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What will the future of work look like? A view from 2030

February 3, 2020
Sustainability

The world of work is shifting. Demographic change, globalisation and technology are changing our understanding of what work is, and how it should be done. Businesses are having to continually adapt to meet the demands of the future.

Those that don’t will inevitably be left behind. But change needn’t be scary. It has the potential to create a more equitable, profitable world of work.

The world of work on 1 January 2030

In the past 10 years, digital transformation has changed the world at an unprecedented rate. Artificial intelligence has displaced millions of workers, making once-flourishing industries obsolete. Millions of new jobs have been created and new sectors have miraculously sprung from the ether. People spend their lives constantly plugged in. Face-to-face meetings are almost extinct. Almost every job interview is virtual.

Working habits have changed too. Just 10 years ago, people clung on to their full-time positions to help reduce household debt and student loans. Workers were unproductive and unhappy, compromising family life for linear career progression.

The GDPs of famously robust economies were slowing. But this is 2030. Millennials and Generation Z now make up the bulk of the workforce and work happens everywhere. Carbon taxes placed on businesses for employee commutes have driven a rapid shift towards displaced, remote teams. In major cities, office buildings that haven’t been repurposed for other means sit unoccupied.

A software developer creates machine-learning software in a teepee in rural Tennessee for a Mancunian manager they’ve never met. A TikTok manager curates content in the Alpine foothills for a green energy company headquartered in Shenzhen – never having set foot inside its physical office building.

Both are paid on contractual terms that did not exist a mere decade beforehand.

The world of work as it is today

This hypothetical utopian vision is, of course, a scenario that’s unlikely to exist in its purest form in just 10 years’ time.

But work is changing dramatically today, with huge implications for us all. The three trends steering change – globalisation, generational change and digital transformation – are already driving businesses to rethink the way they operate.

Just a few decades ago, nearly all workforces across the globe consisted of permanent employees. Today, more than 40 per cent of employees are now considered non-permanent workers, with the figure expected to rise as people start to fully embrace more remote, distributed and gig work.

Across every contract type, industry and profession, flexibility is altering the way we think about work – both geographically and temporally.

Flexible work benefits everyone

Expectations of what work is and how it should be done have changed, especially as more and more millennials and Generation Zers enter the workforce.

Flexible work is no longer seen a benefit but an expectation. The shift towards greater flexibility is not just benefiting younger generations either, it’s having a big impact on more experienced workers who need time to care for their families and themselves.

Almost every job will have some degree of flexibility built in. Whether it’s a permanent recruiter working from home two days a week, or a remote accountant working exclusively from coffee shops, the work of the future will become more fluid.

Moving towards more agile, distributed teams

Businesses are also moving from a predominantly permanent employee base towards a mixed workforce. The rapid rise of gig workers over the past decades has caused some controversy. But this working arrangement is becoming increasingly preferential, especially for younger workers who want to work on multiple projects to develop their skillsets.

Using greater numbers of temporary contractors and gig workers can create complexity for businesses – particularly in terms of compliance and workforce management. But businesses can benefit by hiring the right people for projects as and when they see fit, providing greater agility and flexibility – essential components in our age of perpetual digital disruption.

Managing distributed, flexible workforces

The ascent of a flexible, temporary workforce is compelling businesses to change the way they interact with people who are not traditionally employed.

Expectations are high in today’s candidate-led talent marketplace. Employers are no longer simply viewed as a place to work. Instead, they have to consider how their employer brand is perceived. While employer brand and employer value propositions (EVP) have already laid roots in permanent staffing, the same cannot be said for non-permanent talent.

Non-permanent employees take up a substantial share of modern workforces, so more focus needs to be placed on their needs and expectations.

When a freelancer has the ability to work for multiple businesses, on multiple projects, they can pick and choose their work. Businesses need to present themselves as a prime employer for all contingent, temporary and freelance talent.

How the staffing industry is responding

In the staffing solutions industry some organisations are formulating strong responses, creating a future-proof solution called Contingent RPO that integrates with their managed services offerings. This offers complete visibility and compliance to businesses with large distributed workforces. Employer branding, EVP and candidate marketing expertise are also brought to the table – contributing to an all-encompassing proposition that will attract distributed talent both now and in the years to come.

A bright future for all?

The progressive scenario we encountered earlier is contingent on a number of factors. But one thing is for certain: the rate of change in the next 10 years will be rapid and uncompromising. Work will become more distributed, technology will exert a profound effect on the way work is done, and globalisation will enable businesses to hire people from across the world without having to meet them face to face.

While this scenario may seem disconcerting, smart businesses will embrace such change. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the past 10 years, change can come from unexpected places at unexpected times. A more flexible, distributed workforce will enable businesses to become more resistant to dramatic shifts, wherever they may come from.

Source: Business Reporter

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