Academy Xi Blog

The future of work – How automation is improving the workplace

By Academy Xi

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Technology continues to change facets of everyday life, with one area that is seeing rapid change being the workforce.

According to Deloitte Insights, there are three major dimensions of work: “the work itself, who does the work, and where the work is done”. Knowing how work is done, and how it will likely change, will help organisations prepare and stay ahead of the curve of disruptive innovation.

To understand where the future of work will lead, let’s first demystify some common misconceptions:

1. Automation will replace human workers

More often than not, automation is used to help human workers carry out their tasks more proficiently. Only 15% of current employers use automation options to avoid human error. Over half say that they use automation to help their existing talent pool, not reduce it.

2. Automating the workplace means upgrading the IT department

Adapting to the latest technology is only one facet of preparing for the future of work. In fact, automation isn’t simple at all. A significant percentage of organisations say there will have to be significant “breakthrough approaches in areas such as performance management and leadership development” to meet the needs of automation.

So in fact, the foundations of process and technology within an organisation will need to be first in place before the implementation of automation can be effective and useful.

3. Automation is bad for jobs and workers

Automation will not eradicate jobs or even render them irrelevant. Instead, job roles will shift into new combinations of skills and requirements.

4. Automation will only require STEM skills

While technology and digital-related skills will be crucial in the future of work, soft skills will be just as important. According to The Future of Work report, creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and empathy will remain essential as part of the top 10 skills required in the future.

5. Workplace automation will destroy our privacy

As data retrieving and storage become more sophisticated, it is possible for individuals and organisations to obtain data on their customers, without the need for personally identifiable information.
By looking at current trends, we’re able to predict where the future of work is heading. According to Forbes Magazine, there are five current trends that will likely play a big part in shaping the future of work

Five trends shaping the future of work

  • Social media: the adoption of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn has revolutionised the way we interact and communicate with one another.The introduction of these social media platforms has evolved our behaviours, as it is easier to share, and content becomes more viral than ever before.
  • Better collaboration: the barriers that have kept people from working with executives, overseas experts, and non-employee consultants have been broken down. People can work with anyone on any device, regardless of geography or physical location.
  • Cloud-based systems: gone are the days of requiring cumbersome IT approval to get new software onto your PC or Mac. All you need now is a credit card and you’ll be able to try whichever tool you want almost immediately.
  • Millennial talent: with uprising millennials forming a large proportion of the workforce, organisations must adapt to employees who have frequent social activity, know how to work from anywhere, are used to sharing their opinions and ideas, and are motivated to learn about what interests them.
  • Mobile workforce: with drastic improvements to infrastructure that allow people to work anywhere, more people will opt to connect into work, instead of commuting to a physical office.

It’s not just the workforce and the workplace that’s experiencing major upheaval. The work that people are doing themselves is changing. Traditional job descriptions and responsibilities are now shifting towards ‘hybrid jobs’ and evolving into emerging industries that were previously unfathomable.

The uprise of hybrid roles

A hybrid job, as defined by Burning Glass Technologies, is “combining skill sets that never used to be found in the same job”. More and more job descriptions are seeing a combination of logical and organised skills alongside creativity and design. These types of emerging roles are often specialist roles requiring complex and multi-disciplinary skills, therefore breeding a new era of employees with diverse backgrounds and skill sets.

Some of these hybrid role skill sets include:

  • Technology and digital skills: the ability to work with technology is important, and skills like coding as well as being able to learn new systems quickly are becoming more crucial than ever before.
  • Data analysis: every decision must be data-driven and as such, being able to analyse, interpret, visualise, and communicate data is necessary.
  • Business acumen: those in hybrid job positions must also understand business management fundamentals.
  • Design and creative thinking: over half of IT jobs involve some type of design, and even jobs outside of IT put a premium on some level of design know-how, such as User Experience (UX) Design, which involves crafting digital solutions to people’s problems.

When future workers master these skill sets, they’ll be able to stay competitive even with changing landscapes in the future of work. Not only are these jobs immune to automation, but they are also high in-demand (and will stay so), paying up to 40% more than traditional roles.

As the workplace changes, the work we do will change, resulting in the people who do the work also changing. This new workforce is being driven by the millennial generation, which have significantly different needs and motivators than previous generations.  

Thus it is crucial for businesses to understand their millennial workforce and create the environment to support them, not only for their benefit, but for the mutual benefit of the organisation.

The workforce in the future of work

Adapting to the changing cultures and work ethics of millennials will ensure companies can attract and keep top talent.

Unlike previous generations, millennials don’t see themselves staying in the same organisation for decades. HR practices must adjust to a more fluid pipeline of workers while understanding the nature of millennials.

Millennials are committed to their lifestyles, open to flexible work opportunities, and prioritise continuous learning. When picking a work environment, their priorities include:

  • Inclusion: Millennials look for an environment where their voices are heard and acted upon, where not only skills are valued but also passions.
  • Growth: A workplace environment rife with opportunities to thrive and learn.
  • Positive impact: Meaningful work is a priority for millennials, sometimes over paychecks.
  • Meaningful relationships: Gone are the days of working alone in cubicles. An environment that helps create and sustain mutually-beneficial relationships is crucial.
  • Work-life balance: Hard work is important, but so is living life to the fullest and not being restrained by job obligations.

It’s not just the millennials that will inhabit future workplaces. People are living longer and working for longer. As organisations make room for millennials, they must also adapt to the ageing workforce.

Major economies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, South Korea, and Germany are expected to have “super-aged” populations. More people over the age of 65 will continue to work for reasons ranging from medical breakthroughs all the way through to financial concerns.

Organisations can turn this population into an asset. They are a valuable resource for training and mentorship, as well as resources for life experience. Deloitte Insights suggests a few ways to retain the aging workforce without alienating the young, such as wage policies, flexible rewards programs, and training young leaders to manage diverse teams.

Self-disruption for the future

With all the expected upheavals and transitions in the workplace, how do organisations adapt? Through self-disruption. We are now transitioning away from traditional systems and into work cultures that “support and foster personal growth, freedom, autonomy, and blossoming of the individual.”

Self-disruption can be done in many ways, but here are three:

  • Implementing a developmental organisational structure: Developmental organisational structures prioritise personal development. Work processes and collaboration are done with psychological safety. Each person is responsible for their own transformation and monitors their own growth and accountability.
  • Adapting life-enhancing leadership: There is an emphasis on creating thriving communities and ensuring that people thrive in the workplace. Success isn’t just measured by ‘old-school leadership’, but with a mutual interdependence on living systems and making positive contributions to society.
  • Understanding systems, thinking and sensing: Leaders and workers alike must combine efforts, “intuition, emotional intelligence, and body wisdom” to see what is right, collaborate successfully, and create sustainable work environments.

There are many things organisations can do to prepare for the future of work. Preparing workplaces for the changing workforce is a step in the right direction, as is self-disruption to recognise how to respond to global challenges.

While there appears to be a massive disruption in the way technology is reshaping the way we live and interact, there is a wealth of opportunities in the future of work. Companies that are able to embrace changes such as the automation of processes and understand the shift in the workforce demographic will be able to capitalise on a wealth of opportunities, leading to a new era of work, collaboration, and productivity.