Four possible future worlds of work

Speakers at AMBA’s Careers and Talent Forum 2018 shared their predictions for the future workforce and how leaders should get ahead

There are four different worlds of work that could be possible in the future, according to Juliet Stuttard, director of people and organisation at PwC.

Speaking at the Association of MBAs’ Careers and Talent Forum 2018, attended exclusively by HR magazine, Stuttard said these futures involve varying degrees of collectivism, individualism, business fragmentation and corporate integration.

“It’s impossible to predict exactly what the future of work will be like,” she said, because “uncertainty comes from the human impact”.

However, Stuttard pointed to four possible scenarios identified by PwC that could become reality by 2030: the yellow world (humans come first, ethical/social first or community businesses prosper); the red world (innovation comes first and outpaces regulation, organisations focus on customer needs); the green world (large companies prosper but are socially responsible); and the blue world (corporate is king, big company capitalism prospers).

The challenge, Stuttard said, is that “we need to make sure the workforce is flexible” so that organisations can adapt to whichever reality emerges. Well-established organisations such as PwC will not be immune, she said, adding that “around 90% of PwC employees today are consultants but we think this will go down to 50% in the near future, as the business model needs to change or we will die”.

Stuttard encouraged leaders to make what she termed “no regrets moves”. One proposed move was to invest in innovation and new skills. “Understand the skills you have and the skills you need – at the moment workforce planning is this mystical process no-one is quite getting right,” she said.

Citing PwC research she explained, however, that 77% of CEOs struggle to find the creativity and innovation skills needed for their organisations, meaning they need to seek new ways to foster innovation.

“One client has what they call two-pizza teams,” she said. “They found that they get the best innovation from teams that are small enough to share two pizzas. If two pizzas aren’t enough to feed them then the team is too big.”

Also speaking at the event, group head of talent for London Stock Exchange Group Lynne Chambers agreed that the skills businesses need are changing.

“There will need to be an increased focus on analytical skills across all business areas including where these haven’t traditionally been needed,” she said. “Basic coding will become advantageous to all roles – not just those in tech.”

The “myth of the hero innovator” also needs to be dispelled, according to The GC Index’s chief psychologist John Mervyn-Smith. The GC Index is a framework that identifies how individuals, teams and organisations can make the most impact, based on allocating individuals into the five categories of game-changers, strategists, implementers, polishers, and play-makers. Mervyn-Smith suggested that looking for “game-changers” requires broader thinking when recruiting.

“Game-changers interview differently as they have non-stop behaviour, and so would fail the ‘would I put them in front of my client?’ test and the traditional selection process,” he explained. “But they can bring some game-changing contributions.”

However, while agreeing organisations will need skills including innovation and digital competence, principal consultant of people and digital at Mercer Jen Saunders said that “human skills will be the most in demand”.

Saunders explained that the value proposition for employees will have to evolve to attract the right individuals. In the 20th century the value proposition was a “loyalty contract” where organisations provided basic needs. “We are now at the engagement contract” phase where businesses look after employees’ psychological needs, she explained. We are “going next to the thrive contract,” she added, where people expect their employers to provide them with purpose and meaning.