This week's must-read articles on the world of work include a reminder of the importance of lifelong learning, the challenge of preparing students for an uncertain future and the pros and cons of the four-day week.

#1. Reining in gig economy


A new law in California limits the ability of companies to classify workers as independent contractors, rather than employees. The move is aimed at gig economy companies who, according to critics, give their workers the responsibilities of employment – fixed hours, for example – without the corresponding benefits, such as sick pay or holiday entitlement. However, the new law is likely to have unintended consequences, with companies simply getting rid of freelancers in favor of a smaller number of full-time employees or focusing their efforts on other states. Meanwhile, the gig economy is booming, suggesting that customers, workers, and businesses all see benefits.


💡 Sometimes less is more: instead of rigid restrictions, we would do better to focus on smart regulations that make the gig economy work for everyone involved.


Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

#2. Increasing the skills of workers (young and old) must be a top priority


The nature of work is changing. Indeed, it always has, as former British civil servant and businessperson Natalie Ceeney points out in this article from The Times. In the mid-19th Century, one in five Britons worked in agriculture, for example. Today it’s around one percent. Big changes have happened over just the last decade, according to a recent study by the Office for National Statistics. There are two-thirds fewer typists and telephonists and a rise of almost 200% in finance officers. The pace of change is such that we must focus on equipping workers of all ages with the skills they need to adapt, argues Ms Ceeney.


💡 Meet the future and make 2020 the year when you launch a training programme for your employees. Here is a five-step guide to help you.


Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

#3. Automation, climate change, AI: schools prepping students for jobs of the future


There’s similar news from Canada, where Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, says that universities are adapting their courses to meet the needs “of a changing society”, by focusing on trends such as climate change, data science and cybersecurity. He says universities are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, so the focus must be on ‘soft skills’ like critical thinking and problem solving. This shares a theme with one of the links from last week’s Top 5, which discussed the Finnish Presidency making an online AI course available across the EU, free.


💡 The future favours the prepared mind. Investing in learning new skills, be it digital or soft skills, will make you more competitive.


Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash

#4. Finland’s Prime Minister Suggested a 4-Day Workweek or 6-Hour Days


Talking of Finland, it was widely reported that Sanna Marin, the Finnish prime minister, plans to introduce a four-day working week. That isn’t quite accurate, as the Finnish government later made clear. The reports were based on remarks that Ms Marin made before she took office, suggesting that the future might see shorter working days, or a shorter working week. Whether it’s a plan or not, the evidence suggests that shorter working days increase productivity. As John Brandon writes at Inc, the eight-hour working day is a remnant of industrial-era shift work. However, there’s one important downside to the 4-day workweek, even if it does make you more productive. Cutting the workweek short could mean less time for longer-term career development, says management expert Laura Vanderkam.


💡 Working less and having more personal time sounds great but all coins have two sides: consider all consequences before redesigning your work life.


Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

#5. Upskill the upskillers: The must-have New Year’s resolution for businesses


And finally, how are you doing with your New Year’s Resolutions? Still going strong? Hang in there, there are about 350 days left. If you haven’t made a resolution, then this Econotimes article has a suggestion: upskill the upskillers. Regular readers will know that digital transformation hinges on upskilling and reskilling your employees, not buying-in expensive talent from elsewhere. But are the people leading that transformation qualified to do the upskilling? This article emphasizes the importance of training your experts and keeping them current.


💡 Train your trainers well and they will take care of your employees who will then take care of your business.


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