Why the future of work is brighter than you might think

By: Stan Corner

There’s no doubt in the world that the nature of many things in our lives is changing. Technology is driving change more rapidly than ever before and it’s interesting to watch all the commentary on how it’s going to change our lives. Most of the commentary is positive, focusing on how technology and working in an Internet connected world will improve everything from health through to standard of living.

One area that has had less positive coverage, strangely enough, is our working lives. It’s easy to understand why people may be concerned, particularly around the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. While it does raise some genuine fears for some, it’s worth looking at in a bit more detail before anyone should panic.

Shifting nature of work

There’s one area where the commentary is spot on: There are plenty of jobs that exist today that may not, at least in their current form, exist tomorrow. Some manual roles that have easily repeatable tasks will no doubt be lost. That’s already been happening for a while now, particularly in manufacturing.

That trend will probably increase as business pressures, such as increased competition, put a squeeze on margins. But does it mean that we should all be worried about the future of our jobs? Is there a justified fear of mass unemployment? In my opinion, probably not!

We’re already adapting

I, for one, am excited by the future. Yes, some of the press may fuel a negative view, but I believe that we will adapt to a new way of working, just like we have before when there’s been a shift in the economic make up of our society.

Think about recent history: Remember when the desktop PC became mainstream? It revolutionised the way many people and, in a lot of cases, whole industries, worked. It scared people at the time; this revolutionary piece of technology that could do things faster and more accurately than humans. Did it cause the end of the world? Quite the opposite. We adapted to this new technology and it ended up fuelling and creating far more jobs and careers.

Pilots are another example. Technology now means that flying the plane is largely left to computers, and automation reigns. We still have pilots today…but for how long? Eventually the pilot may not be physically there but they’ll still have control of the plane, most likely from the ground, to pilot it remotely. In other words: we’ll adapt.

As technology evolves, yes, some jobs will disappear, but a raft of others will emerge to replace them. We’re already seeing it with the rise of the services industries. I’ve always believed that people will remain first and foremost focused on the ‘people’ aspects of life. We all like engaging with other people. That alone will continue to fuel a raft of services based industries and businesses.

For example, living in a regional area it’s not hard to notice the explosion we’ve seen in hospitality. You don’t have to go back too far to remember the days of limited dining choices. Now there’s been a dramatic increase in the number, type, and quality of these service-based businesses.

Innovation is the key

I was asked a question the other day around innovation: Are we really focused on it as a society? In my view we most certainly are. It’s already happening and not just from a technology perspective.

Think about the way we educate our children these days. Technology is a key subject, and kids today are learning skills that 5 or 10 years ago weren’t even heard of yet. It’s the same for those of us already in the workforce. Trends happen and the shift will cause the job market to move whether we want it to or not. It comes down to re-skilling ourselves to be ready for this new economy.

Change will be positive

Overall, as a passionate technology advocate, I believe its only going to improve the way we live and work.

One way to look at it might be like this: Think about administration and the admin roles that exist today. Automation is already happening and there’s no doubt that some tasks done by admin people today will be taken over by technology. But does that mean the end of admin people? Absolutely not!

Imagine if we can free up the people in our businesses to focus back on areas such as servicing our customers? The feedback I hear today is that compliance has taken over our lives, we spend so much of our working day with paperwork, data entry, etc…the list goes on. I believe that if we free our teams to focus on our customers we will add more value to the relationship.

If there’s one message to take away from my post it’s this: Change is a positive. Let’s harness it and turn the future of work into an opportunity.