I help leaders and organizations prepare for the future of work. Why? Because the world of work is going to look very different than it does today. Continuing the same strategies as we move through the next decade simply won’t work.
Changes are coming fast. How? We’ll have a more diverse workforce. Also, technology is rapidly adding automation, robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the scene, forcing leaders to think about using human capital in new ways. In addition, our Baby Boomers, once making up 40% of the workforce, are headed for retirement and women are progressively starting their own businesses. Finally, more and more jobs are becoming contract, freelance, temporary and/or remote.
I write about those trends all the time and today I want to look at five megatrends PwC outlines in its report: “Workforce of the Future: The Competing Forces Shaping 2030.” The report “draws on research begun in 2007 by a team from PwC and the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilization at the Said Business School in Oxford and a specially commissioned survey of 10,000 people in China, India, Germany, the UK and the US.” After I talk about the megatrends, I’ll provide a clear message for leaders as they face the future of work.
The Future of Work Megatrends
The technological advancements that hold the most impact on the future of work are automation, robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). All are advancing at a rapid pace and have the potential to change the number of jobs available, as well as the jobs themselves. While technology can improve our lives with increased productivity, medical advancements, and improved living standards, it also brings a threat. Who will lose their jobs? Will there be political upheaval if the most advanced technologies are not available to all? Can smaller organizations keep up? What skills are needed for jobs that haven’t even been created yet?
With minor exceptions, the world’s population is aging, leaving vacancies in organizations and putting pressure on economies. In the EU, the Millennial population is the smallest generation in the workplace. Who will take over the jobs Baby Boomers retire from? 27 of the 30 countries and territories globally with the largest 65-and-older populations are in Europe. Add to the age dilemma the fact that lifespans are increasing. This will require re-tooling for workers as they stay in the workforce longer, impacting pension costs and reshaping career ambitions.
PwC reports, “By 2030, the UN projects that 4.9 billion people will be urban dwellers and, by 2050, the world’s urban population will have increased by some 72%.” Our largest cities already have GDPs larger than mid-size countries. If more people are living in urban environments, cities will need to become powerful job creators.
Shifts in Global Economic Power
Nations with ethical business practices and large working-age populations, that work to improve their education systems and attract investments, have the most to gain in the future of work. On the contrary, emerging nations face a deepening ravine caused by rapid technology advancements in the developed world. This will contribute to unemployment, mass migrations, and lack of sustained investment from outside sources. Also, increasing wealth disparity may create an environment ripe for social unrest in developed countries.
Resource Scarcity and Climate Change
The elephant in the room, or should we say the elephant on the planet, is the effect of climate change and resource scarcity on the future of work. PwC reports that “demand for energy and water is forecast to increase by as much as 50% and 40% respectively by 2030.” The traditional energy industries (which employ millions) will need restructuring; alternative energy, new engineering processes, waste management, and re-use/recycling will demand new jobs be created.
As you can see, the five megatrends are massive in size and scope. They will require restructuring from all angles, innovative strategies and processes, and an evolved leadership style. As a leader, where do you even begin? How do you take your nose out of the reports about the future and actually start preparing for it? PwC offers the following messages for leaders:
Messages for Leaders
Saying “the future of work” may be misleading. These trends are already in motion and change is happening rapidly. Start getting ready now.
No regrets and bets.
The future isn’t fixed. So preparation can’t be fixed either. PwC says, “Plan for a dynamic rather than a static future. You’ll need to recognize multiple and evolving scenarios. Make ‘no regrets’ moves that work with most scenarios – but you’ll need to make some ‘bets’ too.”
Make a bigger leap.
Don’t be afraid to make radical change. It may require radical change even to take you one small step from where you are today.
Own the automation debate.
Because automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will impact every level of business and all workers, you cannot leave the issue to IT and/or HR alone. Work toward your own complete understanding of the technology landscape and come up with your own insights.
People not jobs.
PwC puts it perfectly when they say, “Organizations can’t protect jobs which are made redundant by technology – but they do have a responsibility to their people. Protect people not jobs.” That means you must promote agility and adaptability and provide robust resources for re-skilling.
Build a clear narrative.
When employees read about the fact that their jobs may not exist in the future, it breeds anxiety and self-doubt, which can lead to low engagement. Low engagement means less innovation, lack of productivity, poor morale and crumbling company culture. Take control of how your employees feel about the future by starting a thoughtful and honest conversation with them. Face the future as a team.
While it can feel overwhelming to think about the changes headed our way, it can also feel exciting. Imagine all the opportunities to shape a better world of work. Just think about the impact you can have on the future, if you’re clear on your values, committed to your purpose, and one step ahead of what’s to come.
I’ll be sharing more from PwC’s study in future posts, but if you’d like to check it out, you can read it here: Workforce of the Future: The Competing Forces Shaping 2030.
What worries you most about the future of work? What makes you excited to see what’s to come? Let me know in the comment section, send me an email, or find me on Twitter. I’d love to hear your perspective.