How far we’ve come from the Industrial Revolution at the start of the 19th Century in the great City of Manchester. Back then in the mill towns - I wonder what they thought their future? As the tangible impact of the digital transformation and the emerging robotics revolution of AI and automation continues to grow - what does this mean for the future workforce.

I was sent a link to an interesting article which really made me sit back and reflect. 

What will the mix of permanent and freelance employees be in the organisation of the future. Will we see organisations have a small core of permanent employees and a freelance workforce of specialists who deliver projects. 

With continued advances in technology will the concept of an “office” environment exist in the future as more and more people work virtually or remotely. 

Both this trends leave me wondering what will this mean for  sense of belonging to an organisation and alignment to its purpose. Are we moving to a more individualistic workplace based around a series of transactions.

I was in the US recently and was struck by how this dynamic is playing out when I compare it to my own organisational environment today. I met a collection of people who had come together to complete a series of tasks rather than a team with deep bond and commitment to working together to do something brilliant. Interestingly which is right and wrong depends I guess on whether the desired outcome can be achieved in either scenario. 

Of course there are clear benefits of a virtual and freelance workforce - you can get things done around the clock, you can access hard to find skill sets anywhere in the world without having to relocate them.

So where next?

Through current technology, about half  the tasks people do at work be automated. However only 5% of all jobs consist of tasks that could be completely automated

In the next decade its estimated 30% of hours worked globally could be automated - this isn’t just across areas like operating factory machinery but extends to the financial and legal sector too.

That said the human touch will still be vital - with an ageing population (and to give some context in a 15 year period between 2014 and 2030 - globally there will be 300 million more people over the age of 65). This is undoubtly going to increase the demand for healthcare professionals like Doctors, Nurses and Therapists - the estimate is up to 85 million new jobs in the healthcare sector in the same period.

I can only assume trades like plumbers and electricians will continue to have a role, but interestingly when I started writing I was sure they would be needed but then I began to doubt myself thinking about the impact diagnostic technology has had on the automotive sector - sure we’ll need humans but perhaps a lot less.

What is certain is that whatever job you or I are doing today we’re going to need to be prepared to adapt and learn skills. On that note I’m off to learn multi-tasking.  

The retraining and reskilling of the global workforce has got to be up there with climate change and poverty as one of the biggest issues facing our future. How we respond over the next 10 years will be a defining moment for future generations.

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