Current and future trends in the labor world
In a report titled "The future of jobs" from January 2016, the World Economic Forum states that we are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution, and discusses the implications of this revolution on our occupational life and identity. Part of this global change is experienced already by some industries and employees.
So, what are those trends that the experts have identified, and are you adapting to them?
Dissolvent of boundaries
Past revolutions reshaped the world and blurred physical and intellectual boundaries. Globalization and the data revolution enhanced this process, and nowadays we operate in a digitalized world, which increases distribution of work across time and space.
The Digital web, constituted of enormous numbers of networks and eco-systems defragments well-known and established cultural institutions, and re-uses them in new ways.
Take for example services such as "Fiverr" which enables any person who's in need for a freelance service, to get it for a low cost, anytime of the day, regardless of their location or identity. On the other end of the service, any person can offer their freelance skills, without the limitations of an intermediary, a need for advertising and self-marketing, or any other traditional obstacles.
Although we are already accustomed to these kind of services, they represent a major change in employment characteristics in the past decades, and might as well be viewed as a hint for the coming future.
Constant improvement and upskilling
One of the findings of the World Economic Forum report, is that the many disruptive changes in the labor world have a significant impact on skills requirements in all job families and that they are creating a range of opportunities and challenges in all industries, not just narrowly related to ‘hard knowledge’, technical skills and technology. However, not only does the global digital economy requires new ideas, innovation, creativity and constant improvement, it also demand on-going learning and acquirement of new skills. Multi-skilling is not only important for employees with occupations at risk to become obsolete (for example, cab drivers replaced by autonomous vehicles, code programmers replaced by Artificial Intelligence), but also to employees who need to work in a multi-interface environment. In order for you to become a better finance professional, you need to fully understand and master computerized platforms, social processes, marketing and so forth.
The rapid development in technology designs our ordinary and day-to-day surroundings, including all the tools we carry and use for our jobs (whether it's a mobile phone or sketching pad). The ability to adapt, learn and embrace new skills becomes crucial in modern world.
This does not mean that tenure and experience have lost their importance. We will always need experts in all fields. However, the majority of the population are not those experts, and they will need to fit to the changing environment.
Working with robots
As one futurist author predicts, we are on the verge of a Cambrian explosion of robotics, arguing that like the Cambrian explosion half a billion years ago, when life on earth experienced an era of great diversification, so does we are about to witness similar explosion in the robotics domain. This explosion will be reflected in diversification and wider applicability of robots, AI and machine learning. We begin to see the first signs all around us – counter clerks replaced by interactive touch screens, autonomous vehicles industry surging forward, drones become common and bots replace service attendants.
The notion that robots will terminate some traditional jobs is well established and already present. Robots can do many tasks equally or better than human beings (for example in production), but it still cannot replace some human skills such as moral judgement, design, leadership, meta-human communication and many more.
The future work environments will be full of machines, algorithms and robots, and so, one of the most important skill of the future will be to master and cooperate with these machines. Coding will become a second language, which its principals each of us will have to understand. Programming, problem solving and critical thinking will become basic assets of the working man.
Adjusting to different career models and part-time/part-task
The modern concept of careers relies on the principal a linear move forward approach. The labor world in the last century was deeply influenced by industrialization and Taylorism. These mindsets shaped the path of the working person as a rational decision making process, linear, pre-planned, where every step forward is dependent on past actions/achievements/positions. In that way, one can get to a specific and high position only after walking for a long time in a demanding, sometimes challenging path. Every milestone on this path can be achieved only if you completed the previous one. Though many positions do not require this kind of career path, we are still caught in this state of mind.
Contrary to that, we begin to see new career models rising around us. Multi-skilling allows workers to jump between one occupation to another, multi-career is also becoming more common when people seek to do more than one thing at the same time. Turnover rates get higher while position cycles shortened. If the baby-boomers held the same positions or occupations throughout their working years, nowadays we see more and more employees shortening this cycle to 3-4 years on average.
In addition – it is more acceptable to have a few part time positions instead of one full-time job. More interesting is the idea that jobs are being defragmented not only across time but also space. Take for example "UBER" – basically the concept takes a traditional job of a cab driver, and splits it into many small tasks. This way, instead of one person who is a taxi driver 24/7, we have thousands of employees, each responsible for one or few drives.
Working for purpose
One of the outcomes of the processes discussed above (combined with other processes such as economic growth and decline in cost of consumption), is the growth of leisure time. Although a relatively new phenomena, compared to just a few centuries ago, the world is experiencing a "leisure boom", where many people in the developed countries get a greater amount of financial opportunities in exchange for a smaller investment of time, effort and other resources.
This process leads to new ways of the labor perception, raising primarily the question of purpose. Once the constraint of working to make a living is partially removed, people’s new motivation to work will be a purpose and a meaningful occupation.
Changes in the educational and learning environments
As mentioned before, many of us are indoctrinated to a very certain career path which is linear and gradual. This is partly rooted in our educational systems and perceptions. We are accustomed to a linear learning process (which takes place mainly in the early learning phase), and we are convinced that the standard pre/mid/upper school – college – university – trainings is the only route through which we can acquire our professional know-hows. For many of us, universities have become the central training centers for our civilian occupations, but at the same time, this is not the academic world’s central mission.
The coming future presents us with plenty of new ways to acquire professional knowledge, experience and credentials. Academic institutions widen their spread through the web, and new opportunities appear as the time and space boundaries are removed. With online classes and courses, "MOOCS" or other online trainings, one can get educated and trained much more easily nowadays in various fields.
The linkage between academic education and professions can be weakened with the appearance of new training centers dedicated only for a specific training. We all have to adapt to new ways of obtaining information, processing it and using it for our purposes.
There are many more predictions of the ways the labor world will change in the coming years. What is quite clear right now is that these changes will have a great effect on all of us. Adaptation and preparation for these kind of climate changes are crucial and become one of the most important skills you will ever have.