A new world of work needs a new breed of flexible, tech-savvy workers

It’s 2030 and a generation of super-workers, reliant on medical, technological and physical enhancements is competing in borderless markets. A world where exceptional talent commands premium reward but where the number of workers in full-time permanent employment is it an all-time low.

This is a world with few rules, where specialists and niche profit-makers serve self-obsessed consumers and powerful affinity groups and where global corporates - some bigger than countries – coexist uneasily alongside small socially-responsible and environmentally-aware collectives.

This is no sci-fi movie script - it’s one of a series possible future scenarios contained in PwC’s latest report, Workforce of the future: the competing forces shaping 2030, which surveyed attitudes to the future of work amongst 10,000 people across the UK, Germany, China, India and the US (including 2,000 respondents in the UK).

Looking to 2030, PwC paints a picture of a future shaped by shifts in global economic power, facing depleted fossil fuels, extreme weather, water scarcity and a growing global population containing an ageing workforce.

This, in turn, will create a landscape where digital platforms and artificial intelligence (AI) will underpin, define and shape and the competitive workplace and its inhabitants.

And that road to 2030 will be signposted by dramatic step-changes in AI. PwC says we are already exploiting assisted intelligence – like automating repetitive tasks; where we are close to breakthroughs in augmented intelligence – where humans and machines collaborate; and by 2030 this will culminate in a world of autonomous intelligence – where adaptive intelligent systems take over decision-making and where the very future of humans at work becomes questioned.

Faced by these possible changes, 62% of UK workers (less than the global figure of 74%), surveyed by PwC say they are ready to learn new skills or retain in order to remain employable with over half the UK group saying it’s their responsibility, rather than their employers, to upskill themselves.

Nevertheless, over a third (35%) of UK workers are worried about what the world holds for them - only 26% are confident about the future of work – and a mere 18% say they are ‘excited’ about the future.

 

Describing the growing role of technology and its potential to disrupt the current world of work Jon Andrews, head of technology and investment at PwC, said:

 

“Technology will change the nature of people’s jobs, but in most cases we will see humans and machines working together rather than whole roles being replaced.

 

“Technology should help to make jobs more rewarding, freeing up time for people to focus on the creative and problem-solving aspects rather than repetitive or monotonous tasks that can be automated.

 

“However, organisations should be educating their workforce on the benefits new technology can bring so that people can feel confident and can prepare for the changing nature of work.”

 

PwC’s research shows that workers are already aware that technology will change the skills that will be needed in the future. Only 35% of UK workers surveyed think they have all of the skills now that they’ll need for the rest of their career. However, 70% believe that technology can never replace the human mind and over three quarters (78%) believe that human skills will always be in demand.

The report warns that the sheer pace of change means the future can’t be predicted with accuracy. However, it also says that trends in human dynamics hint of a future where tensions between collectivism (fairness and equality) and individualism (‘me-first’) and integration (big business rules all) and fragmentation (small is powerful), are increasingly determining business trends.

These human tensions lead PwC to identify four possible ‘worlds of work’ that could become a reality by 2030:

  • The Red World: where organisations and individuals race to satisfy consumer demands;
  • The Blue World: where big company capitalism and global corporates dominate;
  • The Green World: where social responsibility and trust dictate the corporate agenda; and
  • The Yellow World: where social-first and community businesses prosper and crowdfunding capital fuels ethical and ‘blameless’ brands.

 

Paul Terrington, PwC Northern Ireland regional chairman and head of UK regions, said neither business nor workers can avoid the inevitable:

 

“The ability to capture and analyise a vast range of data has enabled a new generation of challenger banks and niche retailers, targeting customers with products and servcies tailored precisely to need. Medical interventions have extended human life and early interventions can predict and prevent diseases before they become life-threatening.

 

“Imagine a world where human effort, robotics, analytics and innovation will combine to automate routine tasks and accelerate the capacity of human performance. Tiny businesses can access the information, skills finance and markets previously only available to governments while global corporates can retain market leadership, with only a handful of full-time permanent staff.

 

“Technology is redefining talent, reinventing skills and reimagining what will be valuable to employers in a decade from now. To prepare for this, people should be think of themselves as a collection of skills rather than a defined role or profession. Flexibility and the ability to continually reinvent yourself will ultimately be the skills in greatest demand by future employers.”

 

The report, Workforce of the future: the competing forces shaping 2030 can be downloaded below.

Contact us

John Compton
Corporate Affairs, Northern Ireland and Deputy Head of UK Media Relations
Tel: +44(0)7799 346 925
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