What will work look like in the future and what lessons can
employers take from that? Two recent reports have identified the
trends in the way in which we will work in Australia over the next
20 to 40 years.
The use of robotics to perform tasks more quickly, safely and
efficiently than humans;
The rise of digital technology and the new world of
'platform economics', which mean that jobs of the future
are likely to be more flexible, agile, networked and
The need for many individuals to use entrepreneurial skills to
create their own job;
An ageing population, more diverse workforces and more
diverse cultural backgrounds;
A higher bar for skills required for entry-level
Continued growth in the service industries, in particular
education and healthcare – requiring social interaction
skills and emotional intelligence.
The second, the NSW Government's 'Future State NSW 2056' report, examines trends in
workforce participation, living arrangements and productivity and
projects them over the next 40 years. The report foreshadows a
number of key developments in relation to the jobs of the future.
These are remarkably similar to those identified in the CSIRO
The decline in the 'producer industries'
(manufacturing, construction and agriculture) in Australia and the
continued rise of the services sector (health and professional
services, such as engineers, computer designers, accountants,
lawyers and scientists);
Future sources of employment being in arts, engineering, AI,
robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, genetics and
The rapid growth of the peer-to-peer and freelance employment
markets – which often means the outsourcing of work to
specialist contractors and consultants, who are likely to work from
home or use shared facilities;
Workers having 'portfolio careers' (multiple jobs with
multiple employers on a part-time basis); and
Telecommuting and remote working becoming the norm (rather than
the exception) in some industries.
While many of these trends are well known, they are potentially
still very confronting for many workers – and businesses too.
But what lessons can employers take from these trends? I think
there are three:
Work will not involve, and workers will expect their jobs will
not involve, just 'doing'. The focus for the
design of the jobs of the future will be around how workers can
have creative input – in other words, workers will expect to
use their abilities to 'think'. Organisations will
need to ensure that jobs create intellectual stimulation and
challenge. Any process work will be done (if it is not now)
autonomously by technology.
Workers will not have an expectation of a lengthy period of
employment or engagement with one particular organisation, but they
will have high expectations of the learning and development that
they can obtain from that organisation. This will be a critical
area of focus for organisations wanting to be leaders in their
field – because it will be about finding the best talent,
rather than the best talent finding you.
Organisations will have to develop ways of working with their
workforce that take into account the diversity of the workforce and
the diversity in the ways in which people will perform work –
including by operating their own businesses. Your engagement with
those who provide 'labour' to the organisation will need to
be continuously innovative so that you can build resilience to
ongoing rapid change.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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