Digitalisation and big data are changing our society in ways that are difficult to comprehend fully. It is equally difficult to forecast what these continuing changes mean for the future of work. In the face of this, today it is more important than ever to consider the future and to be dynamically prepared to respond to new developments. Only in this way can we continue to be pro-active in helping companies adapt and stay fit for the new world. As a leading expert in the design and furnishing of modern offices and other working environments, we aim to be involved from the start in the changes that lie ahead, so that we can generate innovative concepts and solutions for our customers.
The Future of Work Report brings together opinions on the future of work from around 40 experts from established international companies and start-ups, as well as academics and consultants, and from the relevant literature.
The report explores four main topic areas – digital transformation, management culture, the meaning and purpose of work and cooperative work – and it examines current buzzwords such as robotics, self-organisation, artificial intelligence, the sharing economy, the Internet of Things, fluid leadership, virtual reality, 3D printing and clickworkers.
There is a widely accepted hypothesis that the most successful businesses of the future will not be the companies with the best products, but those that generate the best data and as a result are able to offer the best services.
The young generation of “digital natives” is expected to create intuitive, forward-looking technologies, making increasing use of robotics and artificial intelligence. Robots will in future take over more and more routine functions in production areas, as well as administrative tasks.
The internet of things promises a world where not only smartphones and tablets, but also many other everyday items are connected to the internet, gathering and processing data. These “smart devices” will virtually lead a life of their own – programmed to provide unobtrusive assistance to us humans. Further development of technologies such as 3D printing, 3D projectors, 3D glasses etc. will change our everyday lives for ever.
A study by the Zukunftsinstitut (Institute of the Future) found that 77 per cent of managers in Germany believe that there needs to be a paradigm shift in management culture. The networked economy functions not according to the traditional hierarchical models, but on the basis of cooperation, self-organisation and teamwork as equals.
Companies are not static entities, but function more like fluid systems – a characteristic that is often neglected. Not everything can be planned, because human interactions are subject to constant change. “Smart leaders” are those who understand the dynamics of this “co-evolution” and who support their colleagues’ learning and teamwork.
As work functions become more complex, management increasingly expects employees to take responsibility for their own actions. In an unpredictable global world, the old mechanisms of direction and supervision are no longer adequate. Like conductors or coaches, managers face the challenge of steering a team of colleagues towards the goal.
While the meaningful purpose of work is different for every individual, its significance continues to increase. Employee expectations of companies are increasingly differentiated, and the aspirations of the young and talented are growing. Work is not only expected to be fun, but also to serve a higher purpose. For employees as well as customers, the social and ecological sustainability of products and services is an increasingly decisive factor.
To earn the loyalty of tomorrow’s talent, companies have to offer more than just good salaries. Corporate culture and opportunities for personal development are key factors. A good work-life balance plays an increasingly significant role too.
Digitalisation and the globalisation of companies are leading to increasing de-personalisation. Yet experts agree that it is vital to have places where people, as social beings, can satisfy their need for human interaction. This is true within offices just as it is for customers needing a personal point of contact.
In the future, artificial intelligence will increasingly be used in almost all industries. Experts say it is particularly important to answer questions regarding the interface of people and machines as soon as possible.
Silicon Valley is a living example of how profitable it can be to cast aside any pretence of perfection and to involve customers in the development process at an early stage. The increasing openness of the innovative process makes it essential to accept input and know-how from external partners and experts.
More on this topic at: futureofwork.bene.com