Armageddon or Opportunity? What You Need To Know About The Future Of Work.

Ever considered that perhaps the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed?  According to Futurist Julian Waters Lynch “where the future takes us is often determined by the trends that avoid disruption” and become part of our day to day.  Think ATMs, iPhones, YouTube, Uber, Siri… The question is how do we create a preferable future and not become victims of the trends that do not serve us?

Predictions indicate that the scale of disruption caused by the full realisation of automation and technology on the future of work is unprecedented.  A study by Oxford University estimates that robots are likely to displace no less than 50% of jobs in the US and Europe in the next 20 years.

One of the key differences in the next technological era of work is those who are displaced. In the past it was the blue collar worker, but the future will see skilled white collar workers, including but not limited to, Doctors, Lawyers and Accountants impacted.

Furthermore, artificial intelligence and technological enhancements will only drive greater efficiencies and accuracy in the way that the corporate world executes business operations.  Whilst improving the bottom line, the victims of this opportunity will be professional workers who may wake up to find their skill sets redundant and irrelevant in this new age of work.

We must also consider the on flow effects of a significant shift in unemployment on the mental wellbeing of our society.  Workplace anxiety is growing at an alarming rate and costs business in Australia alone $10.9billion per year. A significant increase in unemployment without pro-active intervention strategies to support alternative career paths could prove dire for the mental health of society.

And what about the economic impact of displaced white collar workers unable to service personal debt? Did you know the ratio of household debt to income has more than doubled between 1995 and 2015, going from 104% to 212%, according to the OECD Data released in 2015. This means if the average person earns $80,000 net, they are spending $169,600 per year.  Significant job loss impacts not only individuals, but our economy including the housing market, consumption, private schooling, health care and the list goes on.

The Opportunity

Whilst the predications are extremely unsettling the opportunities this new technological age presents are exciting. One popular estimate forecasts 65% of children entering primary schools today will ultimately work in new job types and functions that currently don’t yet exist. Indicating that the opportunities for further ideation and innovation in business and entrepreneurship are profound.

Ontario and Finland are testing the introduction of Universal Basic Income as a way to support greater innovation, social impact and address the potential displacement challenges presented by the full realisation of artificial intelligence and technology.  Universal Basic income is a non means tested basic income paid regularly to all citizens by the government. Advocates like Elon Musk believe it removes bureaucracy, reduces poverty and enhances entrepreneurship. Imagine if you could receive a basic income to explore a passion project?

As a society we are more socially aware than ever and this awareness has positively influenced the evolution of corporate social responsibility programs, which are now considered a table stake. As we evolve our understanding of the scale of impact this new technological era presents, corporate social responsibility may well find itself forced to extend its scope.

As I continue to provoke conversations around the Future Of Work I am astounded at the level of Ostrich Syndrome. Many of us seem to have our heads buried in the sand, avoiding dealing with the warning signs, limiting our ability to create pro-active interventions and leverage a clear opportunity for differentiation and innovation.

As leaders in business and government we have a social responsibility to future proof the happiness of our people and our society and the time to act is now. There has never been a better time to pro-actively encourage and teach professionals how to define happiness on their terms and support them in exploring innovative ways to weave passion and purpose into their career.

If the unemployment predications are even close to accurate a pro-active and innovative approach will be needed by businesses to support potentially impacted employees to reframe their careers and reskill. The old school reactive approach of outplacement services will be considered insufficient when so many people are potentially displaced in our society.

Now is the prime time to start a bigger conversation around the future of work and commence intervention programs as AI and technology implications may not be as far away as we think. Those businesses who choose to pave the way in this space with the intent of future proofing their people can leverage the opportunity as a point of differentiation in their employee value proposition and equally position themselves as a company who cares about the future of their people and our society.

I appreciate that some of the information around the future of work may conjure up images of Armageddon, but I want to share with you a little secret.  You have a choice. You can choose to be a passenger in the context of how the future of work impacts you and your people or you can choose to be a driver.

But how?

For Leaders

JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Next month I will bring together respected business leaders in the corporate and entrepreneurial worlds with the objective of creating greater awareness of what the Future Of Work looks like in the next five to ten years, how it impacts the world we live in and what opportunities exist for us to proactively influence business and individuals to prepare. If you are based in Sydney or Melbourne and would like to join one of these sessions, click here to express your interest and preferred location.  I am equally open to conducting a virtual session if there is interest from other locations. The greater the diversity the more impactful these sessions will become.

COLLABORATE TO INNVOATE

The term VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity  & Ambiguity) has been coined to describe the future we face. A collaborative approach to change management will become a necessity for businesses to address the complexity that the future of work presents in the context of people. Shifting from a competition to a collaboration mindset will provide a solid basis for industry and entrepreneurial leaders to come together with government to clarify what future employment could look like and what skill sets are required.  Collaborating to develop a view of future skill demand versus supply and pro-active intervention strategies to reskill and reposition the workforce is pertinent.

GET SOFT

I’m not a fan of the term “Soft Skills” as I believe it downplays the importance of a skill set that is touted as critical to remaining relevant in the future of work. Building resilience, facing fear, learning to love failure, self awareness, empathy, self regulation, innovative thinking, relationship management and social awareness are all skills that individuals and organisations can start to build now to future proof. Introducing tactic based programs that focus on personal accountability and enable the ongoing practice of soft skills, like those offered by BKindred, will empower your people to pro-actively deal with the challenges presented in a VUCA world.

For Individuals

GET CURIOUS
Watch Humans Need Not Apply to get your curiosity firing. Consider starting a curiosity list. Write down all the things that you are curious about and would like to explore further.  Write until you have exhausted your curiosity. Then grab a highlighter and highlight the one or two curiosities that jump off the page.  Create three simple actions you can take in the next month to learn more eg. online research (including articles, YouTube), go to a meetup, register for an event or connect with someone who is an expert in that area for coffee.

EXPLORE PURPOSE
There has never been a better time to consider the impact you want to have on the world and what gives you meaning in work and life. Many of us have never created the space to consider purpose and currently use work as a default. Imagine if Australia did introduce a Universal Base Income in the future and you had the opportunity to take on projects that provided greater fulfillment.

Speaking from experience finding purpose takes time and is an evolution of testing, reflecting, connecting, pivoting and refining. The future of work creates a beautiful catalyst to start this work now so why not consider booking a Spark Session and together we can kick start the exploration of your purpose. Alternatively, Carolyn Tate has just released The Purpose Project which includes some amazing tools to help you start this work.  This is where I started my purpose journey and I am honored to now be featured as a case study in this book to inspire others.

We cannot ignore the impact nor the opportunity the future of work presents. As individuals and leaders we have a responsibility to ourselves and our community to educate and explore how we will let this unprecedented era impact our happiness in work and life.