Tuesday 21st May 2019
The Future of Work
Every well-run organisation has some kind of plan for the future within their industry. Whether that’s focusing on expansion, conservation or somewhere in between, preparing for the next step is standard strategic planning. But, making a conscious effort to prepare for the general future working environment is often overlooked, despite its enormous importance. Failure to do so could not only have large financial and legal impacts, but could also massively impact the culture at the very heart of the organisation.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln
What we define as work essentially combines 2 elements: society and technology. Both of which are in a constant state of change. The societal expectations and norms that surround work evolve over time, take expectations of working conditions as a prime example. 50 Years ago Health & Safety in the workplace was considered by some to be a nuisance, but today it’s very much a necessity. Technology has evolved in a similar way, with almost every UK worker utilising some kind of technology during their day.
Experts have predicted 8 big trends in the future of work, all of which have the potential to affect every organisation in some way…
Automation in the workplace has been a continual trend over multiple generations, the roots of which can be traced back to the first industrial revolution and the mass introduction of machinery into the workplace. However, whilst in the past automation has revolved mainly around the production line, the future of automation will lean away from physical machinery and more towards AI and machine learning. No longer the reserve of top blue-chip companies, AI could have applications for most businesses.
Automation will be less of an extension of the human element of the process, and more of a process in itself. AI is already being implemented into some workplaces, more and more businesses are adding Chat-bots to their marketing arsenal for example. In order to make the most of this change, the way in which work is performed needs to be adjusted. McKinsey Global Institute states that about half of the tasks carried out by workers today could be automated, this leaves the door open for work to be adjusted rather than replaced.
A collaborative economy is a marketplace where consumers rely on each other, rather than large companies, to meet their wants and needs. Collaborative economies consist of giving, swapping, borrowing, trading, renting, and sharing products and services for a fee, between an individual who has something and an individual who needs something — generally with the help of a web-based middleman. Just think of Ebay, Depop, Free-cycle and many others like them. As consumers become more conscious of their environmental impact, reusing and sharing products and services will become common place. Why buy new when you can borrow or share?
The trend of minimising environmental impact is only set to continue, further increasing the demand on these collaborative services. These services aren’t as efficiently provided by larger organisations, and could be taken up by individuals or small businesses. Alongside the continued rise of multinational corporations, there will also be a rise of the entrepreneur who facilitates collaboration.
The term ‘humanisation of work’ sounds complicated, but essentially it can be used interchangeably with ‘quality of working life’. It includes how well organisations treat employees as human beings, rather than just a source of output, and emphasising their development and involvement in work decisions. Employee engagement and experience is pushing its way to the forefront of an organisations focus.
There is an obvious link here, between Automation and Humanisation. As some areas of work are taken over by autonomous machinery, the human elements of what remains will become more desirable. In particular, person-to-person interaction will be valued even higher, especially within the employee-employer relationship. We are already seeing a trend for employees requesting personal development plans and work-based learning. The increase of the multistage career only heightens the desire for reflection, learning, development and a sense of being valued.
Whilst some tasks may be completely taken over by AI, this will not be the case for all. Even with AI, innate human actions and reactions cannot be replaced. The service industry for example, with all its endless variables, could never be completely replaced by computerisation. Instead of overriding jobs, AI will shift focus away from some areas, moving it towards others. As new technology is implemented, there will be an obvious skills shift. With medium skilled, repetitive jobs being taken over by machines, more lower and higher skilled job will be created. Tasks that remain solely in the remit of the human worker will become the focus of the economy, therefore providing workers with the skills to perform these task will be key. The “squeezed middle” off skills will need to be diffused, into higher or lower skilled tasks.
Statistics show that the UK population is ageing, latest projections show that in 50 years’ time, there are likely to be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years and over. With this, an ageing workforce is developing. People are living longer, and therefore working longer. Combine this with the ongoing change within the world of work, there will be an inevitable generational impact. Certain skills that were highly regarded by previous generations will be devalued, or even completely replaced. Therefore, re-skilling and training will need to become a continual process. With two thirds of the UK workforce of 2030 having already left full-time education, this is not just a challenge for those who are starting out in their working life, but also for those who have significant experience behind them. Organisations should be fostering cultures of continual learning throughout employee’s careers, rather than just at the beginning.
Technology and performance go hand-in-hand. Increased efficiency will be developed as technology enables for greater speed and accuracy, allowing for an increase in production. For example, Britain’s manufacturing sector has shrunk in the past decade by almost 600,000 jobs, but the output in the industry increased from November 2008 to March 2018. Because of this improved overall output, different metrics of performance will need to be created in order to differentiate between high and low performing employees. Technological help will make it more difficult to discriminate between individuals true performance.
Couple this with the intangible nature of output from service industries, and measurements of future performance become even trickier. HRM specialists need to create and implement new performance tracking systems, not only to monitor performance for a business perspective but also to help the employee learn and improve throughout their career.
The recruitment process will undoubtedly change as human skills become more valuable, and what businesses look for when recruiting will do the same. With this, more defined recruitment needs should lead to better testing methods, and therefore a more efficient system. It will be important to be able to identify transferable skills between old and new roles, making it easier to match workers to new positions. Soft skills like communication, organisation and leadership will be the priorities of the recruitment process, with more specialised hard skills being picked up “on the job”. Technology will also aid the recruitment process. Stella and Koru already use AI to better match candidates to jobs. They use tools to track the types of credentials, qualities, and experiences that both employers and employees are looking for, then they use that data to recommend ideal matches.
The global economy is, and will continue to be, a 24/7 affair. Increases in communication technology have lead to the rise of remote working and the gig economy, and fewer geographical teams existing within organisations. The Right to Request Flexible Working was extended in 2014 to all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service. With this, the government has been seeking to take a pragmatic approach, looking to encourage rather than impose cultural change in the workplace.
There has clearly been a significant move towards this type of working over the last 10 years: 92% of employers say that they have at least one form of flexible working practice available in their workplace; 60% of employees have said they have done some form of flexible working in the last 12 months.
Not only does flexible working better match the needs of the 24 hour economy, but it also better matches the needs of the employees. Being able to work flexibly allows people to fit in other important responsibilities, such as family life. There is some evidence to suggest that this style of working actually boosts employee engagement, as a sense of freedom and control helps maintain motivation.
How does Growth Partners fit in?
Changes to what we know as work are inevitable, and to make sure your business stays ahead of the game you need to be looking ahead. HR naturally play a huge role in keeping up with that change, they should be ensuring that recruitment processes, training and develop all cater for a changing working environment. However, preparation isn’t solely in the remit of one business function, it should involve the whole organisation. The very heart of an organisation, its culture, should embed processes that allow for adaptation and adoption of the new. All too often businesses get caught up in the present, and fail to prepare for the future.
But, implementing SMART Employment not only provides you with tools for the future of work, but also allows better focus on preparation by reducing everyday tasks. Removing the monotonous burden of Payroll, Pensions, HR support and admin, allowing focus to be shifted towards preparing for the future. Freeing up resources to be proactive rather than reactive.
If you would like more information on SMART Employment, speak to one of our experts today.