5 Driving Forces That Shape the Future of Work

Alireza Hejazi's picture

An enjoyable experience of scanning more than 70 trends related to work and entrepreneurship made me conclude that there are five driving forces shaping the future of work: technological developments, globalization, demographic shifts, social trends, and paradigmatic changes.

Get ready to face with a transformed world of human productivity in an age of information-rich, context dependent and software-mediated work environments. This is the best message that I can offer you with my blog post at this time. There are numerous macro and micro trends of future societies, technologies, economies, environments, policies and developments in the areas of work and entrepreneurship.

Receiving an interesting order from a friend client, I decided to launch a scanning project on the future of work and entrepreneurship as a part of placing that order. I identified more than 70 trends at “micro” and “macro” levels that embraced a wide range of implications on society, technology, economy, environment and politics (STEEP). In addition to studying the probable effects, the strength (very high, high, medium, low, and very low) and maturity (emerging, growing, and grownup) of each trend were also located.

The trends were identified by scanning published resources on the Internet containing pieces of news and information related to keywords like “employer, employment, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, job, office, work, worker, work place and space.” Six sections were designated for each trend: title, description, implication, strength, maturity, level, STEEP orientation and source. At the end of the road, a concise trends report was prepared and submitted to the client.

Here is a brief of that report:

Technological Developments
Technology has been always evolving the ways we do our jobs. Technology will continue to replace low skill roles. So people will have to upgrade their skills according to technological innovations. Their failure in doing this may cause the origins of unemployment problem. Studying the unemployment in different social contexts reveals that what we lack today is not employment, but a way of fairly distributing the created opportunities through our technologies. There is a problem of resource and technology mismanagement in many societies, even in developed ones. The futurists believe that a convergence of technological and economic factors, especially the rapidly falling cost of communication is enabling a change in the nature of business and work.

The issue of globalization is no longer just a political theme. It’s a matter of communication and connection of people to the rest of the civilized world, out of political circles. Globalization and associated developments have lifted millions in the developing world out of poverty. But there is still a huge shortfall in the number of real jobs. A solution can be the improvement of social networking. My scanning job shows that networking technologies will be improved and more people find themselves always connected among themselves and other communities. A new social life is emerging. This globalized style of life will require a transformed working behavior and entrepreneurial code of practice in both the employee and the employer. Entrepreneurship has find a new paradigm in the era of globalization: Think globally and act globally!

Demographic Shifts
Immigration, birth, death, and other forms of demographic changes that alter the populations’ quantity and quality are strong driving forces of the future in the jobs markets. Unfortunately, we’re living in a time when productivity is no longer the goal, employment is. Developed, developing and even under-developed countries can be regarded productive as far as they can provide shelter, food, education, and health care for their entire population. If they fail to do this, they should wait to see demographic changes in their nations. Such changes in what is called “brain drain” will have deeper and stronger effects. When intellectuals face with working problems in their home countries, they respond initially by shifting their work field or skills. But if they find it useless, they’ll eventually decide to move into other countries to find a new job. Many intellectuals stay “permanently temporarily” in foreign countries.

Highly skilled people migration is not about the mobility of boundary-less careers (nor can these migrants be seen as cosmopolitan), but rather it is a mobility with its own costs and constraints.

Social Trends
The policy makers’ minds today are occupied with this concern that how they can engineer their societies for better jobs. Extrapolating current social trends shows that people will need more formal and permanent jobs. Most of the applicants for permanent positions will be young adults. Governments will have to review their employment policies. Coalitions may be built by public and private sectors to create more reliable jobs. The most essential need of the future job seekers will be confidence in jobs they will find to assure an earning and a life. In the future, people’s social position will be defined according to enduring power their jobs reflect against environmental changes. Work and social lives will become indistinguishable.

Paradigmatic Changes
The term “entrepreneurship” is taking the place of “employment” in the dictionaries of job and expertise. A shift in workers and employers’ look toward the nature of work is defining future businesses and job markets. Future commercial enterprises will be graded by the amount and quality of information they use to operate in competitive markets. It is the stuff the world is made of. What we are doing right now has nothing to do with entrepreneurship; it is the art of creating new ideas leading to real new jobs, not the same enterprises exist in the market today.

But information should be a product of everyday usage, like electricity. Now, information is being turned into a product of global enterprises. It is a tragedy that is being sold to us as progress. Even universities that are studying entrepreneurship in growing numbers (in the US and Canada alone, more than 200 institutions have established centers, courses, competitions, scholarships, or speaker series on entrepreneurship) are trading that information, not offering new ideas opening new positions for their students in the market.

Summarizing my words, I think that we should expect more turbulence in the jobs markets. Technology will continue to play its decisive role, but the frontiers of innovation and job construction and destruction will be cruised by human beings’ paradigmatic shifts. However, when money is a measure of worth, improving the quality of human capital becomes a real hard work. In the future, we’ll need to build skill-flexible and resilient human capital.

Alireza Hejazi is the founding editor of Futures Discovery website (http://www.futuresdiscovery.com/). He is currently an MA student of Strategic Foresight at Regent University School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship.