How the World of Work will Change!

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August 6, 2010


A recent report from the Gartner Group – August 4 2010, described 10 changes the ‘World of Work’ would witness in the next 10 years. We want to share some of these ideas, but also create some thoughts about how you might get prepared for these changes. Change in the World of Work affects not only the worker, those involved with managing and organizing the effort, but others who invest and create the World of Work. How might all of these disparate groups get prepared and be able to react.

The World of Work is dramatically different than 20 years ago and certainly no resemblance to 40 years ago. All manner of technology – computers and communications (telephones, fax machines, the Internet) have impacted how we interact on a daily basis. Let’s not ignore transportation that allowed us to open up our world to ease of goods transfer as well as personal exchange of sight and sound. The lines between work and non-work activities are now badly frayed. We often coped with diversity and change, did our best to resolve the situation relying a great deal on the past. What is ahead?

We have three distinct participants in any World of Work- People, Process and Technology. All need to be understood for not only their interaction, but how slight changes in technology can alter an entire company or industry. Tom Austin, vice president and Gartner Fellow – outlined that “Work will become less routine, characterized by increased volatility, hyperconnectedness, ‘swarming’ and more”. By 2015, 40% of an organization’s work will be non-routine, up from 25% in 2010. People will swarm more often and work solo less. What will this mean in your business for efficiency? Will you need two people to undertake a task? They’ll work with others with whom they have few links, and teams will include people outside the control of the organization. This may raise many questions concerning company information security- competitive positions etc. he finished by saying “In addition, simulation, visualization, and unification technologies, working across yottabytes of data per second, will demand an emphasis on new perceptual skills”

In the next section the 10 key changes will be outlined. Organizations as well as those who manage and own these groups including the people who are engaged will need to determine which of these 10 key changes will affect them. At the core of these changes will be technology – we will all have to consider whether radically different technology governance models will be required.

1. De-routinization of work

The core value that people add is not in the processes that can be automated, but in non- routine processes, uniquely human, analytical or interactive contributions that result in words such as discovery, innovation, teaming, leading, selling and learning. As yet we have not seen situations where one machine can sell something to another machine. We always have some form of human intervention or interface. The non-routine skills are those we cannot automate. For example, we cannot automate the process of selling an automobile to a sceptical buyer, but we can use automation tools to augment the selling process – informing him/her the options available by video presentation, colours available before they even visit the showroom.

The future will see increased use of such technology – perhaps the best example of these changes is web sites. Consumers now have instant access to the information prior to a sale. In many cases they have made up their mind before a face to face session ever takes place. In fact, they may visit your retail place of business – satisfy themselves that the product appearance and features are what they want and then simply buy it electronically. In your business are you equipped to make this type of business transaction work? Yes, we have already seem the ‘scams’ associated with on-line selling – increased governance and rules will certainly evolve as the use of visual technology begins to replace face to face and local retail selling routines.

You might even contemplate ‘remote dentistry and medical procedures.

2. Work Swarms

Swarming is a work style characterized by a flurry of collective activity by anyone and everyone conceivably available and able to add value. Teaming is likely to be valued more and rewarded more. Individual contribution has suffered in the past time frame. Swarms form quickly, attacking a problem or opportunity and then quickly dissipating. Swarming is an agile response to an observed increase in ad hoc requirements, as ad hoc activities continue to displace structured bureaucratic situations. Organization layers in organizations are slowly evaporating – some people managers realize that many of their young recruits are unwilling to follow such patterns – others recognize the potential value to be gained from a ‘swarming approach’ One has to take their pick – What works best to get the best results.

For the worker, they need to recognize the shift – the loner who likes to innovate may feel very uncomfortable – in the past management often fostered such behaviour – in the future there may be little interest. When looking for work, the individual may be wise to understand how an organization goes about resolving problems and the processes they employ.

However, you might want to revisit the value of providing ‘mentors in your organization.

3. Weak Links

In swarms, if individuals know each other at all, it may be just barely, via weak links. Weak links are the cues people can pick up from people who know the people they have to work with. They are indirect indicators and rely, in part on the confidence others have in their knowledge of people. Navigating one’s own personal, professional and social networks help people develop and exploit both strong and weak links and that, in turn will be crucial to surviving and exploiting swarms for business benefits.

How are your skills in social networking? Do you only exist within your narrow business or industry framework? How confident are you in situations outside of your daily routine? While Internet contact today is seen as ‘social connection’, the signs of change point to increased scrutiny of web sites, and increased governance. Dating sites have already seen reduced use and trust.

It will be important for both organizations and individuals to remember the future. How you as part of a group perform, contribute and react will have a bearing upon how you will be perceived in future activities. Similarly more than ever companies need to consider how they treat employees. Over night a ‘twitter’ campaign can damage a reputation. A simple example was Air Canada telling a 12 year old after his wheel chair had been damaged in flight while on a trip to New York that he would have to wait four days to get it fixed - this resulted in a storm of ‘twitter’ protests started by a relative that lead to a next day fix. How we react will be closely scrutinized and various forms of technology will be a vehicle for ‘fixing’ if we are deemed to have been at fault.

4. Working with the Collective

There are informal groups of people, outside the direct control of the organization, who can impact the success or failure of the organization. These informal groups are bound together by a common interest, a fad or historical accident. A smart business executive knows how to live in a business ecosystem they cannot control: one they can only influence. Many examples are seen in electrical utility industry – while consumers know that they need electricity and hate blackout – they continually protest new transmissions lines requiring right-of-ways through their cottage location as well as where generation facilities should be located. The realities of cost and value are never considered. (NIMBI ‘ism). The influence process requires understanding the collectives that potentially can influence your organization, as well as the key people n these external groups. These groups will continue to flourish in the next decade. All levels of Government in North America are particularly sensitive to allowing and in many cases funding for such outside influence groups. It makes ‘good political sense’ – helps me get elected the next time. The balance between these forces will continue to be tested. Business – yes the source of work is under pressure from the work created by government. This situation will come under further pressure as the over 65 year old population – once supported by 6 workers moves toward 2 1⁄2 workers. How will the current social networks of universal health and pensions be supported?

5. Work Sketch-Ups

Most non-routine processes will also be highly informal. It is very important that organizations try to capture the criteria use din making decisions at least for now. Over time, work patterns for more non-productive work will emerge – not there yet. For the moment the costs do not justify the investment. For the moment, the process modes for most non-routine processes will remain simple ‘sketch-ups’, created on the fly.

Perhaps it is time to look within your organization at the non- routine activities. How do you address these issues?

6. Spontaneous Work

Spontaneity implies more than reactive activity, for example, to the emergence of new patterns. It also contains proactive work such as seeking out new opportunities and creating new designs and models. Does your organization foster spontaneity? How do new ideas get rewarded?

7. Simulation and Experimentation

Active engagement with simulated environments (virtual environments) which are similar to technologies depicted in the film Minority Report will come to replace drilling into cells in spreadsheets. This suggests the use of n-dimensional virtual representation of all different sorts of data. The contents of the simulated environment will be assembled by agent technologies that determine what materials go together based on watching people work with this content People will interact with the data and actively manipulate various parameters reshaping the world they’re looking at .

We will use stored as well as real time data to predict action and potential results. What if you could simulate how a building would react when 1,000 people were moved in? -the flow of traffic, pressure upon washroom facilities etc. when you are designing new facilities. Perhaps a new consideration should be the ever increasing age of the population- have you factored the needs and requirements. This may be a positive aspect, since the technology if employed can reduce planning cost consideration. However, one caveat – will the process of simulation be accepted readily and not restrained through archaic rules and legal barriers. Far too many elements of change are thwarted and delayed by advocates and often organizations clinging to the past and attempting to ‘milking’ past discoveries and investments. Sometimes it is simply easier to push the button and print off the last file presentation with a new header.

8. Pattern Sensitivity

The business world is becoming more volatile, affording people working off of linear models based upon past performance far less visibility into the future than ever before. We should and will see a significant growth in the number of organizations that create groups specifically charged with detecting divergent emerging patterns, evaluating patterns, developing various scenarios for how the disruption might play out and proposing to senior executives new ways of exploiting (or protecting the organization from) the changes to which they are now more sensitive . Perhaps this harkens back to ‘skunk works’ established by companies in the past to bring products to market faster or design new variations out of the main stream of product enhancement). Now we must understand processes and technology involved with a process that will impact our future growth and value.

9. Hyperconnected

Hyperconnectivity is a term invented by Canadian social scientist Anabel Quan-Hase and Barry Wellman arising from their studies of person to person and person to machine communications in networked organizations and networked societies. The term refers to use of multiple means of communications, such as email, instant messaging, telephone, face-to- face and Web 2.0 information services. Hyperconnectivity is also a trend in computer networking in which all things that can or should communicate through a network will communicate through the network. We are approaching a level of 40% of the Global workforce being ‘Hyperconnected’. This evolution towards and continuing the increasing levels of connectivity will have a profound impact on all enterprises and their internal work situations. There will be increased challenges in managing the new tools of connectivity while providing information securely and reliably and ensuring the connectivity is productive.

Some factors and issues to look out for:

a. The Hyperconnected workforce depends upon on devices and applications that make them Hyperconnected. – Technology supporting the Hyperconnected has to be mission critical

b. The boundary between work and personal connectivity for the Hyperconnected is almost nonexistent. Over one-half and growing of your current workers use text or instant messaging for both work and personal use. More than a third use social networking for both.- The freedom to conduct work during personal time will force changes to personal use policies, business practices, training curricula, and IT support policies

c. The continued migration to Hyperconnectivity will create a profusion of devices, applications, and new business processes. Already, the average Hyperconnected individual uses at least seven devices to access the network and nine connectivity applications. – This profusion has already created the need for a strategy and architecture for unified communications across the enterprise if an orderly migration is to occur. Yes we are beginning to see the introduction of devices encompassing multiple functionality – voice/data/video ...yes more to come!

d. As baby boomers retire, businesses will find themselves competing with the today’s Hyperconnected base of talent. Tomorrow’s workforce will increasingly expect to work in a Hyperconnected communications environment and many will consider this a condition of employment.

e. Connectivity tools in the hands of employees may increase productivity, but they also increase the risk of the release of sensitive information to the outside world. Over 30% of Hyperconnected companies use blogs and wikis to communicate with customers and other outsiders. – Obtaining the benefits and avoiding the risks of Hyperconnectivity will require unprecedented cooperation between the CIO’s and all other business counterparts.

The issue around productivity will have to be validated. Historically we have seen many instances where change through the introduction of technology did not result in increased productivity.

10. My Place

The workplace is becoming more and more virtual, with meetings occurring across time zones and organizations and with participants who barely know each other, working on swarms attacking rapidly emerging problems. Meetings and product presentations are quickly becoming virtual - `Go to Meetings`, Webinars etc. But the employee will still have a `place` where they work. Many will have neither a company-provided physical office nor a desk, and their work will increasingly happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In this work environment, the lines between personal, professional, social and family matters, along with organizational subjects, will disappear. Individuals, of course, need to manage the complexity created by overlapping demands, whether from the new world of work or from external (non-work related) phenomena. Those that cannot manage the underlying expectations and interrupt overloads` will suffer performance deficits as these overloads force individuals to operate in an over-stimulated (information –overload) state.

In Summary

Not only will the individual be impacted, but the enterprise will endure similar adjustments. Running a business will never be the same. In fact all the aspects of a business and work related to People and Process will be affected. Everyone who is associated with any type of work – from the stay at home mom to the largest corporation the changes are well underway. It will be our ability to understand, adapt where applicable, but with our eyes trained upon the future and not looking through the rear view mirror.

For additional information contact: Robert H Lane – President

416 239 0880 cell 416 910 1804


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