A few years ago, banking halls used to be a mess. Clients would flock the banking hall at certain times of the month. The bank employees would be overwhelmed by the number of requests. Fast forward to today, most banks have empty banking halls for the better part of the month. Most transactions are carried out online. There has been a significant rise in the adaption of mobile banking solutions by individuals and organizations. This is just an example of one of the sections that has rapidly evolved as a result of technological advances. With these advances, some jobs have been created while others have been rendered redundant. Many organizations have been forced to lay off staff as they seek to remain competitive in this ever-evolving business environment.
According to research on the future of work globally, that was carried out by Price Waterhouse Coopers, the future of work is unpredictable given that it is subject to competing forces whose relation to each other is complex. In as much as technological uptake in most sectors has been on an upward trend over the last couple of years, it is subject to other forces such as government regulations, consumer trends and shifts in economies. Robotics, artificial intelligence and automation are beneficial in a number of ways. They enhance productivity and improve lives but they can also be a source of unrest due to their disruptive nature. There have been reports in many parts of Europe and North America about protests by taxi drivers due to the expansion of Uber. Driverless cars have raised concerns about safety and led to protests in some parts of the USA.
There is widespread fear and alarm as organizations try and grapple with the realities that will be brought about by the rapid shifts in the workplace. These fears are to some extent based on the realities. Recently, East African Breweries Limited announced that it was laying off some of its staff. Telkom Kenya also issued a notice indicating that some of its staff would be laid off. As it is, it is estimated that 5.2 million Kenya youth are either underemployed or unemployed. Reports about the emergent challenges and opportunities brought about by the preparation of most organizations for the future of work can be demotivating for those who are seeking to find their footing in their careers or to remain relevant in their respective careers.
The future of work presents unique opportunities that are yet to be fully exploited. In spite of the job losses that have been experienced in certain sectors in the recent past, there is a silver lining. Research by PWC categorizes the emergent opportunities for organizations and individuals into four: the red world, the blue world, the yellow world and the green world. Estimate reveal that while there might be up to 75% displacement of jobs, there are about 133 million jobs that will be created1. The opportunities in the yellow world are tied to the social nature of the sector. Business in this sector is secondary to the desire to do social good.
The Red world presents opportunities for innovators. Organizations in the red world are quick to adapt to new advances as they constantly seek to fulfill the desires of the consumers. Recently, Little Cab which has been offering shuttle services in Nairobi via a hailing mobile application was forced to halt its services after the government transport regulating agency, NTSA, flagged the company for failing to comply with its regulations. The online betting companies, Sport Pesa and Betin were recently forced to halt their operations and lay off their staff following a protracted battle over tax compliance. Facebook has been on the spot in the recent past due to concerns about data privacy. These are just examples of how innovation outpaces government regulation. In spite of this, the red world continues to constantly create new products and services for the ever-changing needs of consumers.
The blue world thrives on having large corporations that are constantly seeking ways to expand their business portfolio. Mergers have been witnessed in Kenya in the retail and banking sectors as organizations prepare themselves to handle the challenges that will come with operating in an ever-evolving world. Large corporations possess the muscle and the skills to devote resources to research that will enable them to compete in the dynamic business environment in the future. Green world organizations pursue business models that factor in sustainability and concerns about demographic changes and climate change. By 2030, it is estimated that the world’s demand for energy and water will have increased by at least 50%. In Kenya, the pressure on water resources is increasingly being felt as the effects of rapid urbanization and deforestation threaten the traditional sources of water. The Green world provides opportunities for new engineering processes, recycling technologies, alternative energy sources and waste management processes.
The future of Organizations
Given that the changes in the workplace cannot be stopped, it is paramount that organizations and society adapt accordingly. For organizations, it is important to place more emphasis on training and retraining. People, not jobs, should be viewed as a priority in every organization.
In as much as the responsibility to acquire new skills is largely dependent on the individual, organizations that will thrive in the future need to make room for their employees to try new ideas, learn from their experiences and constantly rethink the ways in which they do their jobs. In order to remain relevant, the war on talent in the four worlds of work will remain fierce as organizations strive to remain relevant. It will be paramount for organizations to explicitly draw the link between people and performance and use this data to link the business objectives of the organization and the talent strategy of the organization. Traditional contracts that offer benefits such as medical insurance and pension may be rare as the world of work evolves. Organizations may find themselves grappling with the size and scale of their workforce as they seek to keep up.
What does this mean for the Workforce?
Adaptability is crucial for anyone seeking to advance his or her career in the future. In spite of the technological advances that have been made in the recent past, skills shortages are still being experienced particularly in the STEM areas. This does not mean that there are no opportunities for those whose education and skills does not fall under the STEM areas. A report of the top emerging professions listed sales and organizational development specialists alongside data analytics and software development. A survey of chief human resources officers drawn from various organizations listed the following capabilities as critical in the future workplace: creativity, complex problem solving, management capability, originality and entrepreneurship.
The World Economic Forum report on the skills required for the future workplace indicates that there will be a need for the aforementioned skills set to be blended with soft skills such as active listening, emotional intelligence and critical thinking.
In conclusion, work as we know it is constantly evolving. Those who will thrive read the times and adapt. Those who are keen spot the opportunities and take advantage of them. Change, as they often say, is the only constant thing in life.