What will work look like in ten years from now?

by Barrie Hopson on December 24, 2010 · 2 comments

in New ways of working,Work

We always encourage people to guest post on this site and I was intrigued with a posting by Nick Gendler a very well known career coach on his website. I asked him if he would like to contribute his thoughts on this topic on our website. The whole issue of the future of work is one that Katie and I are being asked about more and more and we are beginning to research the subject. Our thoughts will be posted here as they develop. Over to Nick ……

“I’ve always fancied being one of those experts who analyse data and pronounce great meaning upon it. The trouble is I developed an aversion to statistical data early on in my career in the months leading up to my decision to stop being a market researcher.   Some people love it. It’s like the Matrix for them, you know, where the digits cascade down the screen and the guy reading it can see that important things are happening in the real world. My problem is, I should have been a qualitative researcher because I garner much more significance from one person’s narrative than a mash-up of quantitative data.

It is therefore with thanks to the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) and in particular, their Chief Economic Advisor, Dr John Philpott who has interrogated the latest Labour Force Survey from the Office of National Statistics and, like a great chef, turned an indigestible crop of numbers into an easily swallowed snack.

The first 9 months of the year saw a net increase in jobs of 350,000, but what were those jobs? Just under two thirds were employed positions with about 30% accounting for people who had declared themselves self-employed. That’s a big tell for me. Perhaps even more indicative of the trend is that about 70,000 of the employed are in part time and / or temporary jobs. In other words, half of those new jobs are not employed positions, either permanent or full-time. As the report says, “there has been no recovery in full-time permanent jobs for employees”. Furthermore, 14% of part-timers would rather be working full-time, and 38% of temps would rather be perms; they’re still trying for a “proper” job. The data doesn’t go into it, but my guess is that at least the same proportion of those who have gone as far as setting themselves up as self-employed workers, would take a full-time permanent job if one was offered.

Does this represent a fundamental shift in work patterns or are full-time permanent jobs just in abeyance as long as employers feel the need for a more flexible workforce? Confidence certainly plays a big part. If employers can see clear blue sky they’ll recruit permanent staff with a view to a longer-term relationship. Nevertheless, I think we are witnessing a shift as significant as that which was heralded by the technological revolution and has been characterised by organisations experiencing almost constant change, massive reductions in middle management layers, and the end of the so-called “job for life”. The relationship between employer and employee, once considered a long-term engagement, is now a simple business transaction.

So what’s the world of work going to look like in ten years from now? I predict that most skills based people will run portfolio careers providing services for perhaps 12 months at a time, rather than the two to three years that people tend to stay in a job now. Our call-centre / service economy will grow, and that will mean round the clock working to support the 24 hour society – plenty of part time people will be available to do this shift work. Contracts will roll rather than be indefinite and redundancy will become a thing of the past; contracts will just not be renewed. There’ll be a noticeable proportion of the workforce over the age of 80 and they’ll be as fit and active as people currently in their 60’s.   People talk about the experience that older people have to offer, but in a world where businesses are changing so quickly and skills are obsolete almost as soon as they are acquired, the idea of experience being of value lacks some currency.

Soft, transferable skills will be in demand. The ability to communicate well, to empathise and persuade will be valued, which is just as well because those are the skills that people will need to get the jobs in the first place.”

Nick offers an Interview Preparation masterclass for people looking for a new role, or planning to return to employment in London on January 11th. Click here for further details.

And please see this as an invitation to get your views on this fascinating topic which is much more than academic as people every day are making career decisions and often bound by last century thinking.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tony Reeder January 5, 2011 at 10:53 pm

I read this article with interest, ten years from now could be a scary place with an over reliance on digital technology. The “I” in “IT” represents information not intelligence, we can make it say what we wish, provide the answers we want to hear attaching a religious fervour to its beliefs. This takes me back some years to a discussion over use of the calculator, cumulating in; “who’s to say the answer is right if you have no idea what the answer is supposed to be,” a decimal point in the wrong place could be an extremely expensive error. This brings me to the comment that “the idea of experience being of value lacks some currency.” You can see this attitude in the present day; we need qualifications and certificates to prove competence, they quantify ones academic ability at a point in one’s life. Experience is developed above and beyond qualification and it is experience that allows you to draw logical conclusions, to know information is correct and to apply intelligence.
We are already a 24 hour society. And yes, the workforce will be more fluid in ten years from now, the same ways as it is more fluid now than it was ten years ago. It is not so long ago that people left school joined an employer and retired from the same company. Companies are hurting from the amount of redundancy they have to pay out in the present economic climate, without a doubt, they will endeavour to find away to avoid it in the future and the work force will adapt. The experience of the heavy industries will have entered the annuals of history and the flexible work force will have experiences to meet challenges of the day, people of all ages are capable of leaning new, adding to their experiences. History proves good communication is the art of success, there will be no reason for it to change in the future. The scary world of the future should not be one of automatons, cybermen in reverse; human shells, digital brains…….. lets hope not. We should not write off experience, it’s an invaluable commodity that has driven the human race throughout time.

2 Barrie Hopson January 11, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Thank you Tony for your thoughtful contribution to what will be an ongoing discussion and debate.

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