The future of work

The Future of Work

In eLearning Basics, eLearning Content by Eoin O'Neill

As a learning professional, I am interested in how we learn to increase performance, working smarter to achieve personal and company goals. I am also interested in how technology is having a major change on how we learn in our personal and professional lives. Therefore, let’s have a look to the future of work:

The Gig Economy
But something much more fundamental is happening regarding learning in the workplace and that is not how we learn but the actual jobs we will be doing and how we will be doing them. Working from home and virtual offices are now the norm, not just for the odd Friday but as a genuine benefit to the organizational structure of the company. The term ‘gig economy’ is now a buzz word, where more and more employees are working in contract and freelance situations with varying degrees of benefits and connections to themselves and their employers. So if 3 percent* (1.1million) of the UK market is currently working in this relatively new ‘gig economy’, a number set to grow, what does the future of work hold in store for us in 10 – 20 years’ time?

The debate about the future of work is being driven by technology where some momentous changes are unfolding. Like other great technology shifts of the past, new innovations have been implemented by the convergence of modern tools working together. Think of mobile phones, where adoption came from better processing power, longer battery life and the advent of mobile networks allowed immediate communication throughout the working day.

Main Technologies
Some of the main technologies that are coming that will fundamentally change how we work are the Internet of Things (IoT), Big data, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.

The Internet of Things is where anything that can be connected to the internet will be; when it makes sense to do so. This includes cars, lights, buildings, fridges, virtually anything we want. Each device produces data that when combined allows us to learn some very interesting things. Humans and animals are not excluded so wearable technology and implanted devices will more than likely become the norm.

All this data is useless unless we can access it, cross-reference it and take meaning from it. Big data allows us to do this by taking meaning and connecting the dots from previously unassessed areas. Advances in data storage, algorithms and networks will allow for data analytics on much deeper, more significant level.

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence
Robotics have been used for years in the manufacturing industry and automated tasks. What is changing is that robots are becoming smaller and more mobile i.e. out of large factories and into offices, homes and public spaces. They are becoming more flexible and can automate more of the tasks that we do.

Artificial Intelligence is based on a software discipline known as machine learning. This is where programs learn from human or computer inputted actions and behaviors and write new code to learn in various situations. Chatbots are being used today to answer customer service queries and in some studies have delivered better customer service experiences than their human counterparts.

With the interconnectedness of everything (IoT), understanding this data (Big Data) and having able machines complete tasks based on this information (AI) will lead to grand scale automation of tasks and ultimately jobs that exist today. It is estimated that automation could affect up to 47% of jobs in the next two decades*

These jobs will not only be manual jobs such as cleaning, driving and basic maintenance but also what we consider more knowledge-based jobs. Think of lawyers and solicitors who spend their time researching and cross-referencing documentation, insurance underwriters, financial analysts etc.

So does this mean that we will all be twiddling our thumbs in the years to come? Probably not as many jobs will still exist; sales people, entertainment providers, software developers, programmers and engineers are just some examples. More comforting perhaps is that as technologies advance the employment rate generally rises due to the number of new types of jobs that are created.

Future Proof
What can you do to future-proof yourself or your children? The old adage regarding generational change and the speed of that change rings true. Soft skills such as collaboration, social skills, adaptability, resilience, critical thinking, innovation and our ability to learn, un-learn and re-learn are becoming more and more relevant and will be what gives us our competitive edge in these future-based workspaces.

Cobblestone Learning is a bespoke eLearning design agency. We support workplace performance by designing customized online and blended learning programs, content and online LMS platforms. We support organisations in areas such as compliance and regulations needs, onboarding, technical training, leadership and soft skill development.

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