What is driving the future of work?

By: Geoff Hardy

We’re living during a time of extreme change. The way we work is changing and there is no doubt that the pace is quickening. When we meet our clients it is clear that the ‘future of work’ is high on their agendas; understanding how changes will impact their business and thinking about the way forward.
Fail to prepare and the changes could cause challenges ahead. However, for organisations and individuals who prepare for what is coming, there are exciting opportunities to take the lead.
So what’s driving the changes?

Hardly a day goes by without one of the heavyweight newspapers carrying an article on the rise (and perils) of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, big data or the Internet of Things. In the last month, for example, the Financial Times has highlighted the threat robotics pose to clothing manufacturing jobs in South East Asia – so called ‘Sewbots’- and also the challenges teaching robots how to do basic tasks (such as recognising and lifting shapes of different sizes).
Who knows if technology will replace humans in the workplace or be the catalyst for humans to work differently? Originally, the thinking was that machines would only complete routine work – but machine learning is advancing at such pace that jobs which require human judgement may also be impacted. A recent study by academics at Oxford and Yale Universities suggests that, in time, even careers associated with high levels of intelligence and dexterity will be performed by AI. High level machine intelligence could see robotic surgeons performing better than humans by 2053.
Whatever the timescales, there is no doubt that technology is being developed at an increasing rate and will be a dominant influence in the way people work.
New Behaviours
Life has become more transparent and instant. The impact of social media goes without saying. People expect to use the same kind of applications and consumer grade technology that they use in their personal lives at work. For example, there is a whole industry emerging to develop applications to drive employee engagement.

Generational Differences
Attitudes to work are also being driven by generational differences. There has been volumes written about millennials and we don’t need to add to it here. Except to say, that we think the key point is that people have many more options in where and how they work, and they are much more open to the prospect of moving jobs, retraining, changing careers and working in freelance or contractor positions.
Mobility, the ability to work anywhere there is an Internet connection, is driving flexible working practices. This is also making collaboration and team working more accessible. Commentators are predicting the further rise of the number of freelancers, contractors and workers who have part-time or flexi-time type arrangements.
Here are some of the impacts:
  • The introduction of advanced technologies is presenting companies with opportunities to re-engineer business process to maximise benefit; there are an increasing number of examples of companies implementing AI solutions and reengineering end-to-end processes.
  • The way we learn is changing quickly with new technologies and approaches developing quickly.
  • As the future of work unfolds, strong leadership and change management techniques will be at a premium. Leading people through change to get their buy-in will be a key to success.
  • Employee brand and culture will increase in importance as transparency in these areas increase.
We will tackle a number of these impacts more fully over the next few weeks in dedicated blogs.


  • Gravatar Ingrid Blyth September 12, 2017

    Interesting read. The single most valuable resource for a business is people. This holds true even if you reduce your workforce in favour of robots and AI. How people are treated matters so despite understanding what motivates people to perform optimally how many organisations really try to walk the talk? Better ways of working (WOW) is something I have been interested in for some time. Change is happening, but I think it’s been a slow evolution; still more talk than action. I’ve been in the workforce 38 years; a lot has changed; I love change and the changes I have made to the way I work have been significant for me. I would say there are an awful lot of people who would like to move away from talking about work/life balance to finding roles where it can be put into action - and no one is made to feel guilty about it. In future, I see some businesses coming to a kind of internal identity crisis; they maintain a traditional corporate model that is not fabulous in terms of staff recruitment and turn over. They want to embrace new technologies and processes but they have broken cultures; their workforce is not enabled or motivated to be flexible and dynamic enough to drive it. Nothing is more certain than death, taxes …and CHANGE. Look forward to the next read.

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