The future of work – what we do, where we do it and how we do it – is being driven by technological breakthroughs in areas such as robotics, AI, automation and virtual reality, to mention just a few, plus social change. The pace of change and adoption of different mindsets to new tech and its impact on working methods accelerated during the Covid lockdowns. Many companies were forced to finally enter the 21st century. The implications are immense and wide reaching. Automation will be so impactful that it is projected to cause the loss of about 73 million jobs before 2030 in the US alone. These key drivers are fundamentally changing how every industry operates, the skills and thus the education that will be needed, and how personal performance will be assessed and improved. Here are 7 trends in the future of work.
Changes in Educational Approaches and the Need to Attend College
The structure of much of the world’s education systems has hardly changed since the 1800’s. Many education systems around the world are based on the U.S. General Education Board system designed in the early 1900’s and funded by industrialists including John D. Rockefeller. They formulated an education process to prepare us to be “good” workers for them. The brighter students receive further education to prepare them for white collar clerical, managerial and professional positions. The less academically gifted students leave the classrooms earlier to take up trade apprenticeships, or long-term “brown collar” manual or menial work.
The social fabric cohesiveness that holds societies together, and made this style of education appropriate, is wearing thin. Many post-graduate students find themselves saddled with massive debt after studying a course that hasn’t helped their employment prospects. Long-term employment is pretty much a thing of the past as the pace of technological change is making many jobs obsolete faster than in the past. At the same time, the middle class aspiration of home ownership is fading. In the UK the average cost of a typical home is now 7.1 times average earnings, the highest ever level. The same has happened across Europe and the US. How much could dwindling hopes of home ownership be contributing to The Great Resignation?
The education of the future will focus on developing people more personally, emphasizing their specific talents and capabilities. Both soft and hard skills will prove to be highly important in the coming years. There is a continued emergence of other education models which could eradicate the need for so many people to attend college. For instance, the P-TECH education model, partially run by IBM, gives associate’s degrees to high school students. Apprenticeships are seeing a resurgence as a way of preparing people for the job market.
In this context, every future job seeker should take their time to decide on their choice of future and if they really want to attend college. Will full time college courses lasting several years remain the norm? Or will we see an emergence of degrees (or equivalents) achieved through a number of shorter courses, taken at various different places and across a longer period of time, broken up by periods of work? Immutable educational records held on blockchain could verify every person’s attainments and achievements throughout their whole lives.
A Shift Towards More Localized Training
Ending the need for many students to relocate for three years or more to attend centralized educational establishments, and ever-improving online education techniques, would allow more flexibility.
Future employees coming from different communities, or even countries, are unlikely to have exactly the same interests. Educational centers, and companies providing further training for employees, would be able to customize their training approaches to a more local understanding and improve the overall experience of each employee. Such decentralization is a move that will optimize capabilities and improve productivity as well as drive more satisfaction within the workplace.
Career Development and Job Shifting
The huge shift towards a more technological approach to work requires employers to acquire and deploy greater soft skills, and employees will need to acquire greater technical skills. Having a combination of these skills will broaden anyone’s ability to collaborate, solve workplace problems creatively, and become more self-aware. The acquisition of new skills will take place throughout anyone’s entire working life, rather than in a single compressed college/university course or apprenticeship straight after school.
Another future of work trend is job shifting. More and more people will have to change their methods of seeking work to increase the chances of joining a company that not only meets their educational prowess , but also their natural talents (such as creativity, or manual dexterity) and interests.
The Gen Z that will command the future of work will want an ideal life-work balance and tangible career development opportunities. They also know that the job space will be equally demanding in terms of preferred skills. Some are increasingly inclined towards equipping themselves with more directly relevant vocational skills than studying academic courses on topics that interest them. These employees will be willing to try other education models.
Automation and Job Losses
Automation is the focus of various future of work trends. Robots can flip burgers, shake cocktails, find consignments in warehouses without taking breaks, and help nurses get patients in and out of bed and fetch supplies. Another good example is the delivery space, where companies are looking to make “final mile” deliveries via drones or AI-driven vehicles.
Professionals will be disrupted too. Robots can perform surgery, fly aircraft, and analyse legal documents far faster than humans.
While such shifts could cause worry among people in any of these job categories, experts are working to ensure that people walk hand in hand with technological transformation. This means that training for such jobs will intensify to ensure that people interested in taking them up remain both relevant and confident as they work alongside their automated colleagues.
Keep in mind that technology will mark the end of some jobs, but also bring about the emergence of others.
The Trend of Working From Home
The arrival of Covid-19 accelerated dispersed workforces working from home. Since then, the need for a flexible working environment has been on the rise. Some companies have resumed their offices, while others choose tokeep people working from home, or introduce a hybrid blend. Against this background of greater flexibility of where to work, here are some of the main reasons that cause employees to seek other jobs:
- The need for a flexible working plan
- Search for better benefits
- Desire for a sound support system
- Search for a clear-cut way for career development
Employers will have to find a way to satisfy these needs, even if it means optimizing efficiency around working from home.
The Growth of Freelancing
The US currently has about 59 million freelancers, and this could reach about 87 million by 2027.
Freelancing gives professionals an opportunity to decide how many hours they want to work, and for which and how many organizations. Working for multiple employers can bring more income, accelerate the acquisition of expertise and often achieve fast track career development. This is certainly true for “white-hat hackers” who handle tasks for the crowdsourced cybersecurity firms including Bugcrowd, Intigriti and Synack. Cybersecurity is a big issue, particularly when remote workers access company systems through domestic broadband connections.
Other reasons why freelancing is on a rapid rise include:
- The technology to do so is accessible and affordable.
- Instead of hiring more fulltime employees, many employers are increasingly preferring to outsource at times when work intensifies.
- It provides freedom and independence to decide on personal work routines, working schedule, preferred tools for working, negotiate rates, take breaks, and more
- Freelancing cuts costs for both parties. Employers pay only for projects completed, not staff downtime in the workplace. Similarly, freelancers save on commuting and office clothes.
- Less mobile people, due to disability or caring for a dependant, can join the workforce.
- Losing the need to be physically present expands the potential pool of people an employer can consider.
Personalization of Support and Employer/Employee Balance
The pandemic opened many eyes, leading to a better understanding of the real meanings of employee support systems and life-work balance. Everyone should work together to ensure no group is left behind by technological evolution. This means advancing areas such as skills development and coming up with better support systems for workers.
Employers are already investing in modern HR tech, and using advanced data analytics to create and continually adjust strategies. Conveniently enough, the need for personalized support has led to the growth of companies that help firms transition into this kind of employee experience. 2Interact, for example, focuses on cutting-edge staffing technology, social security and benefits, all geared towards creating a personalized support system for employees.
Automated payment service providers such as Tipalti ensure accurate and on-time payments to dispersed employees and freelancers alike, in different currencies and according to different tax regimes, if required.
However, with less rigid workplace hierarchies and structures, there is greater scope for misunderstandings over where responsibilities lie for training on new technology, and acquisition of other skills. This needs the creation of acceptable protocols and cultures in the workplace (with the “workplace” extended to include freelancers’ and remote workers’ homes?), ideally with inclusive processes to decide them. Learning curves should ideally be more personalized to ensure employers don’t miss out on huge talents due to small issues within their organization.
The future of work trends continue to evolve and suggest a huge transformation of both work and education. Technology is obviously a cornerstone of the future of work, but human force will be as well. The most important part is for educational resources (including in the workplace) to evolve hand in hand with technology so that people’s relevance continues. The employers ought to personalize the experience of different employees in order to ensure everyone’s satisfaction in the workplace.
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