We have two views when we consider the future of work. We can wait for it to happen or we can plan for it.
With no crystal ball in sight, you may be thinking how on earth do I plan for something I know little about. To be honest, it’s a good point. I have a keen interest in the future and keep myself educated on the subject by reading reports and articles on the future of work. For over 20 years I have worked with businesses of all sizes, whether FTSE100 or SME and have always been curious and concerned about how trends affect companies and individuals. So whilst I am not a futurist, I am an avid follower of the future of the workforce and through this blog, I will endeavour to provide you with 8 points that you may wish to consider to help you to future-proof your career.
First things first, let’s get some reality on the situation. Whilst we may feel that the speed of change has recently notched up a few gears, change happens all the time. We are in, what experts call, the fourth industrial revolution. An industrial revolution can be characterised by advancements in technology. The first three industrial revolutions brought us water and steam power, electricity and digitisation. With every industrial revolution there have been shifts in economic, environmental, social and political systems that have altered the course of humanity. Some of these shifts are foreseen, and others are completely unforeseen.
As the fourth industrial revolution unfolds, it brings technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), nanotechnology, 3D printing, robotics and many others that are, and will, disrupt and change businesses within each and every industry. When I mentioned earlier that the speed of change has notched up a few gears, I wasn’t wrong, we are talking about changes that will drastically supersede any digital changes made in the past 60 years and which will create realities that we would previously never have thought possible.
So how can we prepare for such unprecedented times ahead?
1. Life-long learning will be essential. This will apply to all of us who are of a working age, regardless of generation. According to McKinsey, up to 375 million workers may need to change their occupational category by 2030. 2030 may feel far away, but broadly speaking it will impact anyone currently under the age of 60 as we need to take into account both working longevity and retirement ages getting older.
There is no doubt that we will continue to encounter changes that will mean that we need to acquire new skills to adapt to changing roles and responsibilities. As a result, we need to take personal responsibility for our own career development and take advantage of lifelong learning opportunities too.
Thinking that educations ends in our 20’s is now a thing of the past. Instead we need to prepare ourselves for a workplace where education and work will become more closely entwined.
In April 2017, the government introduced the ‘Apprenticeship Levy’ to help fund individuals training at work. You may associate the word ‘Apprenticeship’ with the younger generation however, did you know the average age of an Apprentice is actually 34? Employers can offer ‘Apprenticeships’ (or up-skilling) in your workplace to everyone, irrespective of age. So, it may be worth having a chat with your Manager or Training Department to find out more about it.
2. Enhance critical soft-skills. What comes naturally to people (empathising with another human) can be challenging for machines, and what’s straightforward for machines (analysing gigabytes of data) is pretty impossible for humans. Therefore, business will require both kinds of capabilities. So, another area of focus will be to develop soft-skills such as;
Empathy and communication
Good judgement skills
Positive response to change
3. Identify your transferable skills.
Taking into account the above statement, it would be pertinent to become more familiar with your transferable skills. So, what do you do that is transferable? Everyone has strengths and skills that they are good at. To get you started, consider answering the following questions;
What are the things that you love to do?
What aspects are you good at?
What are your personal qualities?
What is your specific work experience?
Now compile a list of your hard skills (technical skills such as typing, writing, software knowledge) and soft skills (your personal traits, characteristics and competencies). You may wish to take a look at the research below to give you an idea of some of the existing and new roles which will be increasing in demand according to the latest report from the 'World Economic Forum'. (The Future of Jobs published September 2018)
4. Develop your digital capabilities. Digital fluency will be increasingly important to new jobs. Schools and colleges are adapting their curriculum's to include data analytics, digital marketing, communications and social media. Being aware of this gives us all a ‘heads up’ as to some of the knowledge we may also need to enhance, to help keep ourselves ahead of the game.
5. Be aware of changing hiring practices. Employers are rethinking the way that they hire and shape their workforce's. The traditional hiring approaches we are all familiar with are fast evolving, to ensure they boost inclusion and also consider social mobility. If, you are considering changing employers, ensure you ask questions about the specific hiring process that is involved to ensure you are well prepared and don’t get caught out.
6. Open your mind to new ways of working. Work and personal life is undoubtedly starting to blend. Workers are attracted to flexible and remote working as they believe it will help them to stay motivated and get more work done. Employers are starting to come around to the idea seeing the benefits of improved employee engagement and increased productivity.
7. Know your values and purpose. Understanding what ‘drives’ you in life is important regardless of the context in which I am writing this blog. However, with the job requirements of tomorrow not being completely ‘knowable’, understanding what’s important to you will be vital to ensure you make the right decisions for your future career.
8. Understand the market. Understanding which markets are growing and declining will put you ahead of the game. Don’t bury your head in the sand, keep abreast of changes in your industry by asking questions, taking notice, reading and researching yourself.
In summary, those who are most curious will be more prepared for the future. However, we all have the opportunity to plan for the future by embracing it not fearing it. There is no need for that crystal ball or to be a Futurist!