Winning in a world of robots … How will we work in the future? What skills will we need, and what is success?

August 28, 2017

30 years ago I started my first job, as a marketing executive, sitting in a ramped office block called Speedbird House, 5 minutes from Heathrow Airport. British Airways has just invested in a new generation of desktop computers that could measure and analyse its sales performance from 135 countries around the world. It was incredible data, and it fundamentally changed the way the company could work – fast and global, precision focused and realtime actions, although still ultimately about people.

Today, the world of work keeps changing. The “fourth industrial revolution” heralds an intimidating new generation of robots and AI-enabled machines, that challenge our human capabilities and comfort levels, in a similar way to which the steam engines and automated production lines did for previous generations.  I’ve been lucky to work and experience so many very different and contrasting industries, but I’ve generally found that whatever the nature of a business or organisation, they are rarely immune to change.

Change continues to accelerate: environmental pressures, population growth, massive advancements in technology, and significant shifts in the demographic of the workforce to name just a few. In step with these, people’s aspirations and desires for their work are also changing. Of course this presents challenges, but many organisations also see it as a wonderful opportunity to create positive change and to start to build purpose-driven organisations that prioritise people and planet alongside profit.

New Ways of Working

The B Team, the non-profit network of businesses who care about the future, have brought together over 30 businesses and 50 business leaders to expore what this future might look like – the challenges, but more importantly the opportunities to survive and thrive in this new world. The New Ways of Working report is a collective exploration into these changes.

Here are five things to take from the new report:

  • People will want to work with an organisation that has purpose. As Tim Brown (CEO and President of IDEO) observes, only organisations with a “reason for being” will be sustainable and successful in the future and attract the next generation of talent. A recent collaboration with BBH confirmed this – the new generation of people coming into the workforce want to work for businesses that are innovative, creative, fun and that are inspiring change.
  • People will expect lifelong growth. People are constantly curious, and keen to learn and develop their skills and knowledge. Technology has made learning available at the click of a button and that means we need to continue to develop new approaches to developing our people so that they can stay relevant and feel that they are growing.
  • We will have to help manage the ‘always on’ culture caused by technology – it’s good for them and it’s good for business. At Virgin Unite, for example, they’ve introduced unlimited leave, ‘better you’ days (which support personal development goals) and the Virgin Pulse programme to support employees to sustain their own health and wellness.
  • ‘Hybrid leaders’ will be in demand.These are leaders who can work collaboratively across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors and use business solutions to tackle the world’s social and environmental problems. At Unite, our team includes former consultants, lawyers, accountants, public servants and entrepreneurs, all of whom add diverse and innovative ideas and approaches to the mix.
  • The concept of a job for life won’t exist. Changing workforce expectations, the ability to use technology to perform more project / portfolio work and skills shortages in many industries have all transformed the jobs market and the way people approach their careers. This has all brought greater expectations of the ability to move between projects, organisations and roles and a radical shift in the traditional models of attracting and retaining talent.

Read New Ways of Working

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