Skills, Technology and Demographic Shifts: Welcome to the Future of Work

Our Future of Work series takes a sector-by-sector look at the factors shaping the workplace and workforce of tomorrow.

The world of work is becoming more fragmented and less predictable. Even today, we have moved beyond the certainties of a job for life in a stable local economy; likewise the long-held view that every generation will be better off than its predecessor.

Technology is encroaching on some jobs, enhancing others and creating millions of entirely new ones. In many sectors and localities, progress is stymied by the gap between skills required and skills available. And all the while, the millennial workforce is redefining the trajectory and priorities of a career plan.

This is not an easy world to predict. One of the biggest barriers is the diversity of factors driving change. Another is the differing ways these factors impinge on different industries.

That’s why we’ve chosen to create a series of posts taking these vagaries into account. In this post, we’ll outline the central themes that we see shaping the future of work. In the coming weeks, we’ll look at how these themes apply to different industry sectors, hoping to build a clearer picture of what the future may hold.

What factors are driving the future of work?

We’ll concentrate on five mega-trends in the world of work, whose influence looks set to become greater in years to come. They are:

1. Automation

According to Deloitte research, the 21st Century has seen technology potentially contribute to the loss of 800,000 low-skilled jobs, but also help to replace them with nearly 3.5 million higher-skilled ones. Will this net increase in jobs and skills continue as AI and robotics flood the workplace, and which sectors will be the winners and losers?

2. Contingent workforce

Agency temps, freelancers, on-call workers, contractors, part-timers: the number of workers with non-traditional working arrangements is rising fast. Over 40% of the US workforce is now deemed contingent, while 1 in 4 companies anticipates a contingent workforce of 30% or more by 2020. Which sectors will be most affected, and what are the implications for employment practices and HR policies?

3. Connectivity

Is the interconnectedness of the modern workforce an opportunity or a threat in our chosen sectors? What is the effect of digital connectivity on productivity and mental wellbeing? Does it liberate workers or risk overwhelming them?

4. Globalisation

The globalisation of labour markets is well documented. The Institute of Public Policy and Research puts it succinctly: “In the space of less than 20 years, over 1 billion people have been added to what might be termed the global market economy.” Looking ahead, will this market economy continue to proliferate and diversify, and which industries will benefit?

5. Continuity of skills

Shifting workforce demographics create shifts in the supply of skills. Some industries are more susceptible than others. Which skills will be most valuable in our selected sectors? Will they be readily available where they’re needed? And what are the factors driving critical talent shortages?

Taken together, these mega-trends tell us a lot about the motivations, requirements, pressures, workforce tools and working conditions driving change in the world of work. At a sector level, they can inform critical decisions for building talent strategies fit for the road ahead.

We look forward to sharing our industry insights in the coming weeks. Follow us on LinkedIn or sign up for Talent Unlimited updates to be notified when each new Future of Work post goes live.