Future of work

Preparing for the future world of work

The workplace is bound to change in the next decade with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Business leaders should be forward thinking and plan for this eventuality. Similarly government too must align itself to this radical change.

However, this does not seem to be factored in because many qualifications will not be relevant in the next decade. Change is happening fast and the qualification scenario needs to adapt to this change. The school system is sadly lacking and will prove to be disastrous if learners are not equipped with the skills for the future.

Disruptive technologies are gradually becoming ubiquitous and it is changing the landscape of the workplace. Some such technologies include:

  • Robotics- which can automate processes and can process information through Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • The internet of things where cars, devices, appliances and buildings are connected
  • Devices that are able to store energy for later use
  • Drones, cloud technology, driverless cars and virtual reality are fast emerging features

General Electric has designed robots that can climb and maintain wind turbines. A 3D printer in the Netherlands is building a footbridge over a canal by using long robotic arms and lasers to melt the metal powder – without the help of human hands, girders or concrete foundations. Self-driving robots can deliver parcels and groceries anywhere within a 3-mile radius using less energy than most light bulbs. Ford is already road testing driverless cars, and the head of Ford predicts that in the future driving with a steering wheel will be “as antiquated as wanting to ride a horse”. (The Edge Foundation, 2016) On 25 August 2016 Singapore launched a trial and “became the first country in the world to have on-demand driverless taxis – a new technology that is touted to disrupt the transport industry”. (http://www.straitstimes.com)

How do we get skilled for this new world of work? How should education pave the way for the future? Ne jobs will emerge and old ones will become obsolete. Jobs will be cross functional and the need for being multi-skilled is greater. Soon virtual offices will be a reality. The formula of moving up the ranks and retiring will also be irrelevant in the future world of work. South Africa will be no different.

A 2016 World Bank Development Report found that 67% of jobs in South Africa are at risk from automation, 85% in Ethiopia, 69% in India, 65% in Nigeria, 35% in the UK, and 47% in the USA.

(University of Oxford, 2016) A Financial Times article, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, reports on a factory in China where nine robots do the work of 140 full-time workers.

The WEF (2016b) studied the “measures and strategies for adapting to the top trends and disruptions expected to affect (industries) over the coming years … as well as the biggest perceived barriers to successfully carrying out these measures and the perceived degree of preparedness prevalent across the industry”. The WEF identified the following main barriers for South Africa:

  • Insufficient understanding of disruptive changes (68%);
  • Workforce strategy not aligned to innovation strategy (44%); and
  • Resource constraints (52%).

Clem Sunter (2016) warns that “One of my problems about the conversations at the moment between business and Government is that they’re not recognising this flag of the total change in the nature of work.

The Institute for the Future describes ten skills that will be essential for the workplace of 2020:

  1. Sense-making: the ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed;
  2. Social intelligence: the ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions;
  3. Novel and adaptive thinking: proficiency in coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based;
  4. Cross-cultural competency: the ability to operate effectively in different cultural settings;
  5. Computational thinking: the ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning in order to make sense of this information;
  6. New-media literacy: the ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication;
  7. Transdisciplinarity: i.e. literacy in and the ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines: “Many of today’s global problems are just too complex to be solved by one specialized discipline (think global warming or overpopulation). These multifaceted problems require transdisciplinary solutions. While throughout the 20th century, ever-greater specialization was encouraged, the next century will see transdisciplinary approaches take center stage”;
  8. Design mindset: “recognizing the kind of thinking that different tasks require, and making adjustments to their work environments that enhance their ability to accomplish these tasks”;
  9. Cognitive load management: “the ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques”; and
  10. Virtual collaboration: the ability to work productively and drive engagement as a member of a virtual team. 

The two areas that need to be emphasised is lifelong learning and entrepreneurship. The business elements are prevalent in almost all aspects of work life. As workplaces are working toward optimising costs, the need for a business mindset is growing as we progress toward the future. The emerging driver of economies is entrepreneurship, especially small and medium enterprises.

And lifelong learning encompasses all types of learning- formal and informal. Soon universities will be virtual institutions and qualifications will be digital by nature.

How we can help

Middel & Partners can assist you with strategic planning to factor in such radical changes. We go beyond Accounting and that’s the reason for our firm being associated as being innovative by nature and our team lives by this tenet.

Officially named as one of The World’s Most Inspiring Accountants, our innovative service offerings have stretched into Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Europe, USA, South America and Asia delivering products and services to some of the largest companies globally.

We break the mould of conservative Chartered Accountants and it is our creative and innovative mindset that sets Middel & Partners apart and allows us to use Accounting methods coupled with innovation to take our clients and their businesses to new heights.