The Future of Your Work

TIME ran a series of ten features regarding the future of work. In formulating a career development plan it is imperative to begin visualizing how work life might look in the future in light of rapid global changes. Here are a few summarized conclusions from TIME‘s articles:

  • We will see a more flexible, more freelance, more collaborative and far less secure work world. It will be run by a generation with new values — and women will increasingly be at the controls.”
  • Not surprisingly, one of the best sectors into the future will continue to be technology. Entrepreneurs will set the tone for which specific areas thrive and dominate within the broader tech landscape.
  • Debate rages about the role of business schools in inculcating managerial ethics. One way or another, the importance of business ethics – and the consequences for diverging from paths of integrity – will not wane into the future.
  • As a cost-savings measure, companies will increasingly expect employees to contribute more toward paying for their benefits. Many companies started their benefit plans when the ratio of young workers to retirees was much higher. Now that the ratio is reversing, companies have to adjust accordingly and trim back benefits expenditures for employees and retirees alike.
  • Rather than the old traditional “up or out” model of career advancement, some companies are adopting a “lattice” model. Employees can “dial up” or “dial down” to different roles and enjoy more flexibility. Implementing telecommuting and other forms of flexible work arrangements can even be financially compelling for companies.
  • Baby Boomers will have to keep working longer than anticipated rather than retiring due to not having enough retirement savings. This can have both positive and negative effects for the economy.
  • Women will continue to extend their influence in the workplace. Women have a distinct style focused on collaboration, managing risk cautiously, and looking into the future, as compared to their male counterparts who thrive on risk. With more women comes more emphasis on work-life balance and flexibility. Furthermore, “When a company gives employees freedom, it doesn’t just feel good or get shiny, happy workers — productivity goes up.”
  • Green jobs geared toward various environmental objectives will likely continue to gain traction.
  • Generation X management styles will increasingly emerge. Gen X will have to manage Gen Y. “Companies already want more short-term independent contractors and consultants and fewer traditional employees because contractors are cheaper. And seniority matters less and less as time goes on, because it’s about the past, not the future.” Collaboration among workers from various backgrounds who are spread all over the world will become increasingly common. Cross-cultural communication and motivation strategies will become paramount career skills to develop.
  • Manufacturing productivity continues to vastly increase, coupled with less domestic demand for manufacturing workers. “Highly skilled workers creating high-value products in high-stakes industries — that’s the sweet spot for manufacturing workers in coming years. … Ultimately, what’s endangered is not U.S. manufacturing. It is our deeply ingrained cultural image of the factory and its workers.
  • In order to understand what your workplace is going to be like in five or 10 years, you need to think about what your work is going to be like. Here’s a clue: employers no longer need to pay you to drive to a building to sit and type. In fact, under pressure from an uncertain economy, bosses are discovering that there are a lot of reasons not to pay you to drive to a central location or even to pay you at all. And when work gets auctioned off to the lowest bidder, your job gets a lot more stressful. … So, are you essential? Most of the best jobs will be for people who manage customers, who organize fans, who do digital community management. … Some people will embrace this new high-stress, high-speed, high-flexibility way of work. We’ll go from a few days alone at home, maintaining the status quo, to urgent team sessions, sometimes in person, often online. … Work will mean managing a tribe, creating a movement and operating in teams to change the world. Anything less is going to be outsourced to someone a lot cheaper and a lot less privileged than you or me.”

What other trends for work and careers can we expect in coming years and decades? How should we respond? This is a significant theme I plan to explore in many future installments. Whether we like trends of rapid change, reality is reality. We can either complain about emerging patterns, or we can learn to work them to our advantage. The choice is ours. Let the planning and action begin.

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