Significant social shifts are influencing the future of work. These changes are forcing businesses to alter the way they remain relevant in the market place. Additionally, these changes are pushing businesses to redefine the talent they want/need and how to find, attract, and retain people.

It's management's responsibility to keep the company relevant in the face of a multitude of forces altering the landscape of business. You only need to consider generational diversity in the workplace, or the low barriers of entry into the marketplace. For example, young entrepreneurs are disrupting legacy businesses and industries. Think Uber versus the taxi industry, AirBnB versus the hospitality industry, or SoFi versus the financial industry.

While these shifts are well documented, there are others that are just as influential on the way work will change. Professors/authors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott illuminate such shifts in their jointly written book, The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.

Gratton and Scott shine the light on five dynamic shifts that are fueled mostly by technological advancement. Equally intriguing and fueling these changes is their forecast of the 60-year career. Imagine that, six decades of honing and growing your skills in business. What follows are the predicted work shifts stemming from advancements in technology and living longer.

1. "Sectors will change"

Because we're living longer, professors Gratton and Scott write, we "will experience more transitions and turnover." As we age and live longer, growing numbers of older people will create needs that influence how sectors respond to this demographic change. Again, quoting the authors: "It is likely that medical research focused on longevity and bioengineering will be significant growth sectors." Living longer lives will create needs that position businesses to offer up solutions.

2. "A jobless future?"

"New technologies mean an end to past jobs and usually the creation of new tasks and roles," say Gratton and Scott. What are these new technologies? Robotics and artificial intelligence for starters. Their automation capabilities are capable of upending certain types of jobs where automation creates efficiencies, scale, and reduces costs. However, new technology means hiring new talent to support those advancements.

Gratton and Scott don't go too deep in their book about the jobless future, but there is plenty of research to support their claim. While it sounds alarming to say that the future holds no jobs, it's not that there won't be work for human beings. Futurists and technologists don't quite know what the jobless future means. In a Washington Post article, journalist Vivek Wadhwa interviewed Google's Ray Kurzweil about this predicament. Kurzweil explained that new technologies and industries create opportunities that can't be known at the time of such advancements.

Kurzweil's point brings us back to Gratton and Scott's assertion that the future will focus on new tasks and new roles. Perhaps the job of "mailman" will be replaced by drones, Wadhwa explores, but that technological advancement will create new tasks and roles. Will it be called a job or will we merely move from one task to another across multiple disciplines from company to company? And what will happen to under-skilled workers when more work evolves to professional levels.? We can't be certain at this time. But it's certain that advancements in technology will change how we relate to our jobs, and to the world. Consider this somewhat dystopian video from The Guardian. It's a video that imagines a world where technology dominates many jobs currently done by humans.

3. "Diverse business ecosystem"

Given technology's influence on how businesses generate value and employ people, Gratton and Scott assert that there will be substantial changes to various sectors. Other influences on businesses and how they operate are the lowered barrier of entry to competing in the marketplace. We're seeing small companies scale quickly and compete with legacy organizations.

As the ecosystem expands because of smaller companies, larger ones will need to change how they're structured in order to compete. The authors explain that new employment opportunities will emerge because of the growth of small companies in the business ecosystem.

4. "Flexible smart cities will rise"

"It's not just who you work for that will change, but also where you work," write Gratton and Scott. More people are moving to larger cities. The two professors cite statistics that by 2050 6.3 billion people will live in cities. Currently 3.6 billion people in the world live in cities.

The cause for the migration is proximity to ideas and high-level skills. Opportunities are more abundant in cities.

5. "Hallowing out of work"

Perhaps the most concerning shift Gratton and Scott foresee is the "hallowing out of work." Imagine work on a spectrum. On the one end is low level skills work and on the opposite end is skilled work. In the middle, or medium-skilled work, jobs are disappearing. Examples of this type of work include production work and office/admin work.

The authors cite MIT economist, David Autor, who explains that the reason for this shift is both the difference between cognitive and manual expertise, and routine and non-routine work. Routine work can be programmed into robots and computers. The advancement of computers and robots doing routine work creates more work for skilled employees.

We are in a rapidly accelerating time of change. Technology and longer lifer-spans are two variables that play an influential role in how we live and how, and where, we work. Companies that can adapt and prepare their organization and workforce for the future are the ones that will remain relevant. But these organizations and their people cannot become passive. The future of work belongs to those who actively create, iterate, and reiterate with regularity.

Published on: Aug 22, 2016