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How to prepare for the future of work

Published on: 19 Dec 2017

The way we work is transforming at a phenomenal rate driven by more and more disruptive factors in the workplace.

Greater flexibility, rapidly advancing technology and hugely improved connectivity mean the old model of a 9-5 job for life is increasingly anachronistic. And automation is having a huge impact on jobs with more than half (57%) now at risk from automation – the age of the robot and artificial intelligence is well and truly upon us.

With jobs no longer secure and workers wanting more flexible and fluid careers, there has been a paradigm shift away from permanent jobs towards freelance, interim and contract work. According to one report, the number of freelancers in the UK has increased 43% since 2008 with health professionals showing one of the biggest increases, up a whopping 191%.

Those in the independent workforce are ahead of the game, upskilling and preparing for this shift with 65% regularly looking at and improving their job skills, compared to just 45% of those in permanent roles.

How to future-proof your career

While it’s great that 65% are actively improving their skills and thinking about how they can remain valid in the workplace, that does mean 35% are not taking such a proactive approach. With the fast pace of change in this so-called fourth industrial revolution, it’s vital that workers keep up-to date with new innovations and technologies.

So, what steps can you take to future-proof your career?

  • Identify the major threats to your market – Think about the most immediate and pressing threats in your industry. What technologies could be disruptive factors and is there anything you can do to prepare for them? E.g. undertaking training in new systems or software programmes.
  • Set aside time to develop new skills – The skills you first learned in your career may no longer be relevant anymore so it’s important to put time aside to acquire new skills which will be relevant. Whether you opt to take up additional study or you simply put aside a few hours a month to look at the latest trends and make sure you understand them, it's vital to ensure you don’t become obsolete down the line.
  • Build cross-gen networks to exchange ideas – Even in today’s technology-focussed world, the value of networking cannot be underestimated. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with other professionals both in and outside your industry and exchange ideas. And, there are many forums and events for face-to-face meetings with people in your industry. You can meet with talented professionals who may be able to offer up a different perspective or even put you in touch with future job openings that match your particular skillset.
  • Develop your leadership skills – Increasing automation is taking away many repetitive tasks from workers. Figures from a Manpower Group Report revealed that 45% of present day tasks could be automated within two years. Leaders will need to develop their coaching skills to support employees through these changes - providing direction in this new and somewhat uncertain environment, identifying those who may need upskilling, and helping people understand their role in the new world. If you can develop sound leadership and coaching skills which will help people move from fearing to embracing change, then you will be able to add real value to an organisation.
  • Think like a digital native – As with automation, an increasingly digitised workforce is having an impact on our workplace and it is vital to keep up-to-date with new technology developments within your field. You need to embrace technological change, not shy away from it. So, make sure you know about new software or developments which could be beneficial to the roles you take on.

Will AI and robots take over the world?

While there is a real fear that robots and AI will increasingly replace jobs, it’s more likely that we will see jobs being redefined instead of lost. Of course, people are vital to any business and this is unlikely to change. People are creative, coming up with innovations and new ideas while computers act upon them. People can use emotional intelligence and make value judgements as well as communicate with others, understanding subtle nuances in a way that computers right now simply can’t.

Yes, the future of work is changing and it is likely to look very different to how it does now in just a few short years. But if you’re ready to embrace this change and make sure your skills are kept up-to-date, then you could find that rather than losing out in the future of work, you end up with more diverse and fulfilling roles than you ever thought possible.

Tile Hill