Seven things we need to change to thrive in the future workplace

Apologies for the long post but this is a really interesting article posted by the CIPD and thought was a good read for the weekend, there is much in here about our need to challenge discrimination and out of date working cultures to sustain our future workforce:
Seven things we need to change to thrive in the future workplace:
Prejudice, fears over AI and our evolutionary need for stability are all barriers to success in the workplace of the future, experts tell UBS conference
The future of work is, let’s face it, pretty much here already, but only a small proportion of organisations – and societies – are equipped to deal with what those changes entail. Academic and business experts at the UBS Future of the Workforce conference this week outlined seven key things that must change if companies and their employees are to thrive, and not merely survive, in the future workplace.
1. Transform the nature of higher education
Workers will need to have greater flexibility of skills in the future, said UBS global chief economist Paul Donovan, so universities will have to provide young people with an education that’s focused on “how to adapt and learn from themselves – not the memorisation of facts”.
The ramifications of unsuitable higher education are already been felt in some economies, he added: “The Japanese university system in particular is failing to train graduates properly, with companies looking overseas for graduates with research and development skills.” Hiring in the country already favours Japanese nationals who are educated overseas, he said, because they are regarded as having received a more flexible education than within the national system.
2. Eliminate prejudice
Organisations that irrationally discriminate against candidates and employees are throwing away valuable skills, said Donovan. “Twenty-five years ago, the City was elitist, racist, misogynist and homophobic: that environment of prejudice deters people from working in your sector.
“People who are targets of prejudice will not reach their maximum capacity, so you are throwing away their skills.”
3. Recognise that humans are fallible
Rapid improvements in both specific and general types of artificial intelligence mean that we need to recognise that “humans will not be helpful” in many job roles in the future, said David Rowan, editor of WIRED magazine. Roles that are under threat from machines are “defined by repetition, of processing certain flows of information, or measuring things”, he said. These jobs could include obvious ones such as data processing, but also more skilled professions such as solicitor or surgeon. “Humans are so flawed compared to AI; we kid ourselves that we should be in control.”
4. Balance the need for change with our evolutionary craving for stability
Our success as a species rests on our ability to change and adapt, noted applied behavioural consultant Dr Nick Southgate, yet in a stressful situation humans crave stability: we use our ability to adapt to actually resist change. With the rate of change at work only set to increase, he recommended “getting a balanced workforce of those who are driven by change, and those who are driven by stability”, with a ratio of one ‘stable’ worker to every two ‘flexible’ workers.
5. Achieve gender equality
Norway’s above-average participation rate of women in the workforce is a greater contributing factor to its gross domestic product than its entire petroleum sector, said former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. “A policy of investing in all our of people is the strategy that led to sustainable growth in Norway,” she said. “Societies need to use all available human resources, regardless of gender. Society is the loser when the talents and potential of women aren’t put to use. It’s smart economics to close the gender gap.”
Closing the gender gap in the workplace begins with achieving greater equality in society at large, she said; for example, with 90 per cent of Norwegian fathers now taking the full 10 weeks’ paternity leave, employees now consider if male job applicants will be starting a family soon – effectively treating men in the same way that women have been regarded for years. “Your business will thrive if you look at gender equality as part of a good and correct development for the future of your company,” added Brundtland.
6. Rethink our life stages
With it becoming increasingly likely that we’ll live until the age of 100 – and, more scarily, be working in our late 70s or 80s – it’s time to reconsider the idea of ‘life stages’, said Lynda Gratton, professor of management practice at London Business School: “The traditional life stages used to be full-time education, full-time work and then full-time retirement. But these stages are broken – and it’s this break up that’s causing some of the stress seen by individuals and organisations.
“We think of age as a stage, but if you take charge of the development of your own career, you could be in the same life stage (ie education or work) as someone in a different age group.”
7. Focus on intangible, not tangible, assets
Longer lives mean a greater financial burden for the government and individuals, said Gratton – one that is unsustainable. “I’m already telling MBA students not to expect a government pension – they will have to be self-reliant,” she said. “It’s impossible to imagine how government or corporate pensions will continue to hold [their value].”
Instead of relying on tangible assets such as money, the workers of the future will need to focus on their personal intangible assets – such as knowledge, diverse networks and vitality – to sustain a longer working life, Gratton said.

Rachel Nouch


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