Changes in the Future of Work

Businesses may be “waiting for business to settle into familiar patterns. However, business hasn’t resumed a familiar pattern and employers waiting for it do so may wait in vain” 2013 Talent Shortage Survey Research Results, Manpower Group

The world as we know it is changing, Robotics, Digitization, Mobilization, Cognitive Computing, Augmentation, Automation, Disintermediation and others are affecting us every day and the combination of these will create even faster exponential change. This will result in a completely different way of work and therefore a completely new skills set to survive and thrive. Combined these changes will mean that winning and losing will happen faster than before.

As business leaders we need to ask ourselves what are we doing to drive this change AND to help our people adapt and cope with the changes that will impact both their work and personal lives, especially in light of the statistics that are often quoted.

We see statistics quoted such as “up to 70% of jobs of will be lost due to changes in technology” and others that say “65% of children entering school now will work in jobs we have not envisaged yet”. Additionally, the following possible trends that will affect the future of work are discussed in many forums:

The technological, economic and social transformations occurring around us

Information swamping

Destruction of sectors and national economies dependent on non-sustainable energy and materials

Cumulative environmental problems (including climate change, industrial pollution and destruction of biodiversity) that render large territories uninhabitable resulting in ‘climate refugees’, ‘water wars’, etc.

With these transformations possibly resulting in a series of financial, political and military crises business leaders need to adapt to change more than ever.

On the positive side, we concur with the belief that the challenges will be mitigated to a degree, because a number of new jobs will be created in new and emerging industries, and in localized and personalized businesses.

Business can protect themselves by becoming part of the change. This would include driving these changes instead of being driven by them, forecasting the jobs of the future in their specific industry, using forecasting methodologies in an attempt to predict where possible disruptions could come from. Further protection could result from upskilling staff skills enabling them to fill new and emerging jobs and from promoting required changes in education models thereby enabling the development of 21st Century workers. This is especially important as current education models are flawed by design – they prepare people for the skills of the past, not the skills of the future. We cannot produce the skilled employees we need with education models that:

•Gives people standard tasks when creativity is a key human skill that is hard for technology to replicate

•Creates competitive education environments when collaboration skills will be key to adaptation to the changes we will experience

•Encourages a blaming rather than an exploratory and learning culture

•Focusses only on cognitive abilities instead emotional intelligence and cognitive skills

•Removes IT and devices from educational environments when IT is everywhere

However, the responsibility to protect employees does not rest only with business but with employees themselves. Whilst employees may feel helpless in the face of the onslaught of change, they can position themselves to do human work not machine work. Employees can make themselves competitive in the future socio economic and technological environment via a transition to learner centered lifelong learning. This lifelong learning will require individuals to learn, unlearn and relearn skills and will happen in new and exciting ways including via online platforms cities and public spaces.

The Brics Skills Development Working Group plans to conduct research on the jobs of the future producing an Atlas of Emerging Jobs for both South Africa and Brics. We envisage that the research and the Atlas will be used to:

Identify new and emerging industries

Identify new emerging jobs with skills and competencies required

Identify new skills in existing jobs

Identify potentially obsolete jobs

Identify possibilities to reskill/ retrain people based on the above

Identify curriculum changes needed to ensure South Africa has the correct skills

Influence career guidance processes based on the above

Influence Government policy, such as DTI incentives, based on dying and emerging industries and jobs

In conclusion, we are entering a period of unprecedented change which will have significant impact on business the disruption that will be caused by various transformations predicted earlier and other unanticipated changes. Whilst there is no way to prepare for life in the increasingly uncertain world South African businesses and individuals can take measures to protect themselves and take advantage of the wave of changes and subsequent opportunities we will experience.