What’s in a Job? The Future of Work as We Know It

It’s one thing to talk about the future of work, but many would argue that the future is already here. Josh Bersin is one of them. The number of articles and sheer volume of information available online about the future of work has recently increased exponentially. 

Bersin believes that more people are seeking to understand the changes we are going through and figure out their place in a world of rapid automation, freelance work and virtual collaboration.

Bersin talks about a number of these changes, many of which we are experiencing already and have been for several years. The changes he mentions include:

  • AI, robotics and automation becoming mainstream and threatening many jobs that have been traditionally done by humans,
  • Structural changes in organisations from a hierarchical top down model to a flatter organisational structure and more dynamic jobs.
  • Faster job turnover with employees moving between organisations instead of staying in one job for the long term.
  • An increase in reliance on contingent and contract employees meaning less job security and fewer permanent full time jobs for those who want them.
  • Income inequality and the lack of availability of well paying jobs with benefits.

Bersin believes that the traditional idea of a ‘job’ as we know it is eroding, to be replaced by project based work with the focus on achieving a specified outcome instead of having a job title, level and job description. Bersin also divides the impact of these changes into three categories – personal, organisational and societal.

On a personal level, Bersin believes that the barriers between work and the rest of our lives have disappeared as we are now reachable via our phones around the clock, even when we’re not working. In spite of our increased availability, productivity levels are not improving and this may have a negative effect on economic growth over the long term.

When it comes to the organisational side of things, jobs are changing and businesses are relying more on augmented intelligence and automation technology. Organisations are also going through a phase of redesign and restructuring with many working to create a culture of innovation involving less bureaucracy, a flatter hierarchy and more collaboration between small, autonomous teams.

The societal impact of these changes are far reaching according to Bersin. Many people will need to learn new skills to keep up with the pace of technology and this will impact the education system. The increase of contingent or casual workers means that public policy may need to change to ensure these people have access to the benefits and entitlements other workers have.

While we often talk about the future of work, it’s important that we don’t focus so much on the future that we forget to look around at the changes taking place right now.

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