The end of the year is always a time for reflection, as well as considering the future. Here is a selection of eight articles, reports and books that will tell you all you need to know about the future of work, as seen from late 2019.
One of the trends of the year has been mainstream think pieces on the effect of automation on the world of work, contrasting with articles from insiders pointing out that people remain irreplaceable for a whole range of roles. In this article for Forbes, Jonquil Hackenberg explains how greater flexibility, talent re-skilling and fluid operating models are vital to getting the most out of the tech-enabled workplace of the future.
This one is ideal for when you have a bit of downtime over the holidays. It’s about the US Navy but its conclusions are applicable to a changing workplace. The piece explains how the qualities we’ve typically looked for in employees – conscientiousness, dedication and tenacity – are not necessarily the ideal ones for working environments with “rapidly changing rules and roles”. We’re going to need to look for people who are comfortable in ambiguous environments, where they need to learn as they go.
This is another one that will need a bit of time, but this book by the former chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission is worth reading because it sets our current technological upheaval in context. Change is the norm in human history, he argues, and our instinct is to resist. One to read if you’re seeking a little perspective.
Written towards the end of the year, this is a handy reminder of the forces at play in the world of work. From machine learning to geographic clustering, this piece succinctly summarises the themes that will affect the world of work in 2020 and over the next few years.
Are there other, less obvious trends to which we should be paying attention? Yes there are, and this piece does a good job of surfacing them. Technology and bots play a role, of course, but we must also consider the changing relationship between employers and employees. Today’s employees expect more than just a paycheck and that is already shaping the behaviour of some businesses.
Another book for your Christmas list. Though it was first published in 2018, Marr’s book was shortlisted for The Business Book Awards 2019 and is worth catching-up with. There are huge amounts of data available to the modern HR department and business strategist Bernard Marr explains how to get the best from it.
The automation age will mean changes for all employees but it’s particularly important to consider the role of women, McKinsey argues, because they are already stuck on a slow road to parity in pay and conditions. Automation could make things worse.
Finally, the latest report from the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future takes a clear-eyed look at an era of change. “The paradox of the present”, the authors write, is that the rich world is enjoying a jobs boom and yet employees are pessimistic about the future of work. The report presents some concrete solutions for both businesses and policy makers.
That list should give you plenty to think about as we move into 2020. The above selections emphasise just what an exciting field this is – and how much scope there is for change.