The future of work
This is an article about predictions for the future. Of course, there’s a risk that it could go horribly wrong :) Or be totally outdated by new unforeseen happenings. But nevertheless, having seen how work has evolved in the past 20 years of my own life, it’s going to be interesting to see how it does in the next 20 years — when my own daughter would possibly be in the workforce. And most likely, we the current 40+ year-olds would also be there in some form or the other!
Here are the defining 10 trends for me -
- Technology will become the new 2nd language; internet and sensors will become ubiquitous; the internet will be far superior in speed and ability, and will possibly be freely available like air. Computing power and bandwidth will become far more powerful. Technology usage and understanding will start from a much earlier age given its omni-present nature — kids will start learning this from grade 1 at the least. There won’t be a business that’s not being powered by technology at its core.
- Data, which is already touted as the new oil, will become more secure, more democratic, and essential to handle and manage as a skillset. Given the all pervading nature of technology and devices, the amount of data and patterns that will be generated real-time is going to be of a phenomenal scale. A new industry may be formed in the next decade around data — this will include security, access, storage, handling credibility, block-chains for dis-intermediation, fake identification, credibility management, visualisations, sharing patterns with society etc. Given the increasing worry about the power the monopolies have, data may be completely democratised and held centrally but with full transparency, visibility and control on who is accessing what data of yours.
- Most jobs in the current form will be automated or outdated. Self driving cars, drones, robots, AI algorithms, medical tech, etc. will make even the most specialist of field-force or left brain jobs are at risk. Creative ones, with the touch of human intuition will be the last frontier, but there will be good quality creative output too that will be generated by machines (think art, music, scripts etc.) However that does not mean the end of jobs — there will be new ones that will come up across all industries beyond the creative fields and these will have a heavy element of technology integrations to see new possibilities, integrating / bringing in cross-functional skills to generate new value or look at problems from new perspectives, predictive analytics to model new workflows, or interventions for misfiring or non-performing machines!
- Universal Basic Income will become a reality. The number of jobs lost + the number of people entering the workforce will be far more than the new jobs gained. Given India, Brazil and a few more developing countries will also be super-powers then (from GDP perspective), and affluent North American & European economies will continue, there will be some form of basic income coverage that covers the essential elements of food, living, housing, healthcare, education and even internet connectivity! The basic level of living will be set at a reasonable threshold and for any more, people can earn to do other things in life like own possessions or get experiences.
- Freelancing (or ‘gig economy’) will be the way of working for everyone. Loyalty in companies has been continuously on the wane with increasing no. of startups and opportunities for the smartest of people. The new age of workforce will demand far more time for their personal ambitions (travel, media, relationships etc.), far more meaning at a consistent level (exciting, cutting-edge, impactful work) and more real-time and performance based benefits. This will make some of the smartest workers go freelance so they can shift projects between interesting assignments and have more say on their own time than that dictated by corporate leave policies. Personal brands will be built across not just creative industries but also across professional functions. And there will be smaller and younger start-ups built by many more of these folks, without the pressure of being unicorns but more around work quality, overall happiness and solving specific niches.
- Virtual Reality (VR) will be the way of activity in the next 10 years. VR devices will become smaller, more powerful, and more realistic (building on the back of a stronger internet). As VR becomes ubiquitous, interactions and experiences designed around VR will also become more mature. Industries such as commerce, education, healthcare, tourism, media & entertainment etc. will all undergo fundamental changes. Truly global cultures will emerge, as a mixture of VR and super-fast voice translation can ensure people across any language can communicate openly and freely across the globe with people of any other language or culture. Interactions, processes, systems and tools will all adapt for the new norm (there’s a humongous opportunity for a plethora of technology solutions for the enterprise on all these areas)
- There will be more equality in the workforce. Given you don’t need visas and country restrictions (thanks to VR), companies can recruit the best talent globally. Given advances in learning systems, medical technology, lesser marriages, and more independence, women will become a more equal part of the workforce (much needed, long overdue!). Other distinctions and discrepancies will also start reducing as technology and platforms provide for an equal opportunity to any person for any job globally. While countries are now trying to be more protectionist, it’s possible that all these trends may make countries go back to reassessing the stringent regulatory environments being created.
- A new globally accessible individual performance chart will be built. This will keep track of their engagements in the past and contributions instead of the current largely opaque and altered resume. Given the changing nature of the workforce and the availability of real-time and advanced data, the performance assessment system at a company level will undergo a sea change. Performance can be tracked more live and at an individual level. Bonuses, increments, incentives etc. will start being more tabulated around individual or team performance. Career Map will become a reality instead of career path and people will continuously learn new skills. Given all of the above trends, people will shift between different industries, functions, jobs, roles etc. at a far more rapid pace than what’s currently seen.
- People will never retire. Life expectancy is increasing. There’s an increasing view amongst youngsters that life is happening now and here, and it’s just #OneLife :) Since there’s no longer going to be the traditional view of “Work till 60, then earn enough to enjoy life”, people will possibly align their work to keeping their mind active, continuously learning and finding meaning / purpose in whatever they are doing and contributing / creating positive impact in some sphere. Given also the freelancing nature of jobs, and that people are creating enough time to live their lives through theirs 30s and 40s and beyond, they will want to get mental satisfaction even into their extended lifespans — hence they will be engaged in some form of work for much longer (despite not possibly ‘having to work’)
- Leadership demands will be different — storytelling, data, technology, managing new distributed and younger workforces & their ambitions, more responsibility towards environment and society, shorter business lifecycles and returns for investors — all this will become a reality. The new CEO will have to be far more adaptive than current 5-year plans allow. While keeping an eye out on the future and change, a higher pace of innovation, and synthesising inputs, innovations and experiences from across a variety of industries to generate value in a hyper competitive, more democratised and global environment and a keen sense of ownership and transparency (given increasing demands on safety and privacy) will all be competencies they have to build to be successful.
As I said earlier, these are predictions based on where I see things going. Some of them may come out wrong. This is not an in-depth look into any specific function or industry or a flow of money of course. These are more generic trends that indicate what the new age professional should look out for.
If you strongly refute any of it, do kindly say why.
If you believe there are others, please go ahead and type them out in the comments section.