New technologies are changing work styles again. Most significantly, smart mobile technology and home broadband make it easier than ever to work away from the office. The notion that work is somewhere you go is now overshadowed by the concept that it is something you do. As a result, companies construct the working experience of their employees as much – if not more – through their choice of technology as through the location and design of their offices, according to a recent EIU-curated report on The Future of Work, sponsored by Fujitsu.
But is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the promise of homeworking just a smokescreen for the constant spector of technological advance stealing your job out from under you, after years of training and building your skills and experience? I have to admit that when I spotted this list a few weeks ago, it did make me question whether ‘Technical writers’ – at 0.89 – meant the kind of person (like me) who has built a career helping international technology companies to explain what they do. Thankfully not.Source: The Economist
As far back as 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes talked about a “new disease”: “technological unemployment … due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor.” Actually, previous technological innovation has always delivered more long-run employment, not less. A lengthy article in The Economist details examples supporting this, but ominously suggests the future might be different…
One possible reason for this counter-intuitive affect was put forward by MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, in their book The Second Machine Age. Like the first great era of industrialization, they argue, this period should deliver enormous benefits—but not without a period of disorienting and uncomfortable change. Their argument rests on an under-appreciated aspect of the exponential growth in chip processing speed, memory capacity and other computer metrics: that the amount of progress computers will make in the next few years is always equal to the progress they have made since the very beginning. The main bottleneck on innovation is likely to be the time it takes society to sort through the many combinations and permutations of new technologies and business models.
From a business perspective, it is possible that labor shortages in key roles may actually be more of a problem than unemployment, for example with a shortfall in Germany of as much as 10 percent of needed workforce (this perhaps puts German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent call for more extensive immigration to Germany into context).
In an entertaining TED Talk, human resources expert, Rainer Strack talks us through The surprising workforce crisis of 2030 and how to start solving it now, asking nations and companies: what’s your people strategy?
- How will you forecast supply and demand for different jobs and for different skills? Workforce planning will become more important than financial planning.
- How will you attract people? This needs to be generation wide, especially women and retirees.
- How will you educate and upskill them? This is a huge challenge for nations, companies and individuals alike.
- How will you retain the best people? How to realize an appreciation and relationship culture
So. What’s yours?