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5 (positive) things that will happen in the future of work

Curious about all this ‘future of work’ hype? Perhaps you’re not entirely sure what it is, or you’re wondering when you have to surrender yourself to our new cyborg overlords. Before you panic, let’s take a moment to assess the situation.

by Catie McHugh
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If you’re reading this, chances are you’re curious about all this ‘future of work’ hype - maybe you’re not entirely sure what it is (hint: no-one is one hundred percent sure at this stage of the game!) or perhaps you’ve just watched The Terminator and you’re wondering when you have to surrender yourself to our new cyborg overlords.

Let’s just take a moment to assess the situation.

We’ve noticed that a lot of mainstream media outlets paint a very gloomy picture of humanity’s fate in the not-too-distant future, at least from an employment standpoint. Jobs we’ve always had will disappear thanks to developments in automation and a more efficient, cheaper robot workforce, and perhaps we’ll be done away with altogether (except for the fortunate minority who know how to program AI machinery, or something). It’s all very bleak, indeed.  

Now, before you go all ‘John Connor’ and wage war against the machines, it’s important to take stock and understand that the future of work is not a big, scary end-of-days for humanity. Quite the opposite, in fact. There’s lots of cool things on the way that people just like you can use to your advantage.

5. Your ‘soft skills’ will matter a lot more.

Even now, the direct skills relating to a role are being seen as only part of the picture. For example, yes - a computer programmer will need to be able to string together and interpret meaningful lines of code, but their emotional intelligence will come into play as a core function of their overall suitability.

Work futurist Josh Catone describes this as the ‘emotional economy’, wherein the more emotional skills like creativity, problem-solving, negotiation, empathy and overall social skills are highly valued and something that can’t (or won’t) be outsourced to machines any time soon.

“As we automate elements of our jobs, we’ll need to be even more human to succeed,” he says.

So, yes, while some jobs will inevitably succumb to the efficiency of machine automation, this will likely force a shift in employment values, and those soft, human skills that are so difficult to replicate will become your personal trump card.

4. You’ll have incredible tech by your side.

Part of existing in the future of work is going to be the exploration of amazing new technologies at our fingertips. The key will be using them in a way that complements and enhances our roles, rather than seeing them as the usurpers.

A real-world example we can look to right now in 2018 is Explainable AI. See, most machine learning algorithms exist in a bit of a vacuum - they just do their thing, with little to no insight as to how they arrived at their outcomes. Explainable AI turns that on its head, and in doing so actually helps bridge the gap in trust between human and machine. Essentially, its models are far more transparent, assist in learning while maintaining high accuracy. When you can see what the machine is up to and turn it into an exercise in education, it’s far less intimidating.

3. We’ve been here before. Don’t panic.

Fear of advancing technology is not a new phenomenon. Variations on this same conversation have been happening for centuries… yep, it’s a conversation we’ve been wringing our hands over at least since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Huh?

It’s true. She stopped a patent by inventor William Lee on an automated knitting machine, out of fear it would take the jobs of young women making a living from hand-knitting. (Want to see the timeline of such instances throughout history - check it out here; it’s pretty amazing).

While automation certainly changes the playing field, it doesn’t reduce the amount of players. Just as we’ve done for hundreds of years, we flexible, hardy humans simply adapt and create.

2. You’ll work in the best teams you’ve ever experienced.

Current and past working life, at least in terms of starting new employment, has gone something like this:

  • Search available jobs related to your experience, skill set and desired career aspirations.
     
  • Apply for jobs that fit the above and appeal to you in terms of your next career move.
     
  • Secure an interview, where you are assessed by a stranger on your (hopefully) one-page resume, as well as answers to questions that have become part of their in-house recruitment process. Experience and skill set are the dominant topics of conversation.
     
  • Be judged by said stranger, on little more than an hour of face-to-face time as to whether you’re a suitable “cultural fit”, based on a whole lot of abstract subjectivity, vague “gut feelings” and the time sensitivity of filling the position.
     
  • Land the job, navigate all the early-stage jitters around fitting in, only to realize you’re really not that into it. Between “Activewear Fridays” and awkward team building, the cultist vibe really isn’t for you. And you’re sick of Norbert from accounting making you look at every single one of his bird-watching photos.

    Alternative ending: You’ve landed yourself a great job, and you gel with the culture just fine. Mostly by accident.

With the future of work comes a whole new use for data - your data, that is. People analytics is being used right this second to help businesses shape high-performance and super cohesive teams, based on their intrinsic motivations and talents. How do we know? Well, we do it. And it works.

Does that mean you will never again have any sort of conflict, spending your days in complete harmony? No way. But what you will have is an understanding of the why in your colleagues’ motivations, which makes conflict resolution much more streamlined, as well as fosters appreciation of those unique talents that everyone brings to the table. Through greater understanding comes a comfort many only hope to experience in their work life.

1. There will actually be more jobs.

While no-one can predict exactly what will happen well into the future, we can make some deductions based on historical events. Fifty years ago, there were precisely zero jobs for web designers and bloggers, and a ‘YouTube’ personality would probably have something to do with plumbing.

With fast-moving technology, we’re bound to see job creation - even for jobs we cannot even imagine right now. There will almost certainly be adjustments required, and it’s not always going to be straightforward… but don’t let the ‘bots get you down just yet.

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