Exploring the Future of Work

With a very diverse audience with expertise in many different sectors we gathered to look at different perspectives on the future of work and to explore our own vision & preferences for our future work too.

The plan was to explore four perspectives:

  • research and evidence being collected now;
  • how these results correlate with how we see our future work;
  • what skills / educators need to do to supply future workforce and finally,
  • the legal perspective on the future of work.

We approached this initially by looking at current research being undertaken by PwC on the Workforce of the future www.pwc.com/futureworkforce and each of our participants was asked to complete the quiz prior to attending so they would know their new world preferences

Click this link if you are interested in taking this quiz yourself: PWC World of Work Quiz

Susan Blair, Director with PwC guided us through the results of their research that shows that the future is polarising into Business Fragmentation vs Corporate Integration and Collectivism vs Individualism

Within these four areas, the research describes each of the four main future world preferences:-

Yellow World where humans come first
Red World where innovation rules
Green World where companies care
Blue world where corporate is king

It was no surprise to see a broad mix of preferences for the attendees.

In short, from our first speaker, we discovered that change is already happening, and the future isn’t determined as a fixed destination. Automation and AI will affect every level of a business and its people and it is too important an issue to leave this to IT or HR alone. Leaders must develop an understanding and keen insight into the changing technology landscape as a basic skill. They must nurture people NOT jobs – embrace agility, adaptability and re-skill workers. The report shows that a third of the workers were anxious about the future and their jobs due to automation – anxiety that kills confidence and the willingness to innovate. How your employees feel really does affect business today so it is time to start a mature conversation about the future.

Future Worlds

Our second challenge was to move our attendees into their future world groups. Alison Freer, Director of Consulting & Learning at durhamlane, guided the groups to consider “How might ‘sharing the air’ add value in your future working world”. The main points identified in each of the groups are listed below.

Yellow World where humans come first

Focus on the real value of meeting people, authenticity and working as a collective, encouraging and supporting and able to influence individuals and build trust. Values driven business with genuine goals and outcomes that benefit everyone.

Red World where innovation rules

Teaching will change, mass industry only when applicable, working in the moment – conversations, products and services; demographic groups that we have now will become meaningless. More technical collaboration.
Watch out – Need to be mindful that innovation and tech may reduce physical interaction and create loneliness – basic human need to interact with other human beings and now work in isolation

Green World where companies care

Saw company as a community with employees having multiple employers – a more sharing economy with different mechanisms for tax collection – benefits include experiential bonuses rather than monetary bonus.

Blue world where corporate is king

Individuals with power to influence the direction and overcoming group think – aligned with the brand value and great at problem solving to apply political pressure for change. Perhaps have a specialism with value-based knowledge.

It was very obvious to all of our attendees that a new world is the only choice we have and that this new world is evolving now.

Future Education

Alison Shaw challenged our thinking on how education is run now and what students of the future will need to thrive. This caused the most discussion as there is such a big skills gap now – technology and engineering businesses all reported difficulty in recruiting skilled and experienced staff in these areas. Challenging our current workforce and upskilling them was also discussed as there is a dis-connect with more mature workforce who were not included in the technology training at school and college – our audience discussed how this can change as technology has touched all of the sectors in the room. Employability is key in a future workplace and this doesn’t lie with educators but with business leaders too.

Future Economy

Chris Maddock, Partner with Muckle LLP, gave us the legal perspective on what may happen and gave our attendees some challenging visions of the future. If indeed, we move to less working hours, multiple employers and more time for leisure (which we defined as just not working), then how does the government of the day balance the economy.

As our population grows, the retirement age increases, and our workforce works for longer but for fewer working hours, should we look to provide a universal minimum wage for everyone whether they are working or not. Flexible working hours may mean 2 or 3 day week but will salaries depend on higher productivity – workers being paid on outcomes or productivity rather than hours worked. With the gap between work and leisure time becoming very grey – is the contract of employment with set working hours, a thing of the past?

Our conclusions were not finite and in fact, only sparked more debate and uncertainty as no-one knows where this is really going. However, if the research is right, then leaders who are forward thinking and are now looking at the future of their workforce, are shaping the future businesses now.

I am delighted to confirm that Alison Shaw, in her new role with Newcastle University Business School has offered to pick up our conversation on The Future of Work so please watch this space for more details.

Thanks to:

Susan Blair @susanblair_pwc
Alison Freer @freerthinking
Alison Shaw @AliJShaw
Chris Maddock @cmaddockmuckle

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