The Changing World of Work


The workplace has unequivocally changed over the past 60 years, and even more so over the past few months. As a majority of people devote one third of their lives to work and working activities, most of them are trying hard to understand what is happening now and anticipate what is coming next in the changing world of work. So the question is what will significantly influence the future labor market and how we will cope with it.

Taking a closer look at the world's various shifting trends and dynamics, we have identified a critical few mega trends on which we will focus our attention.

We all know that the latest technology trends (mobile connectivity, dominance of user-generated content databases, rise of internet advertising and the emergence of internet-based organizations and social networks) have already changed our life and the world of work beyond recognition. The "total" connectivity afforded by technology between people, goods, data, and information will lead to total transparency of skills, costs, and quality for individuals as job candidates, supervisors, competitors, customers, consumers and friends. Specifically, companies will have enhanced abilities to evaluate individuals by monitoring their activities on the social networks they belong to and -- through a variety of other surveillance and monitoring techniques -- to check on such things as an individual's habits, health, behavior, and work quality. The same technology that enable such enhanced monitoring of individuals, will also enable companies in all industries -- and activities engaged in by society at large -- to obtain overall huge gains in productivity by facilitating multi-tasking, access to labor, the mobilization of lower-skilled labor and of otherwise hard-to-reach labor, such as women staying at home, thus having the potential to reduce the talent scarcity issues. From my point of view, the technology revolution will also cause major shifts in jobs, where entire industries -- such as journalism, retailing, and entertainment -- will be "reinvented" digitally, or where the nature of the jobs will change dramatically.

In addition to the major changes taking place in technologies, social systems around the world are being challenged by tectonic shifts that are creating new social tensions and exacerbating existing ones. Flexibility and skill development will be at the heart of the workplace of the future. In a changing work environment workers will want more control of how and when they will work. This can cover such areas as variable hours, part-time working, home-working, job-sharing or working compressed working weeks. It will be important for workers to understand the challenges businesses will face, but also for employers to recognize the needs of employees as well. Companies and governments will need to take steps to increase the pool of available talent/skills by reducing the length of formal education programs and postponing or changing the nature of retirement. Employers will try to entice graduates to curtail their studies and enter employment earlier. Individuals will benefit from working earlier and longer in their life, while the well-qualified will be encouraged to stay on in the work force later. This will lead to a far longer working life for individuals.

Demographic changes will also influence our future. Changing demographics -- an aging population, a declining birth-rate, shift to service economy and the rise of emerging economies -- mean that the work force is shrinking and will continue to do so making finding people with the right skills hard. However, for those people with the right skills or those willing to re-skill, there will be many opportunities.

At the same time the talent shortage, combined with the rise of the NetGen who have different expectations and motivations from the world of work compared to previous generations, has shifted the power from employer to individual and will change how organizations attract and retain talent.

More people will strive to be valuable for companies. That's why individuals everywhere will begin, wherever possible, to acquire new skills, to make themselves more employable and to receive higher incomes. Such self-improvement will become an essential long-term choice for individuals and families. At the same time, untapped sources of talent will need to be exploited in an effort to fill the talent vacuum. These sources are in particular women, the inactive, retirees, younger generations, people with disabilities, dispersed populations for all those tasks that can be performed remotely, all segments of populations with low-level skills that can be raised to the employability level via training and education efforts.

In terms of global economic changes, growth and demand for goods and services will continue on an upward path in the emerging economies, it is there that most job creation – and particularly in services – will occur.

Thus, we have examined only a few changes that might influence our future. But even these four trends show vividly that we are entering a new economic and social paradigm, in which many elements of society will change as well as our working life and expectations.