In recent years, the “future of work” has served as a buzz term referencing the automation of tasks, or even full jobs, in a futuristic society. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic we were faced with the reality that the future of work is here, and that it focuses on people, not technology. What is the […]
In recent years, the “future of work” has served as a buzz term referencing the automation of tasks, or even full jobs, in a futuristic society. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic we were faced with the reality that the future of work is here, and that it focuses on people, not technology.
What is the future of work?
According to Deloitte Consulting, the future of work refers to the changing nature of work, workforces, and workplaces across all global industries due to rapid technological and societal disruption. Change to work matters because work is personal. MIT’s work of the future report states that, “Work has meaning and importance, for individuals and for society as a whole, that transcend the merely economic or financial. Work is a central human activity, critical to self-realization and social cohesion.” Technological change has shaped human life and work for centuries but rapid advancements in artificial intelligence, big data, and robotics today pose both great opportunities and great threats to workers' economic growth, working conditions, and living standards.
“Work has meaning and importance, for individuals and for society as a whole, that transcend the merely economic or financial. Work is a central human activity, critical to self-realization and social cohesion.”
Technology startups shaping the future of work
This pivotal moment has laid the foundation for innovation and allowed us to assess if the current ways of working and learning still serve our needs. Certain marginalized populations such as racial minorities, immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, and those living with disabilities or experiencing homelessness could be further disenfranchised by trends in technology and education if we don’t take an inclusive and community-focused approach to the future of work.Several startups across the world are identifying ways to use emerging technology for good to shape and improve the future of work. From alternative talent models to re-skilling—the opportunities to invest in the future of work are seemingly endless.
Three key shifts in the future of work and startups leading the way
1) From Bottom-Line to Human-Centered
Leaders and organizations that put people first and use technology to improve both workforce experience and business outcomes will reap the most benefits of the future of work. Employers are currently facing "the great resignation" or “the great reconsideration”—in the U.S. a record high of 4.4 million people quit their jobs during September 2021 and there were 3.6 million more open jobs than people seeking work in October 2021. This dynamic has given power to individual worker with employers redesigning organizational practices centered around the needs of their talent.
Gloat is one such future of work startup that has helped organizations such as Nestlé implement internal talent marketplaces using artificial intelligence (AI) to help employees build new skills and try out new roles on a part-time project basis. Talent marketplaces not only help organizations retain top talent but also access in-demand skills. In the future, employers can expand the use of talent marketplaces as incubators to test out new jobs that do not yet exist.
In the U.S. a record high of 4.4 million people quit their jobs during September 2021 and there were 3.6 million more open jobs than people seeking work in October 2021.
2) From Jobs to Careers
London Business School Professor Lynda Gratton's research on the future of work and longevity highlights that as humans live longer than ever before, the length and trajectory of our careers will change as well. Workers will increasingly seek to build a portfolio of careers that offer them diverse experiences and skillsets as well as flexibility to enter and exit the workforce as needed to balance personal and professional goals. At the same time, 25% of Gen Z respondents to a recent Goldman Sachs poll say that plan to retire from full-time employment by age 55 which begs the question what types of non-traditional employment will become the norm for people after “retirement” age.
As people live and work longer, traditional full-time employment will continue to be disrupted by more part-time and contingent or gig work. Braintrust is a freelance talent platform that uses Web3 and blockchain to help workers set their own rates and keep 100% of their earnings. Having raised $18M in early-stage venture capital funding in late 2020, Braintrust’s success is also tied to the launch of its cryptocurrency, $BRTRST, which users can earn from tasks such as completing projects or leaving reviews.
25% of Gen Z respondents to a recent Goldman Sachs poll say that plan to retire from full-time employment by age 55.
3) From Educated to Continuously Learning
Not only will organizations and jobs face significant disruption, but the skills required for the future of work will also change. In fact, the only constant skill in the future of work will be the ability to continuously learn and seek out in-demand skills as technology advances. Learning and development will follow a parallel path as workers seek to strengthen the innately human skills that cannot yet be automated as well as build new technology-focused skills as we work with more tools that augment our capabilities. Furthermore, the value of on-demand and online learning skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic as workers looked to supplement on the job training with additional education in order to make career changes.
CEO of EdTech startup Guild Education says, “Upskilling and reskilling have become the top incentives to keep workers who realize that they’re likely to switch jobs every few years and need their skills to stay relevant.” Guild Education is certified as a B Corporation and offers a technology platform and university partnerships so that employers can offer strategic education to retain talent and help their employees advance in their careers.
The only constant skill in the future of work will be the ability to continuously learn and seek out in-demand skills as technology advances.
While the future of work presents ample opportunity to improve both individual careers and business outcomes, it is imperative that we ensure all workers benefit from changes to new skill requirements and the creation of better jobs. As work, workforces, and workplaces continue to change, corporate executives and investors alike must ask themselves—how can we make the future of work work for everyone?
Watson Leffel (’23) is an MBA candidate at Columbia Business School. She is an organizational psychologist by education and is fascinated by the intersection of human behavior and business strategy. Prior to business school she spent 5 years in Deloitte Consulting’s Human Capital practice where she helped Government and Fortune 500 executives design and implement workforce and innovation strategies to prepare for the Future of Work. Watson holds a B.A. in Organizational Sciences and Psychology from George Washington University.Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.
Article written by: Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family.
Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.