Are you ready for the workplace of tomorrow?

Date: 12 October 2017 Author: David Webb

Have you given some thought lately to how technology and automation will impact your workplace in the next decade or two? It’s estimated that up to 47 percent of jobs could be automated by 2032. What this means for you as part of the workforce and an IT professional, specifically, is that you will be at the forefront of a workplace in which intelligent machines outnumber humans.

People will work in highly fluid teams of full- and part-timers, located in multiple destinations across the globe, using technology we probably wouldn’t recognise today, in ways we’ve only just started to talk about. In this blog, we explore some of the ways technology is beginning to change the look and functionality of the workplace.

The flexible workforce

These are the biggest influencing factors that will change the workforce of tomorrow, and the places in which we work:

Generational mix—Tomorrow’s workforce will have more of a mix of generations than ever before. The reasons are advancements in medical science that allow people to live longer and healthier lives, coupled with the fact that individuals are working beyond traditional retirement age; either because they can’t afford to retire or because they want to continue enjoying careers they have spent many years developing.

Gen Y influence—Those born between 1982 and 2004 were typically born into smaller families with more income at their disposal, and educated in systems that promoted individualism. This means Generation Ys have received more of their parents’ attention and income than previous generations—a reason Gen Ys are also known as Generation Me.

Although Gen Ys have not had more exposure to technology than the preceding generation, they have had a lifetime of exposure. The implications for the workplace are that the lines between work and technology, work and private life, and work and personal happiness are far more blurred than in the previous generation. So, in order to attract and retain Gen Y talent, the workplace needs to emphasise technology, fluid work hours and locations, and initiatives that create a happy and engaging workplace. It’s estimated that by 2020, 40 percent of leadership will either have retired or be close to retirement and Generation Y will need to be ready to lead.

Workplaces—Around 33 percent of the UK workforce complete work at home on a regular basis or while commuting; in essence, fitting their personal lives around their work instead of the opposite. This trend is, and will continue to be, driven by technology that enables people to work from anywhere at any time. With developments in wearable technology, it will soon be easier for employers to keep an eye on remote workers’ productivity and communicate more fluidly with their workforce. Population growth will also make a more flexible workplace a necessity, saving workers considerable time and expense by eliminating or reducing the need to the commute.

Technology—The biggest changes in the workplace will undoubtedly be the result of mobile, cloud and social technologies that lead us to places in the next 20 years that we can only imagine, including virtual and augmented realities altering our world and artificial intelligence that sees humans working alongside intelligent machines and robots.

IT Consultancy

The software-defined workforce

As yesterday’s technological breakthroughs, such as cloud-based services and unified systems, become part of the landscape of today, and costs decrease with use, flexibility around workplace, work hours and the makeup of the workforce will continue to change.

This will also make employing a permanent staff less appealing—software that defines processes and then chooses from global talent pools to find resources for one-off projects is predicted to be on the market in as little as five years. Within the US market, variations of this software is already available. Businesses are also likely to decrease risk by employing freelance talent instead of permanent staff for projects that may or may not succeed in the ever-changing marketplace.

The IoT is set to become the biggest area of growth and the factor most likely to impact the workplace of the future, with a predicted 38 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020. Car manufacturers are already consulting with telecoms companies so workers will be able to access files, emails and contact colleagues during their commute.

The functional workforce

As early as 2030, 50 percent of the workforce might lose their jobs to artificial intelligence. But AI could also mean the invention of jobs we haven’t yet thought about. As more humans work alongside robots, the chain of command is likely to change as traditionally organised enterprises lose out to those with highly functional teams. The old-fashioned method of coordinating production—sending a message up, horizontally and back down to unlock resources—will be replaced by businesses that broaden their teams as and when they need them.

For instance, in the healthcare sector, a combination of health trackers, wearables and sensors along with the medical tricorder—a portable, hand–held device that lists vital signs, other parameters and a diagnosis—will save lives by decreasing response times and increasing vital information in situ.

These are particularly exciting times for software developers, as AI is set to improve planning, development and testing of AI technologies that use advanced machine learning (ML), deep learning, natural language processing and business rules. The emphasis will be less on coded rules to program applications and more on programming algorithms to self-learn.

The changing face of digital strategy

Digital strategy is set to become the single most important factor in the future survival of enterprises. Already it has begun to shift from being similar to IT strategy—aligning new technologies to existing products and practices—to focusing on the abilities that new technologies create. The enterprises that thrive in decades to come will place digital strategy at the centre of their business strategy for the purpose of mapping out how they can best use technology to enhance human performance.

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