Looking ahead: how the workplace is continuing to evolve

10 July 2019

There’s no doubt that the workplace is ever-evolving. From developments in technology to changes in the wants and needs of employees, the rate of change at work is rapid.

This shows no signs of slowing down as technology continues to develop. While some employees welcome the change – a Unum report found that 48% of workers surveyed believed that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will help reduce mundane tasks1 – others are slightly more cautious. The same Unum report found that 55% of employees were concerned that technological advances, such as AI, would lead to redundancies1.

The changing workplace

So what may be in store for the future of work? Taken from The AXA Growth Leaders Series report, Rohit Talwar, a global futurist, author and CEO of Fast Future Publishing said, “Some suggest that 50% or more of the jobs people do today could simply disappear to be replaced by automation in the next 10-20 years. People will also routinely live to 100 or more, so in a typical working lifespan you might have 20 jobs across 5-10 different careers. The nature of work will also change with automation. Humans will do less of the routine and focus more on project work. We’ll have fewer full-time roles and more people will have a portfolio of income streams from side hustles.”

It’s not just technology and automation that’s shaking things up, a younger generation of employees coming into the workplace is also resulting in change. “Employers can really learn from Generation Y and how they have upped the pace in the workplace” said Jo Geraghty, co-founder of Culture Consultancy. “Change is faster than it’s ever been and that’s only going to accelerate with Generation Z coming in”.

Alongside this, the norm when it comes to working hours and location is also changing. Advancements in technology have meant that it’s becoming easier than ever for people to work remotely, whether that’s from home, a local coffee shop or a co-working space. 

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How can business leaders prepare for a changing workplace?

With technology becoming more and more advanced, the need for employees to have digital skills is becoming greater. According to ONS data, 10% of adults in 2018 were internet non-users2. A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research also estimated that 7.9 million people will still remain without digital skills by 20253. “The challenge for those not raised with a digital mindset is to learn how to evolve and compete in the new environment”, said Rohit Talwar. “Can we get there by simply deploying more technology or do we need to develop a digital and exponential mindset? We will need a very flexible organisation design that allows us to pull together teams quickly that are a mix of employees, external partners, contractors, specialist software tools, suppliers and customers. And we will need people who can manage and get the best out of all of them.”

Business leaders and their teams will need to adopt a growth mindset in order to prepare for and manage the inevitable change that advancements in technology will bring to the workplace.

 “To keep up with the pace of change and the speeding up of society, we’ll need to equip ourselves with the skills required to navigate an uncertain future. This means ‘learning how to learn’ using rapid learning approaches and simulation-based training. Core skills will include problem solving, scenario planning, design thinking, systems understanding and collaboration. It also means embracing a digital mindset, adopting exponential rather than linear thinking and seeking more than 100% improvements across the organisation. To ensure the business does not get complacent, and stays alert and innovative, we will need to hire mavericks, encourage experimentation and have a reward structure that positively encourages people to learn and look for new ideas”, said Rohit Talwar.

This desire that business leaders and employees will need to have to keep up with the rate of change in the workplace through learning and development is echoed by Parveen Dhanda, Head of Future Fifty at Tech Nation – “People are taking more control of their own learning and development. For technical training, people look for on-demand, digital, tutorial based micro-learning. Classroom learning tends to be for the softer skills around people management. Business owners are investing in this because they want to develop leaders.”

In order to keep employees motivated and engaged with their work, business leaders could also look into the possibility of allowing flexible or remote working if the nature of their work allows for it. According to recent Powownow research, 81% of people believe that flexible working would make a job more attractive to them, yet only 68% of British workers are offered flexible working4.

The AXA Growth Leaders Series report

Together with The Supper Club, the founder and CEO network, we’ve produced The AXA Growth Leaders Series report which features insights and thought-leadership articles from inspiring business leaders. Topics range from growing future leaders to superfast decision making. Download your copy of The AXA Growth Leaders Series report.

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Sources and references

1Unum, The Future Workforce

2Office for National Statistics, Exploring the UK’s digital divide

3CEBR, The Economic Impact of Basic Digital Skills and Inclusion in the UK

4Powwownow, Flexible Working in 2019

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