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Future of Work

How to remain competitive in the future? What kinds of skills and technologies are needed in the following years? How will work change in the next 5-10 years? How to start future-proofing your organisation already today?

On this page we share our vision and predictions about the future of work in order to help businesses stay competitive and grow in the ever changing environment.

Future of Work

The future of work is far from looking into a crystal ball

Future is such an abstract concept to talk about. But one thing is certain: it is us who will make it happen. It is not some predetermined scenario that will eventually unfold in front of us, but rather the result of our actions.

The same applies to the future of work.

The future of work is definitely not just flying cars and robots doing all the work. It’s the people who decide what the machines and programs do. Us humans will remain in the spotlight, but we must make use of everything the modern working life puts at our disposal.

But before we look ahead, let’s look back at the history of work: where are we coming from and how does that shape our way forward?

A brief history of work

To understand the present and to predict the future one must understand the past. The history of work is intertwined with industrial revolutions. There have been four of them so far, each one characterised by major advancements in the way things were done. Here’s an overview of the different industrial revolutions.

First industrial revolution – from agriculture to industry

The first industrial revolution originated in Britain in the late 18th century. The use of coal and steam power mechanised processes and what was earlier made by hand was now mass produced. These advancements truly changed the way goods were produced and exchanged, which opened up new opportunities and jobs to people who were used to working the land and hard manual labour.

Second industrial revolution – from coal to gas

Electricity, gas and oil were the big drivers of the second industrial revolution taking place in the late 19th century and 20th centuries. Assembly lines made mass production even more efficient and with the invention of the plane and car, the goods produced travelled faster to the consumers. The telegram and later the telephone made communication easier and information exchange more rapid.

Third industrial revolution – the digital revolution

The third industrial revolution began in the middle of the 20th century. The invention of computers and the Internet made this the time of automation and digitization. Manufacturing processes were further improved with data analysis and nuclear energy was the newest source of energy. People were more connected than ever before thanks to advanced telecommunications.

Fourth industrial revolution – Industry 4.0

We are currently in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0. Automation of traditional manufacturing and the utilisation of data that started during the third industrial revolution have now enabled us the use of modern, smart technologies – even whole smart factories. This time is all about the digitalisation of the economy where everything is connected to achieve greater flexibility, information transparency and better decisions.

How have the industrial revolutions impacted work?

But wait, aren’t we supposed to talk about the history of work? Yes, totally! But the industrial revolutions of the past and the one happening right now have an enormous impact on work – that’s why understanding the basics is important.

This video by MIT OpenCourseWare showcases the impact of each revolution to work quite nicely. From survival of the fittest to factory floor and today’s knowledge workers, all four industrial revolutions have changed society for good. New ways of working and living have emerged as the result of new inventions and technological advancements.

What Industry 4.0 is currently doing to work, is called Work 4.0. Let’s have a closer look at the future of work.

What is Work 4.0?

Work 4.0 and Industry 4.0

In short, the term Work 4.0 is used to describe how work (more specifically knowledge work) will look like in the future. The time span for this is approximately 2025-2030.

The definition of Work 4.0

Work 4.0 is a part of the fourth industrial revolution aka Industry 4.0. It is characterised by a high degree of integration and cooperation, the use of digital technologies and a rise in flexible work arrangements.

Humans are in the spotlight

What makes Work 4.0 so different compared to how work used to be, is that now us humans are truly in the centre of it all. This may sound counterintuitive, but thanks to technological developments and digitalisation, work is more humancentric than ever before. Many mundane tasks can be automated which leaves employees more time to do what us humans are good at: creative thinking, problem-solving and innovation.

The future of work is built with three main elements

Future of Work Framework

Successfully transforming human capital into prosperous organisations is definitely not just about tech and digitalisation. The main question every organisation should be asking themselves is which technologies to choose and how to use them in the best possible way to make people (meaning employees and customers) happy? Because when people are thriving, the organisation is thriving – and vice versa.

Combining technology with the new ways of working is about removing the distracting noise around the employees. It’s about giving them the freedom they need to do their job well and as effortlessly as possible. That’s when the people can begin to find meaning in their work, and truly become assets to their employer.

Source: Framework derived from Eurofound Research Publication Re-imagining work: White paper, work 4.0

"At Gapps we have transformed the way we work to meet the needs of Work 4.0 and want to do the same for our customers. We want to set example how Work 4.0 looks like in a modern workplace, and what benefits it can bring."

Anne Laitinen, CGO, Gapps

Anne Laitinen

Drivers of Work 4.0

According to the Eurofound Research Publication about Work 4.0, the four main drivers of the future of work are digitalisation, globalisation, demography and the future labour supply and cultural change. We recommend reading the research publication to find out more details about the drivers of the change and Work 4.0 in general. Here is a short description of the main driving forces shaping the future of work.

1 Digitalisation

Digitalisation is the number one driver of Work 4.0. Information technology is part of our everyday lives and work is done digitally to an increasing degree. The question of future competitiveness is largely about how successful companies are in coping with the digital transformation. Something to keep in mind is that digitalisation is not just deploying new technologies here and there, where needed. Instead, it should be strategic business decisions.

2 Globalisation

Globalisation is by no means a new phenomenon but the speed and volume of the worldwide flow of goods, services, capital, and people in the 21st century is breathtaking. In the modern world, especially the flow of people is becoming more and more important, not just the transaction of goods and services in the more traditional sense.

3 Demography and the future labour supply

In general, people in the western world live longer, while the birth rate is decreasing. Therefore, the size of the population has remained stable, already impacting the labour market. Recruiting skilled workers is becoming more and more challenging in many industries. In order to prevent the mismatch between the demand and supply of the workforce skill level, reskilling the workforce is crucial.

4 Cultural Change

When the economy and society are changing, so do people’s lifestyles and values. There is, for example, increasing diversity in life plans and preferences regarding work, and a growing need for flexibility. Having a meaningful job, getting fulfilment in work and finding the perfect work-life balance are common quests for many workers.

How to stay competitive in the future of work?

For organisations to stay competitive in the future, they need to understand and meet the needs for Work 4.0. Working life is already changing due to the Work 4.0 drivers described above, and it is expected to continue changing until 2030 and even beyond. Here we have listed three ways to succeed in the future of work.

Flexibility

Flexibility

People’s life plans have become more individual and diverse. Offer flexibility in the way work is done.

Reskilling

Reskilling

Work happens more and more on the modern digital platforms. Reskill your workforce.

Gen Z

Gen Z

Gen-Z is becoming a large part of the workforce. Understand their needs in order to attract & retain top talent.

Offer flexibility in the way work is done

People’s life plans have become more individual and diverse. In addition, values and preferences regarding work have changed.

Even the most committed and skilled employees seldom stop at being excellent at their work. There are professional athletes, people really interested in a craft and/or very committed to their family, for example.

It often happens that to even the most productive and committed employees, work comes second in their priorities. The winning companies and managers take this into account. People want flexibility on how to fit work and employment into their lives.

Organisations need to be able to meet this need – and the winning companies and managers already take this into account.

How to increase flexibility at the workplace?

Listen to your employees and see the human behind the position – what is it that they need to balance their work and personal life.

Build processes that work for different employee needs and that aim for a healthy work-life balance.

Offer tools that are easy to use and that serve the intended purpose.

Reskill your workforce

Work happens more and more on modern digital platforms. While that is a key to productive work, productivity doesn’t happen by itself and without adequate skill development. Especially since the digital tools develop at an accelerated rate: new features are constantly added and services are expanding to offer businesses new opportunities to grow.

In addition, the 40-year career with the same company is already a thing of the past. People are switching jobs and also switching between employment and proprietorship. Companies that can handle this will be able to tap into the entire pool of talent.

On the other hand, the talents who can lead themselves are able to explore the entire potential they possess and find new and meaningful paths to follow.

While all this is happening with the younger generations, the Western population as a whole is getting older. The speed of change and the shortening attention span takes getting used to. Motivating this change is very important so that all generations can be kept in the loop.

Due to the change of where and how work is done, organisations need to reskill their workforce for them to stay motivated, happy and productive.

How to encourage digital skill development?

Find a way to digitise and share the experience and know-how of those not-that-technologically-skilled employees.

Offer regular training for all employees to make sure they are using the digital tools in the best possible way.

Onboard new employees to the shared ways of working of your organisation to have a flying start on the job.

Develop the ways things are done, because new technology alone doesn't make a lasting impact.

Keep up with the potential of new features and digital platforms and think how they would improve the way your business operates.

Understand the needs of Gen Z

It is time for Generation Z to enter the working life. Something worth noting is that Gen Z’ers are more pragmatic than their millennial counterparts: they don’t put as much emphasis on purpose. In addition, Gen Z’ers are a lot more about physical connection, diversity and job security.

Also, in comparison to the millennial generation, Gen Z are less about the talk and more about the walk. Because of their traits and the digital environment they’ve grown up in, they are a great fit to many kinds of jobs and organisations.

Since the future workforce sees and values work differently than any previous generations, it is crucial to understand and meet their needs in order to attract and retain the top talent.

How to attract the top talent from the younger generations?

Give employees more freedom and responsibility to excel in their work.

Improve role clarity, so that it’s easier for the employees to know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and as a result, work as effortlessly as possible.

Create a stellar employee experience for the digital native employees – they don’t want to tolerate a bad intranet UX or bother themselves with complex security requirements, for example.

We have discussed these topics in an excellent webinar in cooperation with Nordic Business Forum and Terance Mauri. Watch the webinar recording and hear more about our vision and Terance’s inspiring keynote on the topic. In case you prefer written format, here’s the text version of the keynote summary.

How do the leading SaaS platforms see the future of work?

To bring our vision of the future of work alive, we have partnered with the most exciting SaaS platforms to make digital work smart and enjoyable. Read more about how they see the future of work.

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Future of work assessment tool

Take this 2-minute assessment below to see where you’re at on the journey to the future of work, and get a free guide to help you take the next step. Take the assessment.

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