Anatoly Denisov is an HR Leader with over 16 years of experience in areas such as Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, Labour Relations, Compensation & Benefits, Leadership Development etc., Performance Management and Change Management. An alumnus of Western Governors University, he has guided companies in effectively lowering expenses, while increasing productivity with effect human relations management and recruiting strategies.
What influence will the continuing march of technology, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) have on where we work and how we work? Will we need to work at all? What is our place in an automated world?
Many commentators focus on technology and the role that automation is predicted to have on jobs and the workplace. I believe the real story is far more complicated. This is less about technological innovation and more about the manner in which humans decide to use that technology. The shape that the workforce of the future takes will be the result of complex, changing, and competing forces. Some of these forces are certain, but the speed at which they unfold can be hard to predict. Regulations and laws, the governments that impose them and broad trends in consumer, citizen and worker sentiment will all influence the transition toward an automated workplace. The outcome of this battle will determine the future of work in 2025-2040. When so many complex forces are at play, linear predictions are too simplistic. Businesses, governments and individuals need to be prepared for a number of possible, even seemingly unlikely, outcomes.
Specialism is highly prized in the Red World and career, rather than being defined by an employer or institution, is built from individual blocks of skills, experience and networks. Near-zero employee organisations are the norm.
The megatrends on a large scale are the tremendous forces reshaping society and with it, the world of work: the economic shifts that are redistributing power, wealth, competition, and opportunity around the globe; the disruptive innovations, radical thinking, new business models, and resource scarcity that are impacting every sector. Businesses need a clear and meaningful purpose and mandate to attract and retain employees, customers and partners in the decade ahead.
Yellow, Red, Green, and Blue will represent the Four Worlds in 2030- 2035.
The ‘Red’ World- A World of Innovation with Few Rules:
The Red World is a perfect incubator for innovation. New products and business models develop at lightning speed, far more quickly than regulators can control. Technology encourages the creation of powerful, like-minded, cross-border social ‘bubbles’. Businesses innovate to create personalisation and find new ways to serve these niches. There are high rewards on offer for those ideas and skills that best meet what companies and consumers want. But in a world with few rules, the risks are high. Today’s winning business could be tomorrow’s court case.
What it Means for Workers
Near-zero employee organisations are the norm. Organisations of a few pivotal people use technology, the supply chain and intellectual property, rather than human effort and physical assets, to generate value. The commercial value of learning takes precedence; a university degree is seen as less valuable than specific and relevant skills or experience. Workers know that the most sought-after skills will mean the biggest reward package. Many move frequently and stay only as long as the project or the business lasts. Contract negotiations are key and ownership of intellectual property and the freedom to work are as important as financial incentives.
Who Leads on People Strategy?
- HR does not exist as a separate function and entrepreneurial leaders rely on outsourced services and automation for people processes.
- Larger organisations scour the world to ‘acqui-hire’ talent and intellectual property using specialist talent strategists in combination with AI to identify the specialists they want.
- Digital platforms match worker with employer and skills with demand.
- Performance is all about the end result rather than the process ‘old-fashioned’ performance measurement and analysis is rare.
- Speed to market is everything in the Red World any decision- making process or hierarchy that delays innovation is a barrier to success.
- While ideas flourish, organisations compete to ‘own’ them.
- Innovation creates a high-risk environment; regulation struggles to catch up but when it does, it impacts unevenly and suddenly.
- Workforces are lean but there’s still intense competition for critical skills.
In 2030, the search for talent is as difficult as ever. Artificial intelligence allows businesses to identify the talent they need when they need it.
The ‘Blue’ World-Capitalism Reigns Supreme:
In the Blue World, companies see their size and influence as the best way to protect their prized profit margins against intense competition from their peers and aggressive new market entrants. Corporations grow to such a scale and exert such influence, that some become more powerful than nation states. Success depends on a productive workforce as large companies compete for the best talent. They push past the limits of human ability by investing in augmentation technology, medication and implants to give their people the edge.
Extreme Talent: Workforces are lean. Exceptional talent is in high demand employers secure a core group of pivotal high-performers by offering excellent rewards but otherwise buy in flexible talent and skills as and when they’re needed. Human effort, automation, analytics, and innovation combine to push performance in the workplace to its limits; human effort is maximized through a sophisticated use of physical and medical enhancement techniques and equipment, and workers’ performance and well- being are measured, monitored and analysed at every step. A new breed of elite super-workers emerges.
HR acts as the guardian of the brand. There is a strong focus on creating the right culture and behaviours and on guarding against sustainability and reputational risk across the supply chain.
What it Means for Workers: A corporate employer separates the haves from the have nots; companies provide many of the services, from children’s education, elder-care and healthcare, previously provided by the state. The price workers must pay is their data. Companies monitor and measure obsessively, from the location of their workforce to their performance, health and well-being both in and outside the workplace. Organisations use the data to predict performance and importantly, to anticipate people risk.
Who Leads on People Strategy?
- The Chief People Officer (CPO) is a powerful and influential figure, sometimes known as the ‘Head of People and Productivity’, and who sits on the board.
- The science of human capital has developed to such a degree that the connection between people and performance is explicitly demonstrated by the CPO.
- The people risk agenda is one which is taken seriously by the board as a result, the CPO and HR become more influential.
- The challenges of size and scale mean that organisations are at greater risk from external threats such as technology terrorism or meltdown and they find it difficult to effect change quickly.
- The value of human capital at the top level is high and the upward pressure on reward, particularly for senior executives, is intense.
- Organisations must develop models and systems which enable individuals and their agents to negotiate the value of their human capital based on employees’ personal investment strategies.
The ‘Green’ World
The need for a powerful social conscience is paramount. Workers and consumers show loyalty towards organisations that do right by their employees and the wider world. Reacting to public opinion, increasingly scarce natural resources and stringent international regulations, companies push a strong ethical and green agenda. This is characterized by a strong social conscience, a sense of environmental responsibility, a focus on diversity, human rights and fairness of all kinds and a recognition that business has an impact that goes well beyond the financial.
Trust is the basic currency underpinning business and employment. Companies have to place their societal purpose at the heart of their commercial strategy. Automation and technology are an essential element of the Green World as they help to protect scarce resources and minimize environmental damage.
What it Means for Workers
Employees enjoy family-friendly, flexible hours and are encouraged to take part in socially useful projects. They trust their employer to treat them fairly in terms of pay, development and conditions and in return are expected to reflect the culture of the company in their approach and behaviour.
The high ethical standards to which companies are held has cascaded down to employees; conduct and ethics are taken very seriously at work and performance are assessed against a wide range of measures, including how efficiently workers manage their travel and resources.
Who Leads on People Strategy?
- The CEO drives the people strategy for the organisation, believing that the people in the organisation, their behaviours and role in society have a direct link to the organisation’s success or failure.
- The HR function, renamed ‘People and Society’ embraces a broad mix of HR, marketing, corporate social responsibility, and data analytics.
- A priority for HR is developing and maintaining a series of virtual social networks across the organisation and client base to encourage communication and minimize the need for travel.
- Many people decisions are tightly controlled by regulation, from diversity quotas too, mandatory well-being support(e.g. sleep clinics and ‘digital dieting’), to the number of redundancies companies can make during a downturn.
- Communicating corporate purpose and values effectively, to the right people, is a fundamental requirement.
- Building and maintaining trust with employees and wider society, especially when it comes to the use of automation, is essential.
- The brand must be protected at all times. The possibility of non-socially responsible behaviour within the organisation or anywhere along the supply chain carries huge risks. Quality assurance and vigilance are paramount.
- Being compliant is not enough: organisations are under pressure to raise the bar and establish policies and practices which go beyond and even anticipate regulatory requirements.
- Organisations have to balance the trade-off between short- term financial and long-term societal good.
In 2030, real-time reporting of sustainability data is a legal requirement for all listed companies most unlisted entities also voluntarily produce detailed quarterly data.
The ‘Yellow’ World
Fairness and social good are dominant. Businesses with a heart and artisans thrive in a bustling and creative market with a strong emphasis on ethics and fairness. Workers find flexibility, autonomy and fulfilment, working for organisations with a strong social and ethical record. This is the collective response to business fragmentation; the desire to do good, for the common good. Technology has helped to create the vibrant Yellow World by lowering barriers to entry by providing easy access to crowd-funded capital and a worldwide market. This allows entrepreneurial companies to compete in areas previously the domain of large organisations.
What it Means for Workers: Workers feel the strongest loyalty not to their employer, but to people with the same skills or cause. The Yellow World is the perfect breeding ground for the emergence of new worker Guilds, similar to the craft associations and trade fraternities of the Middle Ages. These Guilds develop in order to protect, support and connect independent workers and often provide training and other benefits that have traditionally been supplied by employers.
Who Leads on People Strategy?
- Business leaders are responsible for people direction and management.
- HR rarely exists as a separate function as organisations rely on outsourced services, specialist suppliers and automation for people processes.
- Guilds support workers to build skills and experience by providing training and career development support alongside other help and advice.
- Digital platforms create mobility and help match worker with employer and skills and attributes with demand.
- Performance is about delivering an organisational goal but also, importantly, about employees’ behaviours and societal impact.
- Brand and a good ethical record are essential in the Yellow World. The risk of brand damage from rogue workers must be actively managed.
- Organisations are judged on trust and fairness; organisational purpose must be clearly articulated and lived.
- Ethical and transparent supply chain management is critical and penalties apply all along the chain for non-compliance.
- In the Yellow World, relationships with governments and NGOs are vital and need to be closely managed.
The People Management Challenges for the Upcoming Future: 2025-2035
Finding, Sourcing, and Attracting Talent
People with ideas and organisations with capital seek each other out in a vibrant online marketplace. Talent is attracted by a combination of financial reward and the opportunity to be involved in winning projects. Organisations compete to find and secure the best talent available and use extensive search and evaluation methods to lock in the stars of tomorrow.
Reward and Performance: Those with in-demand skills expect the highest financial rewards. Performance is obsessively monitored and measured – often in real-time. Excellent incentives are on offer for the best talent, as long as they perform.
Learning and Development: It’s every man and woman for themselves in the Red World individuals hold responsibility for improving their own skills using a new generation of open-source learning tools. Development is concentrated on a small core group of high-potentials.
The Role of HR
HR uses advanced analytics to predict future talent demands and to measure and anticipate performance and retention issues.
Role of Technology in Managing People
Technology powers the Red World but performance is judged primarily on short-term results. Sensors and data analytics measure and optimize performance continuously. Technological trends will destroy many jobs but at the same time also create numerous jobs. Companies use technology to explain their purpose and cause openly. If their values are right, and the idea appealing, talented individuals and relevant Guilds flock to help. Organisations focus on total reward, which recognizes corporate citizenship and good behaviours alongside performance. Fair pay drives the Yellow World; organisations and workers respect each other’s needs and capabilities. When disputes occur, the Guild will stand up for its workers.
Technology helps people to build work into their lives and minimize their environmental impact. It creates and supports the open, honest, collaborative community of the Yellow World.
What Does this Mean for Our Current and Upcoming Jobs?
By replacing workers doing routine,methodical tasks, machines canamplify the comparative advantageof those workers with problem-solving, leadership, EQ (EmotionalIntelligence), empathy andcreativity skills.
It’s clear that automation will result in a massive reclassification and rebalancing of work. Some sectors and roles, even entire sections of the workforce will lose out but others will be created. Automation will not only alter the types of jobs available but their number and perceived value.
Those workers performing tasks which automation can’t yet crack, become more pivotal – and this means creativity, innovation, imagination, and design skills will be prioritized by employers. This view is supported by business leaders worldwide who responded to our most recent CEO survey. While CEOs are keen to maximize the benefits of automation 52% told us that they’re already exploring the benefits of humans and machines working together and 39% are considering the impact of AI on their future skills needs the majority (52%) were also planning to increase headcount in the coming 12 months. Finding the skills they need has become the biggest threat to their business, they say, but the skills they’re looking for are particularly telling: problem-solving, adaptability, collaboration, leadership, creativity and innovation top the list. Thus, organisations will need to pay careful attention to the employee value proposition the reasons why these extraordinary people were attracted to working with them in the first place.
Understand how technology is developing and what it and the other megatrends could mean for the world of work and you specifically.
Find the Gaps
In an automated world, we will still need human workers. Whether this is working to develop technology, alongside it or in narrow, very specialist or very human types of employment the places automation simply can’t compete in yet. Work out where you want to be.
Get your Skills in Order
The skills needed for the future are not just about science and technology. Human skills like creativity, leadership and empathy will be in demand. Identify the skills you need and start to concentrate on how to build them and how to use them alongside technology.
Adapt to Survive
The human race is infinitely adaptable but also risk averse. Work out what holds you back whether structural and financial (loans, mortgages, responsibilities) or emotional. Work out what matters to you and your family and plan for change.
Jump on a Passing Ship
There is no one future-proof career, only better options for you. Determine how to get to the ‘next better thing’. The secret for a bright future seems to me to lie in flexibility and in the ability to reinvent. The technological or robotised workforce will be the biggest impact on the way we work but human work will always be a unique and determining factor in any organisation.