Futures Salon: “The Workforce of the Future”

We return to our evening time slot to discuss the future of the workforce as outlined in a recent review by PwC’s global People and Organization:

This review sets out to help envision the workforce in 2030, where the opposite forces of collectivist and individualism, as well as the contract between business fragmentation define four different potential worlds: The Red World, where innovation rules, The Blue World, where corporate is king, The Green World, where companies care, and The Yellow World, where humans come first. This review further details the potential role of leaders in these different Worlds and how the infrastructure of the workplace would be structures in each one. We have asked the group today to envision these worlds and which ones seem to be the most likely, both on a local and global scale.

As the current pandemic situation unfolds, we are starting to reveal that, through the power of this virtual connection, workforce talent exists in nodes. These nodes open possibilities for project specialists, where teams can be assembled to handle the details for particular projects and then dissolve for new efforts. Now that digital meetings are becoming the standard, this flexibility shows potential for growth in whatever World we are approaching. Caution, however, should be placed on how the advancement of technology matches with these World ideas and whether or not there will be backlash against the implementation of AI and technology in the workplace.

Online retail appears to be a measurement of how the pandemic has accelerated the reliance on technology. Massive system usage increases, stresses on the supply chain, and a general shift in products purchased pushes the need for strengthening these systems, often solved by these companies through automation. Perhaps these changes were bound to happen, but the pressure placed through this rapid technological adaptation/advancement shows that we have a new reliance on it.

We consider whether this review is overly optimistic of this technological incorporation into society and the workforce, where automation is always a good thing. It is to be noted that automation would never replace a particular job, but that the person implementing that automation would be shifting where that job would be. A recommendation is also placed to view the Amazon series, Jack Ryan, as it provides and interesting example on the incorporation into society.

Knowledge Economies and Knowledge Work was additionally recommended to continue this conversation on how to act as leaders and support the changes in the workplace: “This practical book serves as a guide for corporate leaders and managers, knowledge managers, workforce professionals, policy makers, labor economists, human capital researchers, and educators. It helps diverse audiences understand the implications of this transformation and helps them navigate this new economy.”

Future leaders will have to prepare for a world of human computing resources. A cognitive divide may begin to develop between those who frequently interact and are reliant on technology and those who are more casual users. Cyber attacks, then, become part of an underground economy in individual information, company stability, and corporate conflict.

Would a future exist in which large conferences are having “live” questions and answer sessions, regardless of time zone and location? Or are these more static interactions destined to shrink and become more flexible and versatile? There is a serious opportunity in which rotations of team leadership, virtual team setup, and specialists become the hyper adaptable solutions to these ever-changing problems.

Will the entire workforce even be able to interact with these changing times? Or will this be part of that cognitive divide? How do we teach students, train specialists, and adapt to a cooperative society with machines? Does this solely fall onto the education system? Or will some be permanently left behind, further worsening the divide between those at the top and those at the bottom? The current environment has accelerated the learning environment to this new highly flexible learning environment and maybe this is the necessary leap to advance into any of these World systems. We are moving through a period of inevitable change, thrown rapidly on the system, but new innovative solutions today will have massive effects for generations to come.

We thank the entire group for their amazing discussion on the topic and look forward to talking again next month.

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