My friend had a stable job in a stable company in a stable industry.
Last year, her entire department was outsourced. “Not to worry,” her then-employer told her. “All of you will be re-hired by the new company at your current salary level.”
But there’s always the fine print.
The at current salary level was only good for the first six months—kinda like those introductory offers you get to subscribe to a new service or a new magazine. After that, my friend got paid based on billable project hours. And with the new math, her take-home pay did not level up to her old salary.
Oh, and by the way, she didn’t get re-hired as a full-time employee. She’s now a contract worker for the new company.
Not a unique story.
My friend’s story isn’t unique. I’m sure you’ve heard something similar. The fact that this is not such a rarity anymore means it’s now a common practice. And something, we—the workforce in the new economy—need to understand and adjust to a new set of lenses.
My friend’s story is just one example of the changes in work practices that are impacting us today.
You may have heard the phrase future of work or workplace 2020.
Here’s the thing. We don’t have to wait for the future to see or experience the changes. We can already feel it.
The future of work is here.
So what exactly is driving these changes? Work has always been changing but why does it feel like the shifts are more dramatic, more radical these past few years?
Here are four forces driving changes in the workplace. These forces are disrupting industries, changing how companies operate, and how they manage their resource, including their workers.
To be sure, there are many other factors that will cause disruption in the employment landscape. The Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum listed eighteen drivers of change. The four I focused on here are already causing significant shifts and changes in the workplace today.
In addition to WEF’s Future of Jobs report, I also referenced PwC’s Workforce of the Future report, Future Work Skills 2020 by the Institute for the Future, and Gallup’s State of the American Workplace.
It’s crucial that we understand these change drivers so we can spot them, recognize when they’re happening, and prepare to better position ourselves.
Rapid Advancements in Technology
Robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning dominate discussions around how these innovations will affect our jobs. There are doom and gloom scenarios countered by ones that say, “Robots cannot possibly take over our work.”
It’s probably true that wholesale replacements of humans by machines is not feasible, at least not in the immediate future. However, the reality is these technologies can affect—and in many cases are already affecting—the nature of our jobs and the number of available jobs.
Let’s take a look at one specific example: Transcription Work.
The need for professional transcriptionists and proofreaders did not go away. As much as speech-to-text technology has gotten really smart, it still cannot produce the high-quality results that only trained transcriptionists can.
However, it’s easy to see how the need for them has decreased. There’s a significant subset of transcription tasks that do not require a high-level accuracy and where automated transcriptions will do just fine.
The rise of smart machines is just one of the many technological advancements that affect the world of work.
Highly computational world
We now live in a world of massive processing power. Just think about all the things you can do with that small smartphone in your pocket.
Add to that computing power the availability of data everywhere.
Sensors, communications, and processing power are being infused into everyday objects and environments—also referred to as the Internet of Things. Every object, every interaction, everything we come into contact with will be converted into data.
In fact, you can already see this happening today. Your local pharmacy’s automated system calls you to remind you it’s time to refill your prescription. Your home printer’s ink manufacturer sends you an email letting you know ink levels are low and that your new cartridges will be sent out tomorrow. That pair of shoes you were checking out at Amazon.com all of a sudden starts appearing everywhere you go on the Internet.
Combining the availability of data and the massive processing power of computers today make everything programmable.
We will usher in an era of “everything is programmable”—an era of thinking about the world in computational, programmable, designable terms. (Source: Future Work Skills, IFTF)
As a result, our work and personal lives will increasingly demand abilities to interact with data, see patterns in data, make data-based decisions, and use data to design for desired outcomes.
Think for a moment what kinds of skills will be needed to meet this demand.
New multimedia technologies are bringing about dramatic shifts in the way we communicate with each other. Just think about how often you now interact with video, digital animation, augmented reality, games, and all kinds of media other than plain text.
As these technologies become even more sophisticated and accessible, a new way of living and working will take shape.
We are literally developing a new vernacular, a new language, for communication. (Source: Future Work Skills, IFTF)
New media innovations change the way we work and communicate with each other (e.g., virtual collaborations and meetings, video messages instead of text). And we can expect companies will increasingly require that employees are comfortable using various media.
A Globally-Connected World
Globalization isn’t a new thing. We’ve been living with this long-term trend for several years now. We can only expect it to continue with technology improvements making this easier and more feasible.
When we think of globalization, we often focus on the fact that work can now be sourced internationally, to other countries, with presumably lower labor costs.
We don’t even have to look that far. Even in our own backyard, we can feel the effects of connectivity. Nowadays, companies are not limited to resources available in their local markets. Remote workers are on the rise (as noted further below). There’s nothing to stop someone living in Florida to work for a company based in Chicago or Canada.
As with technology advancement, a globally-connected world increases competition and opportunities. You can view this either limiting or expanding your options. It just depends on how you see it.
Longevity and Aging Population
With a few exceptions, the world’s population is aging. Over the next decade, advanced economies will see the effects of an aging population.
Our longer lifespan will affect business models, talent ambitions, and pension costs. It also puts pressure on business, social institutions, and economic.
(Source: Workforce of the Future, PwC)
More and more people past age 65 will want to continue to work either to supplement their retirement resources or to remain active and productive. Older workers will need to learn new skills and work for longer. Retraining and re-tooling will become the norm.
The other side of the equation is that serving the needs of an older society will create opportunities for new products, services, and business models.
Changing Work Environments and Flexible Arrangements
New technologies are enabling workplace innovations such as remote working, co-working spaces, and teleconferencing. These new arrangements change not only what work is done, but where and when work is done. Welcome to working in the digital age.
On the one hand, this is great for us, providing us with the flexibility we want. We can work anywhere. We won’t have to come into or stay in the office all day, every day.
On the other hand, companies and organizations can maintain an even smaller pool of core full-time employees for fixed functions. They can now be backed up by colleagues in other countries and external consultants and contractors for specific projects. This was precisely what happened to my friend when her department was outsourced.
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We can look at these major forces and choose to feel alarmed and hopeless. “Oh My God, what will happen to my job?”
Or, we can choose to examine these factors for the opportunities they present and then figure out a way to position ourselves in the best way possible.
And yes, I hear you. Easier said than done, right?
You may be nodding your head in agreement, but the question is, the challenge always is, HOW! How do we do that? What do we actually need to do?
On Tuesday, April 24th, I’m hosting a webinar that will dive into this question. I’ll be covering what a new career strategy in the new economy looks like and how to create a new economy career plan that responds to the changing world of work.
The world of work is changing and we are all in it together. Companies across the globe are allocating time, energy and money to figure out how to transform their businesses and practices to deal with these change drivers. And so should we!
Learn how to create a new economy-career plan so you can better position yourself.