What is the future of work?
There’s been an animated debate about the effect of technology and economic and social trends in shaping future work. To understand these changes, let’s look at the converging patterns, trends, and the consequences of which will affect nearly everyone.
How is the workforce changing today?
In any career, people have proved to work better when they have more choice over the way they collaborate and work. Workplaces with flexibility give people a basic sense of control over their schedule and work environment. Employees who have flexibility over these two factors usually perform better, are likely to be innovative, and have more job satisfaction.
Employees in this era of work increasingly depend on technology to achieve better levels of productivity, whether it’s using online platforms as a substitution for a physical workplace, or using video conferences for the convenience of virtual collaboration. In a world where nearly every working adult owns a technological device, the digital workplace is emerging as a necessity.
Demands for automation in the workplace are increasing day by day. Automation is eradicating the need for repetitive labor. Employees may now focus on more important tasks like designing products and interpreting data. In the future, employers will seek a workforce that can adapt quickly to rapid technological changes, and learn new skills accordingly.
Why is there a shift in the workplace?
Technology in the workplace has helped workers become more efficient and productive than ever before. The impact of technology on work, such as communication, has exponentially increased the speed of production at which work and business occur. There has also been a cultural change in what employees want from a workplace, and remote work has expedited it accordingly. Remote work has further made room for teleworking and freelancing.
In addition to the sudden shift in working from home, the pandemic has impacted many other aspects of work. Fundamental changes have occurred in a lot of different industries, and new opportunities have arisen in others. Many social, economic, and psychological challenges have risen such as economic inequality, loneliness, and mental burnout.
As organizations become leaner and cheaper with remote and freelance work, workers will need to upskill. A remote workforce will create fierce competition for employment. Employees entering the workforce in the future have a higher probability of learning dynamic and competing skill sets. Companies are more likely to hire agile, versatile workers who are willing to learn and unlearn.
Younger generations have strongly vocalized their desire to make an impact with their work, or for it to be meaningful. They also want to work for organizations that have strong values similar to theirs. They also gravitate towards an organizational culture that facilitates employee happiness. Studies have shown that younger adults prefer work that they enjoy and that is cultural over a higher salary, and many applicants don’t even apply to companies unless their values align with their own. This has led to a scenario where employees have a small amount of decision-making power over their employers.
What are the various trends affecting the future of work?
Today, many professionals have the opportunity to work from wherever they feel most productive, easily eluding the pressures and challenges of going to a physical workplace. The expansion of remote work all over the world has also inspired innovative companies to create easy and convenient coworking spaces, where employees who work remotely from a multitude of different industries can work beside each other.
In essence, a hybrid working model combines traditional practices with virtual and modern technological ones. It can be a combination of employees who work in a physical workplace, while the rest work remotely. Another combination can also be making employees work at the organization’s office a few times a week, and complete the rest of their working hours at home. With the lack of direct supervision, employers have had to start trusting their employees more. This flexibility and independence allow employees to maximize their skills and creativity.
The Gig Economy
The gig economy consists of people creating their career path through freelance and contract work; where individuals are paid per gig, instead of being full-time employees for an organization. The gig economy has made it easy for people to take charge of their lives at work, giving them the freedom to complete their tasks however they’d like. This aspect can be particularly lucrative for creative or skilled professionals, who work best in comfortable environments. Gig workers are incented based on their ability to deliver outcomes and not the process of delivering them, unlike traditional work. This enables them to tap into their natural abilities of creative thinking and self-reliance.
The Sharing Economy
The sharing economy allows people to exchange tangible and intangible assets with one another on a large scale. These exchanges often eradicate the need for traditional employment arrangements; such as lending and borrowing money without going through a bank, the advantage being a lower interest rate, and also crowdfunding for a company or organization. Since exchanging resources is now easy to do, the sharing economy has created a convenient and efficient system.
Individualism vs Collectivism:
Within an individualistic culture, the focus lies on the individual employee and their specific needs. Individualistic culture puts emphasis on personal goals, self-expression, and autonomy. Employee ideas and initiatives are crucial to businesses.
Here, authoritative lines are blurred and undefined to encourage a less restrictive organizational structure. Expressiveness and uniqueness are encouraged as a means to generate a flow of thought to the next big idea, potentially making the organization push ahead of its competition.
Collectivism places value on the group as a whole and encourages employees to sacrifice and contribute to the group even at the expense of the individual. Thus, employees of this workforce are quite interdependent. Decision-making is through group consensus, and there is a constant emphasis on the importance of the group’s needs. Consequently, individual decision-making is mostly discouraged, and employees are vigorously taught that harmony is the main goal to achieve for each employee.
Employees in this world are encouraged to pick up views and values beneficial to the groups’, ignoring their own if they are different from what the group requires. Management clearly defines power hierarchies and gives positive reinforcements to those who display cohesive attitudes.
To get the best of both worlds, what can be enforced instead is a balance of individualism and collectivism in an organization. One such way is to adopt the value of teamwork from collectivism while also encouraging individual creativity in each employee. In essence, consider a culture that takes care of both the individuals and the group.
The Four Worlds Of Work
The world is undergoing a fundamental transformation in the way we work. AI is impacting the skills that organizations are looking for in their workforce. As a result, the discussion has postulated four possible worlds of work in the future: Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow.
The Red World
- The main focus of the red world is on speed and innovation.
- Their priority is to develop and launch products as fast as possible.
- Technology will allow the connection of the best brains and ideas across the world. Collaborations happen in real-time and on-demand.
- There will exist a large requirement for nimble, adaptive talent, a need for employees who are comfortable shifting to new opportunities and adapting to changing trends.
The Blue World:
- Capitalist perspectives drive the blue world.
- Technology will either replace or redefine existing jobs and careers. Fresh and creative talent will be in demand.
- Employers will secure a core group of skilled professionals with a high reward system. The rest of the workforce will be employees with flexible talent and skills employed as and when they’re needed.
The Green World
- The prime focus of the green world is societal and corporate responsibility.
- Employees are drawn to organizations because they believe in its values and mission.
- Technology will ensure there is a minimal detrimental impact on the environment and society, as well as enhance the scarce resources the businesses own.
- Employees in this world seek to enjoy flexible hours and are encouraged to participate in socially beneficial projects and schemes.
The Yellow World
- The yellow world focuses on smaller, under-the-radar organizations and how they bring like-minded people together to execute their craft.
- Technology will enable people with ideas and aspirations to start their own businesses, with convenient and modern methods.
- In this world, fairness in the distribution of wealth, resources, and privilege is stressed strongly.
- Workers find flexibility, autonomy, and fulfillment in working for organizations with a strong social and ethical record.
What is digital leadership?
Digital leadership is the strategic use of an organization’s digital assets and capabilities to lead digital transformation both effectively and affectively.
A business’s value increases by using the latest relevant technologies in its product or service. Investors are more likely to invest in a digitally fluent company.
Digital technologies are modified versions of traditional ways of working, in a tech medium. Preparing for changes in strategy and business based on innovation radically differentiates organizations from their competition.
Every stakeholder and digital leader needs to be adaptive and open to digital upskilling.
There are many advantages of digital leadership:
Digitalization will create a radical organizational culture with all the relevant technological tools to make a company more successful or profitable.
Resources might not be fully utilized by the organization and its employees unless an informed leader knows the proper use of digital resources.
The total cost of operations reduces in the end with the use of digital tools; since it leads to more regular customers and quick work, the return flow increases.
How Components Of The Ecosystem Can Adapt
- Partnerships between governments, organizations, and civil society could help develop a responsible digital transformation approach.
- Governments should engage with organizations that are developing AI at all stages of creation and policymaking. This is to ensure everyone involved understands the connection between technology and its effect on society.
- All stakeholders will need to address the issue of unemployment driven by technology. Example: Economical safety nets like universal basic income and creating. Or identifying new jobs as a source of income.
- Underdeveloped countries will struggle to keep up with the world when work changes.
- Employees feel tied to full-time jobs because of security and benefits like healthcare and pensions. Incentives that encourage skill development and job mobility will gain currency.
The need for any given skill is already dwindling, so it will be imperative for individuals to acquire new ones. Employees should pursue diverse work that can give fresh perspectives on how to be innovative and different.
Employers need to adapt and react differently to the changing situations and change how they recruit new employees. Studies already show how organizations prefer independent work instead of having payroll overheads. This opens up prospective potential and access to skills that are more versatile and human.