What is the first thing you think of when you hear the words “FUTURE OF WORK?”
I recently went to a well curated panel event hosted by The Freelancers Conference on the topic of “Future of work.” The first thought in one of the panelists was fear. Fear of what is going to happen and how do we go through the change and accept it. There was fear that “robots” (technology) would replace entry level jobs. There was fear of the implications of remote working on infrastructure if people didn’t drive to work on a normal basis. There was fear of what does career mean versus work. There was fear on how the continued interaction between all the generations in the work force will affect the “stability” of what is work today. With the entry of the millennial into the workforce and the proliferation of technology (social media, phones) there has been a shift in the path, individuals are taking for their career. For those in the Gen-X generation and older, we were taught to go to college, maybe get a graduate degree, get a corporate job, go up the ladder and on the way get married, have children, buy a house and car. This would bring about stability so we could retire and enjoy life when we were “older.”
The world has changed since we have grown up and the future of work is definitely in a different place. Between 1975 and 2015, life expectancy at birth increased from 72.6 to 78.8 years for the total U.S. population. We are living longer for multiple reasons including better: health systems, infrastructure, food sources etc. It also means that we have a longer span to support our lifestyles and many people are not retiring to just live out the rest of their lives and have fun. The boomer generation is not retiring as we expected and the millennial generation is entering the workforce at the same time making a paradigm shift on how work should be done and what matters. Millennials are driving the notion that work should be purpose driven. They want to have experiences in their life now. We have generations in the workforce who didn’t expect to be working past retirement or having multiple careers. On the flip side you have generations coming into the workforce who know they will have longer lives and be working multiple jobs throughout their lives. The definition of career versus work has changed dramatically and means different things to every person.
This trend is showing that more people are thinking about their individual path in the scheme of helping our world survive as we go through these massive changes. As business people we are digitizing individualization through social media, technology such as AI and big data to see products and services. These technologies also change how people conduct their own work. Technology will make it easier to do many jobs in a more efficient manner. Interestingly, many companies are cropping up to help corporations focus on their “employees” (stated loosely as it could include freelancers etc). However, if you go into many large corporations they still struggle providing the same environment inside their business as their employees are living outside. A large Fortune 10 company based in a small town wants to be the retailer of the future. Yet Airbnb, Uber and other tech companies in the sharing economy are still “new” fangled companies in 2017. If your employees are not experiencing or researching the end customer, you won’t be able to keep up with the times and you will also lose employees very quickly as opportunity to be engaged and grow is everywhere.
The trust level between employees and employers is starting to deteriorate and that will be one of the many downfalls of the current system. Individuals are beginning to realize they have more freedom in their lifestyles as freelancers and the numbers are growing rapidly, to 1/3 of the American workforce. This changes the dynamic of businesses who are hiring individuals who want to work remotely, don’t really care for employee benefits or the physical spaces in offices. This will change how office space is designed and how HR processes are managed. Yet, these individuals want to be seen as people and the human element comes into play. When we are taught that scale drives business and revenues, it will get harder to engage employees for the individual mindsets that they bring to the table.
There are lots of aspects of the future of work that are being worked on by many different groups right now. There are businesses that help executives understand their new workforce which is multi-generational, diverse and has a new mindset on the future. Other companies help businesses to design their future physical space and separately companies who help create the technology infrastructure to manage remote employees. Focusing on individualization of employees is going to be critical as we move forward and new ways of doing business come about. Laws, retirement age, work hours, work ethics, rules, HR processes, physical space, city infrastructure, products and services are just the tip of the iceberg on what will change as we move forward.
What does Future of Work mean to you as an individual and what changes do you see right now?
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