Navigating the future of work

Article

Navigating the future of work

Can we point business, workers, and social institutions in the same direction?

​From the individual 9-to-5 workday to how entire industries function, work is changing faster than ever. Big shifts threaten to create massive societal and economic disruption unless we look seriously at making the future of work productive and rewarding for everyone.

A framework for understanding the future of work

What are the components that collectively constitute “the future of work”? Perhaps the logical place to begin is with the forces that are driving these changes (figure 1). Based on our experience and research, we have identified three forces that are shaping the nature of future work and the future workforce:

  • Technology. Technological advances—for example, in the areas of robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), sensors, and data—have created entirely new ways of getting work done that are, in some cases, upending the way we use and think about our tools and how people and machines can complement and substitute for one another.
  • Demographics. Demographic changes are shifting the composition of the global workforce. In most places, people are living longer than ever, and overall, the population is becoming both older and younger, with individual nations becoming more diverse. Even more challenging, the younger generations will be increasingly concentrated in developing economies, while the developed economies (and China) get ever older.
  • “The power of pull.” Largely thanks to digital technologies and long-term public policy shifts, individuals and institutions can exert greater “pull”—the ability to find and access people and resources when and as needed—than ever before. Institutions and prospective workers alike now have access to global talent markets, enabled by networks and platforms opening up new possibilities for the way each interacts with the other. The demand for these platforms will likely be enhanced by increasing customer power and accessibility of productive tools and machines, opening up opportunities for more creative work to be done in smaller enterprises and by entrepreneurial ventures.

While there are other forces shaping the future of work, we believe that they are part of the broader economic landscape or integrated with the forces identified above. For example, globalization is a long-term trend, which is reinforced by the technological, demographic, and “power of pull” forces discussed above.

These three driving forces are having two significant effects on work and the workforce. First, technology is transforming the nature of work and forcing organizations to redesign most jobs. One result, we anticipate, will be the reconfiguration of jobs to leverage uniquely human skills: empathy, social and emotional intelligence, the ability to set context and define business problems. Another, due to the accelerating rate of technological change, will be the need for individuals to continually learn new skills to remain employable.

Second, the relationship between employer and worker is shifting. Where once most workers were full-time, on-balance-sheet employees with benefits and defined salaries, employers of the future will also execute a significant proportion of their activities through individuals engaged in alternative work arrangements, from freelancing to crowdsourcing to contract-based work.

These alterations to the nature of work and the workforce will have profound implications for individuals, organizations, and public policy makers—all three of which face imperatives for change driven by the need to adapt to the new realities of work in the future.

Navigating the future of work

Conclusion

The future of work is unfolding rapidly. Today, none of these constituencies—individuals, businesses, public institutions—is prepared for the potentially turbulent and painful transition and possibilities ahead. The goal of this framework is to inform and motivate individuals, various forms of organizations, and public policy makers to proactively navigate the future of work and to come together and act now to make the transition as positive, productive, and smooth as possible.

Every constituency needs a plan, today, for how to prepare to address the impact of these forces and their effect on the redesign of work and jobs:

  • Individuals need to set their sights on longer careers, with multiple stages, each involving ongoing training and reskilling.
  • Businesses must prepare to redesign work and jobs to take advantage of the growing capabilities of machines and the need to retrain and redeploy people to higher-value and more productive and engaging jobs working alongside smart machines and many types of workers—on and off the balance sheet, in crowds, and around the world.
  • Public institutions need to proactively prepare for educational challenges, including funding for ongoing education, programs to mitigate the transition costs, and updating regulatory frameworks to support new types of work and workers and a more entrepreneurial economy.

Read more of the article on Deloitte Insights

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More information

For more information about Navigating the Future of Work please contact Bart Moen or Robert van Barlingen via the contact details below.

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