The way we work is changing, we negotiate a globalised, tech-driven working environment that is characterised by 24/7 connectivity and must learn to thrive in the gig economy and navigate the internet of things.
The job for life and the 9 to 5 have disappeared. The labour market is unstable and competition for roles is globalised and building a sustainable career is a challenge. The FT recently reported that the ideal working life for many millennials is not finding a safe job that will last them a lifetime, but creating a technology start-up. They go on to point out that the average income from self-employment fell 22 per cent in the UK between 2009 and 2014, even as self-employment contributed 732,000 of the 1.1m rise in total employment.
Once upon a time we had to go into the office or factory to access the data and tools we needed to facilitate the production of whatever it was we worked on. Technology has revolutionised the workplace and made our working environment more flexible and accessible, in ways we could not have imagined twenty years ago. Now, cloud computing and mobile devices mean we can work anywhere and mastering the technology is a key competency, enabling productivity and driving revenue growth.
Career management in the cloud
Employees expect to work in an open-ended mode, when they want and where they choose, using their own devices and collaborating in online and virtual environments. Our connected, mobile, social work practices are allowing employers to redesign jobs and workspaces while workers are choosing non-traditional and non-linear career paths. We work in an ecosystem of partners, clients, collaborators, customers and co-workers building and exploiting networks of contacts to form teams and manage projects.
Working in an information rich environment more of us are knowledge workers engaged in integrated, multifunctional and self-coordinated work and we value flexibility and autonomy. In the old workplace the psychological contract was about job security and the career ladder. In the 21st century we focus on competency development, continuous learning, and work-life balance. The brightest and best will manage their careers aiming to be versatile and agile in exploiting the opportunities available to them.
Better than machines
The world of work is evolving at breakneck pace and sophisticated software technologies are no longer confined to routine manufacturing tasks, machine learning means that tasks undertaken in a whole swathe of workers in skilled and professional careers will see structured, predictable work taken over by computers.
The good news is that employers value innovative thinking, flexibility, creativity, social capital and the strategic intelligence that characterise the things humans still do better than machines. More of us work not for an organisation, but using a co-worker platform we market our skills and work on specific projects using social technology to network and build our brand, reputation and reach. There’s little job security and no benefits package, but a whole lot more freedom and happily for most organisations competitive advantage will continue to be based on people rather than microprocessors.
Technological advances have been changing the nature of work for hundreds of years. Agricultural workers resisted the introduction of farm machinery, hosiery workers forced the inventor of a stocking knitting machine to leave the country, the introduction of computers to our offices in the 1970’s worried many but we survived. Technology changes the way we work but it’s not the end of work, not yet, just the way we work now.