THE NEW AGE WORLD OF WORK
Nicola Walsh lists a number of jobs that will ensure workers stay relevant
In the 1980s, Britain’s farmers faced challenges when they had to meet new government policies and changing consumer demands. They were forced to use their existing farm resources for nonagricultural purposes to achieve commercial success.
This was termed ‘diversification,’ and they had to adapt to a volatile and uncertain future where external forces influenced their chances of survival. And this was completely different to hundreds of years of farming practices, which had seen little change and where the only variable was the weather.
In the past, local markets and resources had remained constant and predictable. Now, because AI and automation are dominating workplaces, people such as farmers need to adapt if they’re to remain active.
Two leading Oxford academics – Carl Frey and Michael Osborne – conducted a study to see what types of jobs could be lost to machines and what would remain. Their list contains occupations that a machine can’t replicate such as those requiring originality and creativity, as seen in the fine arts and fashion. Vocations that involve caregiving, and educating others in soft skills such as behaviour and socialisation, will also survive.
Highly skilled management positions where negotiation and persuasion skills are required will remain. They predict that human relations managers, schoolteachers, social workers and short-term managing directors will continue to be required in the workforce of the future.
Not only would the types of jobs available change but the constitution of the workforce will also be very different. Currently, people are living longer; and the workforce will contain people from different generations with varied expectations and skills. Baby boomers (people born between 1946 and the early ’60s – will be working alongside millennials.
Typically, millennials are passionate about sustainability and collectively display a greater social conscience. Baby boomers on the other hand, possess a wealth of experiential knowledge but approach technology differently. In addition, more women are entering the workforce, creating childcare demands and shifting dynamics.
Productivity will become the core focus, and workers will have far more flexibility about how and where they work if production is high.
Attendance at the office for a set number of hours will become a thing of the past as long as productivity is maintained. Strong written and verbal communication skills will be essential since unclear communication can hamper productivity in no uncertain terms.
The future workforce will require the ability to solve complex problems. They will have to visualise the big picture and yet, focus on details and be able to reorganise. Problems such as climate change and resource scarcity will need to be addressed when they start to impact productivity.
Workers will need to have a high degree of emotional and cultural intelligence to work alongside people from vastly different backgrounds, who are working both remotely and collaboratively. Rapid urbanisation, migration and ageing populations will impact who you work with and where.
Office environments will change drastically to promote collaboration and face-to-face meetings. Remote working will be commonplace. Demonstrating self-sufficiency and independence when working remotely and strong collaborative skills in the office will be what’s required of a future workforce.
Workers of the future may observe instances where innovation supersedes regulation. Having the ability to think critically about a product or concept, consider the consequences and act accordingly will be necessary for those who work in science and technology.
We are entering a world of work that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). This has been caused not only by AI, automation and big data, but also rapid urbanisation, ageing populations and a shift in global economies of power from the developed to developing worlds.
Added to this are climate change and the scarcity of resources.
VUCA was initially coined by the US military, and later adopted by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, to define strategic leadership roles of the future.
They highlighted the fact that disruption in the workplace will be common and to overcome uncertainty, strategic leaders would have to invest in information, be aware of ever-changing regulations and be prepared to adjust. They will also need to hire the most knowledgeable in their field.
Corporations are becoming larger and today, a few are exceeding the power of small national economies. We must ensure that political and corporate leaders don’t make decisions that ignore social responsibility. Being able to act collectively and humanely when needed will be a necessary feature of a future workforce. Otherwise, we are doomed.