The Future of Work

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not fighting the old, but on building the new.

Month: July 2015

The Death of Retirement

Retirement as a concept was invented through a combination of factors in the late 19th and early 20th century.  In 1883, German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck introduced a state funded pension for all of those over the age of 65 (of which were were few!) as Marxists threatened to take control of Europe (for more information see this useful article)

Then in in a 1905 valedictory address, world renowned Physician William Osler proclaimed that after that age of 60, the average worker was “useless” and should be put out to pasture. Over the next 50 or so years, and through numerous political and economic changes, retirement was born as a societal norm.

So now we live in a world where in the majority of economies, somewhere between the age of 50 and 65, people are expected to pack up their brief cases, toolboxes, or uniform and live a non-working life for the rest of their days.

Enter Pre-tirement

But what about a future where we don’t have a single job, one individual source of income, and a life which doesn’t involve the traditional Monday-Friday 9-5 working week?

Last year a new term emerged into the world, that of pre-tirement. The stage where an individual enters a transition from working life to retirement when an individual may start to reduce working hours but still generate wealth and contribute to an economy.

But even this works on the basis that retirement is a point in time where all work stops, and that every individual is working towards a date in time.

So what future for retirement?

Whilst I don’t believe the term retirement is going away any time soon, its relevance and significance will certainly diminish.  The phase people will actually reach is that of financial freedom.  The point at which they can be more selective about their working decisions.

The point where their financial position is such that they need to work as regularly as previously, but may choose to do so for the right challenge. They will still take on work, but will not feel the pressure to take on everything they are offered.

The age at which this point arrives will be completely decided by individual, their financial needs, and their personal desires. Not by their employer (as they will have no single one), not by the government and not by society.

So if you’re of working age right now, best start thinking about what your Point of Financial Freedom is.  And how you plan to reach it and what lies beyond it.

Rules? No, what you need is trust and openness

In a recent article for The Scotsman a business lawyer suggested we need rules for use of smart phones in the workplace.

Such backward facing thinking is not uncommon when it comes to new technology, but it is absolutely what businesses don’t need, now or in the future. I recall a debate at one of my employers around 8 years ago as blogging was becoming more popular. Should the business impose a ban on blogging in relation to the industry we operated in? My argument (which thankfully prevailed) was that the act of blogging made me think about things more deeply and consider the bigger picture. The same can be said about social media use.

If you promote a professional culture of trust, and openness then you do not need to impose rules over use of technology. You trust your workforce to make a judgement on what is acceptable use, and you trust them to get their job done. If they aren’t committed to delivering, then you have a bigger issue, no matter what it is that is preventing them from doing so.

And if you have a culture of openness and honesty then you can raise any issue, smartphone use or other, with out the need for rules to call upon.

The future of work involves openness, respect and trust. Draconian use of rules and restrictions only produces a culture of distrust and ‘work to rule’ from the employees side.

Technology is the making, not breaking, of effective management

Its a phrase which must have been uttered millions of times throughout the decades, “ all this technology is destroying jobs”. Since the industrial revolution advances in technology have advanced production capability in every market possible and replaced tasks which had been previously been done by humans.

And as technology advances we now face possibility of robotised humans being able to replace us in form as well as function. And what chance do we have, if, as Mattie from sci-fi series Humans professes, “why study 7 years to become a lawyer, when you can train a synth to remember it all in 7 seconds?”

And apparently, we should be worried because up to 35% of jobs will be eliminated by new computing and robotics in the next 20 years. Despite the fact there remains little evidence (at least in the long run) that the technology which makes us more effective is affecting employment rates.

But still, here we are in 2015, with people arguing whether the
‘new technologies’, are now in line to replace managers too!

Management and leadership can’t be programmed

If my time in management and leadership positions has taught me anything, is that neither position can be done successfully by following process or formula. So much of management and leadership is done on experience, intuition and ‘feel’.

And then there are the core, softer skills of holding such a position. If there is anything examples like robot bina48 and similar teach us, it is that robots are a long way from developing an understanding of emotions, and the skills of highly effective managers such as empathy, compassion, and and understanding of situations outside of the raw facts involved.

It is my belief that whilst technology is constantly changing the world of work, and its role will only increase in the future, it will only serve to prove the worth of strong leaders and managers. With technology bringing consistency and scale to the production side of a business, the stage is set for strong leadership and management of knowledge workers to be the difference between successful and failing businesses.

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