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Captain Future: Man of TomorrowAs promised, this is my second post in my Future Series! I want to focus on the future of work and will be interested in your thoughts.

So what does the future hold for work? And how does this affect you and me?

First and foremost, I believe individuals will experience more choice and more freedom in the future of work. The rigidity of the industrial age will loosen. The paradigms that tie the individual to one company, to one career, to one industry sector, to one workplace and to fixed working hours will dissolve.

Filling the void will be a freer, more flexible and more creative approach to work. Individuals will be empowered by choice in everything from where, when and how to work.  Remuneration will be based on output (or even better, the value created) instead of time. And they are most likely to work within a globally sourced team, amongst best of breed colleagues that rarely, if ever, meet in person. It will be interesting to see how this approach to remuneration translates into the world of, for example, checkout staff or Starbuck baristas.

Critical to note is that this freedom is built on individuals having a strong internal reference system, discipline, self-determination, self-motivation, and self-reliance. This freedom is built on the individual accepting responsibility for furthering their own skills (in any form) and therefore enriching the value they provide. There will be no companies to blame, no boss to moan to, no one to demand from – just the individual him/herself.

In a great levelling of the playing field, the individuals’ ability to work in this manner and on this sphere won’t be dependent on being born a GenY or GenX. In the future of work, the value drivers for success (and not just monetary) are mindset, desire and adaptability.

With regards from ancient Greece

Education will continue to cover basic knowledge and skills, but will shift in focus to creating individuals that can function independently and confidently in a more complex environment: the role of formal educators will be to teach how to think, reason and analyse and actual job skills will be learnt on the job.   Consequently, internships and freelancing will increase for the younger cohorts, but also for everybody who wants to change career. Given we’re living longer, our working life is also that bit longer. This gives us a much greater opportunity to try new careers or bring our cumulative life experiences to bear in new fields!

It’s not only the required skill and mindsets that shift the core of education and enhance the importance of internships, but also the change in entry level jobs. For example, already what were previously entry level jobs in consultancies are replaced by computer systems. A decade ago, the first couple of years in a management consultant’s life would be spent collecting and collating data and learn by observing. This has changed as technology and reporting systems have evolved. Management consultancies therefore are now looking for mid career professionals who already have a substantial amount of work life experience – the belief being that these individuals can interpret the data better than your typical entry level employee and gain greater respect from the client.

Our work life longevity will also see more people change careers as they progress through different life stages. Maybe we’ll see more teachers of a ‘mature’ age who have moved from a business career to a career in education.

Maternity leave will not be seen as a career hindrance given just how small a timeframe it consumes in the overall span of working life. Equally important will be the recovery of beliefs that early childhood education has a strong and profound impact on “human becomings”and this will impact on the work choices during that particular phase in a parents’ life.

The key to success: Creativity & Project Management

The real in-demand “skills” in the future of work will be creativity and project management. Creativity, as it allows the development of ground breaking, innovative, competitive and unique solutions. Project management, as it transforms creativity into tangible assets by using a virtual and global team of freelance experts to deliver it on time and to continue the real-time development and enhancement throughout a product’s/service’s life cycle.

So, individuals with either a creativity or project management skill base have a soft of lifelong employability in the future of work. These are the real skills to hone and focus on.

The consequences of this approach, combined with the desire of the individual for more freedom is that anything that isn’t a core competency will be outsourced. The challenge for companies is that this requires them to have a clear understanding of their value drivers and a stable yet flexible approach to strategy.

Connectivity and value creation

The outsourcing leads to a lighter and more nimble company with flatter hierarchies and a network approach. For me that means, the company is changing shape permanently and knowledge won’t be held centrally but will be intrinsic within the system. Companies will become increasingly more open as they understand that more exchange leads to greater success and – interestingly – stability whilst permanently evolving. A small indication of this is that workers won’t receive hardware.  The company will only supply them with connectivity and access.

Companies – similar to individuals – will also be increasingly paid for delivered value. Early indications of this model are those recruitment companies that are not being paid for staffing call centres but for the performance of the call centres. This is only the beginning.

Virtual, global teams will lead to an increase in shared knowledge exchanges. These exchanges will not be built around the data but around the user and based on the understanding that as information is freely available; the real value lies in its analysis and the subsequent actions taken.

Paying individuals by value created will overcome wage discrepancies from country to country. It will also be highly interesting to tackle all of the legal changes, tax incentives and union involvement in this global world.

Virtual teams will also lead to more video conferencing, not only between countries, but within countries.  It will be the short distance travel, the short one hour meetings that require a one hour journey time that will be replaced quickest, especially if reward moves to value creation and output instead of time spent. Clearly face to face meetings are still important, however, they will increasingly occur at industry gatherings or as a breakout session at industry conferences. Events such as TruLondon will remain and thrive as it serves to deepen links and relationships, facilitates introductions and focuses on the softer human traits as well as coordination and motivation of the otherwise virtual teams.

As you can see it will be exciting times; exciting because of the multitude of changes that will and need to happen to keep pace with these developments; exciting because it will – hopefully – lead to a different but nevertheless powerful new era of enlightenment.

Creative Commons License photo credit: hatwoman

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