If you ask any company, distressed of not, what is their biggest concern, you will probably be told that they are weary about the influence that technology will have on their business in the future.
We are living in an increasingly technology driven society with innovations happening daily.
It is scary to think that in 1999 (which was only 22 years ago), dialup internet was still common in most households and businesses. Companies can now connect to fibre and even 5G which gives them access to cutting edge technology.
One of the biggest technological developments, and the source of fear in the workplace, are the advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Experts predict that by 2030, 60% of the jobs that currently exist today will not exist anymore and that AI driven systems will be commonplace in every workplace.
What does this mean for workers and preserving jobs? A report by McKinsey discusses this in detail.
The world of work on 1 January 2030
The report points out that, in the past 10 years, digital transformation has changed the world at an unprecedented rate. Artificial intelligence has displaced millions of workers, making once-flourishing industries obsolete. Millions of new jobs have been created and new sectors have miraculously sprung from the ether. People spend their lives constantly plugged in. Face-to-face meetings are almost extinct. Almost every job interview is virtual.
Working habits have changed too. Just 10 years ago, people clung on to their full-time positions to help reduce household debt and student loans. Workers were unproductive and unhappy, compromising family life for linear career progression.
The report adds that the GDPs of famously robust economies were slowing. But this is 2030. Millennials and Generation Z now make up the bulk of the workforce and work happens everywhere. Carbon taxes placed on businesses for employee commutes have driven a rapid shift towards displaced, remote teams. In major cities, office buildings that haven’t been repurposed for other means sit unoccupied.
A software developer creates machine-learning software in a teepee in rural Tennessee for a Mancunian manager they’ve never met. A TikTok manager curates content in the Alpine foothills for a green energy company headquartered in Shenzhen – never having set foot inside its physical office building.
Both are paid on contractual terms that did not exist a mere decade beforehand.
Flexible work benefits everyone
The report points out that expectations of what work is and how it should be done have changed, especially as more and more Millennials and Generation Z’ers enter the workforce.
Flexible work is no longer seen a benefit but an expectation. The shift towards greater flexibility is not just benefiting younger generations either, it’s having a big impact on more experienced workers who need time to care for their families and themselves.
The report adds that almost every job will have some degree of flexibility built in. Whether it’s a permanent recruiter working from home two days a week, or a remote accountant working exclusively from coffee shops, the work of the future will become more fluid.
Moving towards more agile, distributed teams
The report points out that businesses are also moving from a predominantly permanent employee base towards a mixed workforce. The rapid rise of gig workers over the past decades has caused some controversy. But this working arrangement is becoming increasingly preferential, especially for younger workers who want to work on multiple projects to develop their skillsets.
Using greater numbers of temporary contractors and gig workers can create complexity for businesses – particularly in terms of compliance and workforce management. But businesses can benefit by hiring the right people for projects as and when they see fit, providing greater agility and flexibility – essential components in our age of perpetual digital disruption.
A bright future for all?
The report adds that the progressive scenario we encountered earlier is contingent on a number of factors. But one thing is for certain: the rate of change in the next 10 years will be rapid and uncompromising. Work will become more distributed, technology will exert a profound effect on the way work is done, and globalisation will enable businesses to hire people from across the world without having to meet them face to face.
While this scenario may seem disconcerting, smart businesses will embrace such change. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the past 10 years, change can come from unexpected places at unexpected times. A more flexible, distributed workforce will enable businesses to become more resistant to dramatic shifts, wherever they may come from.
Room for BRPs
If BRPs position themselves as business consultants that help companies effectively embrace technology, and balance the needs of retaining staff and integrating technology into their processes, they (BRPs) will find themselves with a lot of work on their plate.
It is simple, the world is overwhelmed with change and with the pace of technological development, companies are unsure about how comfortable they are with this change. This causes them to make decisions that they would have never made before, and these decisions may well lead to distress.
Consultants are in high demand and adapting business models to embrace change is needed. There will be a higher demand for business coaches in the future, which is another opportunity for BRPs to position themselves for growth.
Charles Phiri is an Associate at Indalo Business Consulting