers, businesses and society as a whole. I will also be providing you with insights into the skills and knowledge that will be required for jobs of the future, and offer suggestions as to how individuals, organisations and governments can prepare for these changes. Are you interested in understanding the future of work and its implications for our economy and society?
Are there matters arising out of the future of work conversation? Can we find solutions that benefit everyone, and not just a privileged few? Should the focus about the future of work discourse just be on technology or people or both? Will the changes we talk about eventually affect real people, with real lives and real needs? Is this whole discourse some far-off concept, or it’s something that’s happening right now? As always, there are more questions than answers.
The future of work is a complex and complicated issue, with many different perspectives on what we are or are not doing right about it. Some people opine that we are not paying enough attention to the impact of technology and automation on the workforce, while others believe we are not doing enough to address issues such as income inequality, job insecurity and the need for life-long learning. The gender pay-gap, for instance, is still trending – wherein equal work isn’t equating with equal pay. Other studies suggest that others argue we are not adequately preparing workers for jobs of the future, or addressing the challenges posed by the gig economy and rise of remote work.
One common criticism is that dialogue about the future of work often focuses too much on technology and not enough on people. While advances in artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies are certainly transforming the nature of work, it is important to remember that these changes will ultimately affect real people, with real lives and real needs. We need to ensure that our discussions about the future of work take into account the human impact of these changes, and focus on finding solutions that benefit everyone – not just a privileged few.
Another issue is that our discourse about the future of work often lacks a sense of urgency. While many people recognise that changes are imminent, there is a tendency to view these changes as something that will happen in the distant future rather than something that is already happening and affecting people’s lives today. We need to recognise that the future of work is not some far-off concept but something that is happening right now, and we need to take action to address the challenges it poses.
With no empirical research using just observation, how many years are the average workers spending working with organisations these days compared to before? Flexibility and innovation is affecting a number of these – think of conferencing, mass recruitment management among just a few other examples. Think about it. Though the change may be slow-paced, it will still happen as per research.
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 inspiring change. Not sure what this communicates to you yet? Pause, smile and activate your thinking faculties.
When we talk about the gig economy, we talk about the growing trend of short-term, freelance and contract work, which in the end poses several challenges for workers, businesses and society as a whole per research. Gig workers often lack the job security and stability of traditional employees. They may not have guaranteed hours or income, and their work can be unpredictable and subject to sudden changes.
Gig workers are often classified as independent contractors rather than employees, which means they may not be eligible for benefits such as health insurance, paid time-off, or retirement plans. Gig workers may not be covered by labour laws that protect traditional employees – such as minimum wage laws or the right to form a union, and may have difficulty accessing credit or loans due to their irregular income and lack of traditional employment documentation. The gig economy also poses challenges for businesses, as they may struggle to find and retain skilled gig workers, and may face increased competition from other businesses using gig workers.
The Job Loss and Gain is real
The future of work is quickly changing due to technological advancements, automation and global disruption – offering quick adjustments to global economies and introducing new careers to meet changing needs of the workforce. We now have the likes of Sustainability Specialists, Artificial Intelligence Specialists, Data Scientists, Cybersecurity Specialists and VAR (virtual and augmented reality) Designers and many more.
As companies become more focused on sustainability in order to reduce their environmental impact and carbon footprint, there is a growing demand for sustainability specialists who can help companies implement sustainable practices. Others also increasingly rely on data to make decisions; there is a growing demand for data analysts and scientists who can collect, analyse and interpret big data. Improvements in artificial intelligence and machine learning are creating new opportunities for specialists in these fields, who can develop and implement AI systems to improve business processes and decision-making.
Then, as businesses become more reliant on technology, there is a growing need for cyber-security experts who can protect against cyber threats and ensure the security of sensitive data. Virtual and augmented reality technologies are creating new opportunities for designers who can create immersive experiences for entertainment, education and training. As the job market continues to change, it’s likely that we will see the emergence of many more new professions in the coming years as a result of the global disruption caused by the future of work.
Workers in repetitive jobs must be thinking of alternative careers due to the ‘future of work’ discourse. The future of repetitive jobs is uncertain, as advances in technology and automation are making it possible for machines to perform many tasks that were previously done by humans. This has the potential to displace workers in repetitive jobs; such as assembly line work, data entry and routine administrative tasks. Study shows that automation is not likely to eliminate all repetitive jobs. Instead, it may change the nature of these jobs – requiring workers to take on new responsibilities and learn new skills. What do you do when you need to be changed for that job but have not developed that new skill set? Refer to my previous write-up on skills development to learn more.
In addition, there is likely to be a continued demand for human workers in many industries, particularly those that require creativity, critical-thinking and interpersonal skills. While machines may be able to perform repetitive tasks more efficiently than humans, they are not yet capable of repeating the complex reasoning and emotional abilities of human beings. I have been supporting with caregiving for some time now, and it’s interesting how the intelligent human brain can navigate complex life issues.
Out of experience most caregivers are able to always offer alternative lifesaving options which most machines and robots can’t perform. Programmed Caregiving robots will have limitations in these areas. As a typical example, 21st century skill sets will be in high demand – including how to programme these robots correctly to perform the right tasks. Remember, when we code and programme garbage, these robots will produce same. Garbage in, garbage out theory at play here.
5 Strategic Principles to Adopt & 2 Major Issues to Address
Getting workers ready for jobs of the future is a complex and multifaceted challenge that will require a concerted effort from all to help. We must adopt these 5 principles to support their journey.
- Address income inequality: As the job market changes there is a risk that income inequality may increase, with some workers benefiting from new opportunities while others are left behind. Governments can address this by implementing policies that promote fair wages, job security and access to benefits.
- Invest in education and training: Investing in education and training programmes that provide workers with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in jobs of the future is crucial. This includes not only technical skills but also soft skills, such as communication, collaboration and problem-solving.
- Promote lifelong learning: As the job market continues to evolve, it’s important for workers to continue learning and adapting throughout their careers. Governments and businesses can promote life-long learning by providing access to training and development opportunities, and by creating a culture that values continuous learning.
- Support career transitions: As new jobs are created and old jobs become obsolete, workers may need to transition into new careers. Governments and businesses can support these transitions by providing access to career counselling, retraining programmes and financial support.
- Foster entrepreneurship and innovation: Encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation can help create new jobs and industries, providing workers with new opportunities for employment. Governments can foster entrepreneurship by providing access to funding, mentorship and other resources, while businesses can support innovation by investing in research and development.
To support the change more fully, we ought to address these 2 major issues:
- Improving working conditions & providing legal protections: Some businesses and organisations are taking steps to improve working conditions for gig workers; such as providing more stable hours and income, and ensuring that workers have a safe and healthy work environment. Governments ought to introduce new laws and regulations to provide gig workers with greater legal protection; such as minimum wage laws, the right to form a union, and access to benefits which appear to be missing for now – a serious matter arising.
- Supporting career development & promotion of fair treatment: Some organisations are providing gig workers with access to training and development opportunities, to help them build their skills and advance in their careers. But l think we must also work to promote fair treatment for gig workers by enforcing labour laws, investigating complaints of mistreatment, and promoting best practices for the gig economy.
If we don’t make the future of work fair for everyone, there could be several potential consequences which lead to increased inequality and discrimination in the workplace – as well as loss of talent and diversity in the workforce. The fairness can happen only by design. It must be on purpose and be a calculated and well thought-through strategic approach.
There are many different perspectives on what we are not doing right about the future of work discourse. To address these challenges, we need to focus on people – not just technology; recognise the urgency of the situation; engage in open and honest discussions about the challenges we face; and work together on finding solutions that benefit everyone. Addressing these challenges will require a concerted effort from policymakers, businesses and workers to ensure that the gig economy provides fair and sustainable opportunities for all.
Baptista outlines in her writing current trends and changes to the future of work, the workforce and work itself. She is the CEO of FoReal HR Services and author of the new book – Prepare for the Future of Work. Building a team of efficient & effective workforce is her business. Affecting lives is her calling! She is a Hybrid Professional, HR Generalist, public speaker, researcher and a prolific writer. You can reach her via e-mail on [email protected] or follow this conversation on social media pages; @Sarahtistagh. Call or WhatsApp: +233(0)262213313. Follow the hashtag #theFutureofWorkCapsules #FoWC