Working the Future 1


Working the future can be taken two ways, it can mean you taking the future by the scruff of the neck and making it work FOR YOU or alternatively it can mean what the future of work is going to be like. And increasingly, given the unprecedented rate of change affecting work in the future and the uncertainty this creates, you need to be proactive. Armed with future intelligence (FQ) about the way work is going to be, you can anticipate trends, turn them to advantage and make them work for you.


End of permanent and pensionable jobs

Robotics & AI replacing jobs

Three stage view of working life is outdated (education/ work / retirement)

Rapid change demands retraining and reskilling

So what about the future of work? Permanent and pensionable jobs are melting away as changes such as contract work, outsourcing, freelancing, gig economics (this is where specific tasks are farmed out in the short term to specialists) and zero hours, become more common.

Increased longevity may be a bonus, but as life expectancy stretches employers are no longer prepared to finance occupational pensions for their former employees for ongoing decades. Senior staff may be encouraged to retire early to make way for younger, cheaper employees and the rapid rate of change can mean that skills acquired a decade or two previously will quickly become outdated.  

The march of technology means that automation and robotics are already replacing jobs. For instance, employment in banking has shrunk due to electronic banking, ATMs, apps, mobile phone banking, while checkout staff in supermarkets are being replaced by scanners and driverless vehicles are already making their first trips on our streets.

While executives like those surveyed recently by the Irish branch of KPMG (an international co-operative of auditors) may be optimistic that automation and robotics will actually create more jobs, it’s an optimism based on the idea that automation creates greater prosperity which in turn leads to a greater demand for goods and services creating more jobs. Fresh ideas to deal with the increasingly flexible nature of work seem to be coming from innovators rather than established industry.

Look at initiatives like those introduced by WeWork, now in 25 countries around the world, the organisation provides a community office environment where start up entrepreneurs and freelancers can co-work and hot-desk. It’s the kind of environment which provides support and useful contacts, and WeWork claims that 50 % of their members are doing business together (never mind other activities … like having a drink together at the inhouse bar or attending community events.)

But traditional enterprises, where managing change is cited as a vital ingredient for survival, need to be innovative too. In future employers will need to offer better training, more opportunities to retrain and more flexible work practices. In other words, as the World Development Report puts it, there is a need to invest in human capital and it seems that employees will need to demand that investment for themselves – if you don’t ask you don’t get.

The 2019 World Development Report goes on, “In addition to investments in human capital, the changing nature of work demands updates to social protection systems. Traditional provisions of social protection based on steady wage employment, clear definitions of employers and employees, as well as a fixed point of retirement have become increasingly obsolete. Improved private sector policies to encourage start-up activity and competition can also help countries to compete in the digital age.”