The future of jobs: is your workplace ready for the digital shock?

The future of jobs: is your workplace ready for the digital shock?

Digitisation, big data, the Internet of things, robotisation, and so on: the fact that the fourth industrial revolution is shaking up our economy and job market goes without question. But how will this impact the world of work? And how can companies arm themselves against the digital revolution in the workplace? Agoria experts Jeroen Franssen (Talent & Job Market Expert) and Robrecht Janssens (Social Affairs Expert) examine this hot topic.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) calculated that by 2020, in the 15 most industrialised economies, 7.1 million jobs could be lost due to far-reaching digitisation and robotisation, while just 2.1 million jobs would be created, a prognosis Agoria wants to put into the right perspective. Why? Because the WEF tries to objectify using complicated figures what grows organically, according to Franssen and Janssens, but also because the models barely take into account the urge of entrepreneurs and employees to continuously innovate and create added value.

Franssen and Janssens visit technology companies every day. Janssens guides technology companies in implementing change trajectories, while Franssen strongly focuses on ICT companies and helps them establish strategic HR policies. 

Two worlds that are closer than one would first think. In this blog, they share ideas about the future of technology jobs and how companies can embrace the new economy: 

1. Focus on added value

Janssens: Instead of endlessly listing all jobs that will be lost due to far-reaching digitisation, it is better to look for areas where human intervention can provide added value. In production environments robots and ‘cobots’ (robots that interact with their operators) are faster, cheaper and more reliable for so-called ‘3D jobs’: Dirty, Dangerous and Demeaning. 

But for each production job that is lost, a lot of other work will take its place: guidance, planning and organisation, training, analysis, and so on. The result is challenging production jobs full of variation and responsibility, usually in teams. 

Franssen: We’re also noticing a shift in ICT, where pure coding is no longer the main focus, but the future is in analysing the wealth of big data and understanding and supporting a strongly growing user and client portfolio. 

The sector needs to boost itself using new types of profiles: creative minds, analytics, strategic thinkers, commercial talents, risk-takers and spotters of new opportunities, skills that will raise the digital applications of tomorrow to a higher level.

2. Stimulate continuous motion

Franssen: We’ve already noticed that jobs are constantly in motion. In the automobile sector, for instance, the car mechanic is developing into a car technologist. These types of movements will only continue in the near future. 

Janssens: In order to guarantee long-term usability during our career, we will have to constantly acquire new skills, including ones outside our comfort zone. On the production floor this means that technical staff will also sharpen their commercial and analytical skills if they feel that this can be an added value for their team or organisation. 

Franssen: This also involves new challenges and opportunities for HR departments: they need to create development paths and support co-workers as much as possible in mastering new skills. In short, career planning is no longer the privilege of HR and managers, as employees are now at the helm.

3. Keep employees sharp

Franssen: Clear-cut job descriptions are a thing of the past. They get in the way of flexibility in our rapidly evolving society. Meanwhile, I have already helped a number of companies who changed their division of roles and job responsibilities with several components. 

People will then work on their main task for 70%, tasks that fit in with their main task for 20% and completely different tasks for 10%. The benefit of a 70/20/10 model is that employees broaden their responsibilities within the organisation. Potential then surfaces and creates space for organisational development and innovation. 

Janssens: Also important: due to the built-in variation, employees don’t get stuck in a rut. After all, project-by-project, teams want an optimal division of tasks and exchanges between team members. The leader of one project can take on a supporting role in another. And in a third, they can focus more on content. This way, in teams, every person’s workload is maximally aligned to their possibilities at that moment.

4. Create ownership

Franssen: A remark heard often from executives and HR managers is that their operational staff is not properly tuned in to the impact of their job, its significance for the client or its relation to the global business strategy, although it is crucial for making a difference in the competitive business world of the future. 

This is why many businesses are starting to experiment with self-guiding teams in which every member is responsible for the end result. The basic idea is simple: employees are adults who run their household with or without a partner. So why not give them the possibility of planning and running things at work together with their colleagues? 

Robrecht: Self-guidance can also be done on the shop floor, where teams can decide for themselves how to organise their work or plan shifts. This is a good thing, as the involvement it creates only benefits the quality of the team’s achievements. What’s more, with clear KPIs and coaching by the manager, self-guiding teams often perform better than expected.

One thing is for sure, our world of work will look completely different by 2020. Undoubtedly, certain jobs will suffer, but they will be replaced by new work with added value, versatility and social skills as their keywords. After all, people provide that little extra something and will always continue to do so. 

How much will new technology really affect our jobs?

On Wednesday 18 May you will get answers to many pressing questions on the future of jobs during Agoria’s annual corporate event. 

Discover the programme and register now 

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