future of workLet’s pause a moment to consider the way that ‘work’ as we know it is changing. Just think about it. The world of work has changed massively over the last 10 to 15 years, with the advent of effective remote working, globalisation of businesses and workforce, and huge changes in technology. But what might the next period bring? PSKF’s report on ‘The Future of Work’ suggest big changes ahead in terms of the way businesses attract and retain the best talent.

Four major areas of change

The ideal workforce will learn by doing. Staff in multi-disciplinary teams will share skills and teach each other, learning on the job. At the same time, a new skills marketplace is developing, where visual cues give information about proven talent. These might be skills badges, or even easy-to-read infographic biographies. Systems are developing that will better match companies and ‘talent’ for longer-lasting and more valuable relationships. For example, there is a ‘talent matchmaking’ app that helps to match entrepreneurs to suitable business partners. And increasingly, electronic services mean that people can learn at the cutting-edge without leaving their desks. All these developments allow individuals to hone and market their skills and abilities more readily, and companies to find the talent that they need faster.

An empowered culture starts with feedback. Services that allow anonymous feedback and employee ideas forums are fostering a more open culture. Use of social networking apps means that people can get information faster from their networks, and can also build a good reputation quickly, through endorsements by members of their network. Talent management systems can leverage big data in a way that was previously impossible, and provide greatly-improved performance metrics. And flat management structures are giving employees unprecedented control over their own work and how they spend their time. Managers become mentors, encouraging good work, and employees can agree between themselves how they work on projects.

Intuitive connection, via services such as Cloud, allow individuals to work in different ways on several pieces of work simultaneously. With options to connect with others in so many ways, collaboration is easier and takes much less effort. More specific apps, such as address book apps, are able to suggest suitable connections, and ‘proximity’ apps alert users to clients and contacts who are near their physical location. As documents and images can be shared with several people at once, teams can collaborate at a distance in a way that was once only possible when they were in the same room. For instance, ‘noticeboards’ allow discussion and comparison of ideas. Remote working has become the norm, rather than an exception, and more ways to maintain an effective ‘telepresence’ are being developed all the time.

Agile workplaces include co-creation spaces, which are collaborative spaces rather like labs for ideas. Crowd-sourcing has opened up a uniquely vast resource to developers, and the ability to work on the go, via mobile devices, has changed the concept of a ‘workplace’ from ‘where I go to work’ to ‘where I am at the time that I am working’. As processing power increases, a smartphone may be all that is necessary for work, especially with the advent of ‘virtual keyboards’ projected onto a surface. And there are even ideas that promote healthy practices, such as the walking workstation: half workstation, half treadmill, to ensure employees get their daily ration of exercise!

Design for the future

The challenge is for designers and thinkers to come up with concepts that fit within these four themes for the future. Ideas include Flock, a collaborative network that helps those looking for jobs to build their skills, create connections and get advice from experts, all the while working on short-term challenges. Propath is a career mapping tool that acts like a game, and is big on visuals. Other ideas include ones that will help companies to manage freelance workers, and workers to manage being freelance.

Advances in technology have already brought huge changes to the way we work. It seems likely that changes in future could be at least as great again. But one theme that shines through the whole report is the importance of people: technology empowers people to work better together, whether remotely or otherwise. It helps people to work the way they want to, and gives companies more options for holding onto good people who want to work differently. And one thing that we can be sure of is that in a world of ideas, people are key.

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