It might sound bizarre to hear that in a way, the pandemic came at a rather convenient time — in an age booming with technology. The dependence on tech has been growing to the point where no industry can make do without at least some digital access. When the pandemic began, life as we know it ceased and took on a new, online form. To accommodate the increased demand for online services and the traffic that suddenly rushed to them, the digital landscape is changing. For example, many tech startups hire react native talent. Now companies can still meet with partners and clients from around the globe and have their employees continue to clock in and work for them, albeit remotely.
Several workers found that they preferred this shift because they could meet professional expectations, and make a lot more time for their personal lives. Of course, this can prohibit you from obtaining a productive work life balance. At the same time, it has blurred the lines between work time and playtime, and sometimes one wonders if the working ever stops. Still, one can’t deny the flexibility to choose our work hours and not have to get up as early is very appealing. To think that the option will one day go away is unpleasant, and to some even cause for indignation.
The Future Workforce
The idea and form of the workplace are constantly changing. The avenues that will open up tomorrow perhaps can’t even be thought of yet. So what kind of job market can the future workforce expect?
Trends in the US show that about half the current jobs can be done remotely and that 80% of workers would jump at the chance to operate from home. Naturally, they would want their time to be freed up so they can pursue other things of interest. While it is clear that employees are in favour of remote business work, only 7% of employers in the US have implemented a work from home policy. Possibly, employers tend to believe that without the supervision and discipline that an office environment provides, workers might not give their best performance. Nonetheless, this shift to working remotely has begun and will continue to scale as its merits show themselves.
Some jobs have taken on a nature that thrives in the gig economy. Employers have seized upon the wonders of the digital world at their fingertips, and adopted the practice of hiring freelancers on a project basis, on demand. The online network provides instant connectivity between those offering and looking for jobs. With the rising appeal of gig work that allows flexibility and remote work, the trend of seeking full-time, stable employment has declined. Companies have to find ways to offer more appeal to their permanent employees if they wish to retain their workforce.
PwC projects that there are four quadrants of work that will be at the forefront of competition in ten years’ time:
- Specialists and field experts responsible for rapid innovation to maximise the profits of consumerism. Naturally, they cannot be large in number.
- Global corporations with their size and existing dominance have their profits protected by their precedence.
- Communities and platforms that possess corporate responsibility are looked upon with a favourable eye as their good deeds have both citizens’ and employees’ support
- Companies with a greater purpose in this world, corporate self-actualization, if you will, also have people’s support for their principles of fairness
From these projections, the two qualities of a worker rank first in desirability and necessity for survival are adaptability and exceptional skill.
Technological breakthroughs coming about are having their impact all over the workplace. Artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation are more economical and convenient strategic tech upgrades company growth. Even customer service carried out by bots is popular. Yes, humans provide a personal touch that a bot can’t, and yes, the online world knowing and storing all your details is scary. And while on an individual level, a robot coming in to do your work better than you is certainly not good news, on an industrial level, this is a welcome, lucrative change.
Skills that computers are better equipped with are slowly becoming redundant in humans. Being replaced by a machine is a genuine and looming threat, and the only way to combat it is to anticipate the dynamic of the economy, and develop new skills to stay relevant. Some sectors will definitely lose out but new ones will mushroom in their place.
This is another reason gig work is gaining popularity. Full-time employees have been furloughed because employers prefer automation, independent workers, or agencies. Why would they pay full-time what they can access on-demand for a fraction of a cost?
This does not replace the human ability to create and innovate. The gig economy further portends the need for highly creative workers who can engage in higher-order thinking capabilities while rote work is automated. No sudden and unexpected unemployment there.
The digital world implies a digital lifestyle . Something that has been insinuating itself into our lives more pointedly since well before the pandemic. And after it, virtual transactions and meetings, shopping and education, sharing and documenting have introduced an unshakeable online nature to our lives. Professional and personal communication now takes place almost primarily online. It comes as no surprise that work itself has gone digital for white collar workers. It is faster, easier, more reliable, with convenient access, and almost no limits. As employers appropriate digital transformation into their organizational culture, there are overnight changes.
There are, however, some implications of this shift that haven’t been fully acknowledged. We have not simply moved deliverables and communication from the physical to the social medium, we have also experienced a shift in our outlook, motivations, influence, and fulfillment.
For example, the benefits of face-to-face interactions or following a company’s routine are no longer met. These interpersonal and structural needs have to be made up for in other ways. Studies talk of an affective digital transformation that focuses not just on the company’s regular functioning but also on driving engagement and helping employee’s feel a sense of purpose in what they do.
With so many threats to the existing nature of the workforce and the ever-growing competition, creativity and innovation are in need now more than ever. This is something that is best brought about by as diverse a pool of contributors and consultants as possible. People understand people best, and attending to interpersonal and individual needs are no longer solely an HR function but an organisational one.
So many shifts, so many needs, and so much to do. While there are many leadership coaching strategies, leaders in the workplace now need to go through a personal transformation to effectively guide growth.
- First, they themselves need to be digitally savvy.
- Second, they need to be able to connect the professional motivations of workers to the embodiment of the organization’s purpose
- Third, they need to upskill their teams and while making sure processes are robust, lean, and agile.
- Fourth, they need to anticipate the new brand of needs that will arise in the digital landscape, and find ways to optimize the efforts of the workforce.
The people in employment are advancing themselves in digital literacy on their own, and in order to manage them and make use of the vast resources of the online world, leaders too need to be tech savvy. Research has shown the importance workers give to feeling connected to their organization, and believing that their employers are giving due importance to digital transformation. And so leaders need to commit to adapting themselves, and have a willingness to learn before they go about changing their organizations.
The world is taking on a new and unfamiliar path. There is much beyond understanding, and the uncertainty is scary, but as the world changes, so must we. The most we can do is anticipate the needs, and train ourselves to adapt so that we may thrive in our respective places of work.