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Navigating the future

We all know the future of work is changing. No longer do we expect a job with one company for life. Instead, we're building portfolio careers that take in new experiences with different teams. But how much is this preparing us for what the workplace might look like in 5, 10, or 20 years times? Three potential future trends have caught our attention.

What does the future hold?

1. The robots are coming

Stories about artificial intelligence and the rise of the robots are all around us, tackling issues from worker displacement to ethical controls. Amidst all this, the partnership between people and machines can get a bit lost. And while we don't yet know the full impact of technology on our jobs, what we do know is that the importance of automation in the work place is likely to continue to grow. It's time to start thinking more seriously about how we tackle the challenge.

Gartner's predictions for technology in 2017 propose that, by 2018, 6 billion connected things will be requesting support, 3 million workers will supervised by a 'roboboss' and 20% of all business content will be produced by a machine. If this fills you with dread, then think about what makes you human. Research by Deloitte suggests that essentially human skills will become increasingly important, skills like empathy, communication, persuasion, strategic decision making, and problem solving.

Our advice: think about your role, and your plans for the future of your career. What technologies are likely to be on the horizon? What skills will you need to remain relevant? What could you do to create an opportunity from the challenge?

2. Negotiating new structures

We've all heard about matrix management and flat structures, but many of us - especially in the public sector - attempt to function within traditional hierarchies. Continuing uncertainty in the financial and economic environment means that these structures must change if organisations want to remain competitive. According to Deloitte, the language is moving from efficiency and effectiveness to speed, agility and adaptability, brought about by networks of project teams, rather than organised by process-led departments.

This will be new to many of us, but we'll need to get used to it. If we're not already, we'll be working alongside multigenerational teams, made up of employees and growing numbers of both contingent workers - freelances and contractors - and robots. Freelancing is already on the rise as an alternative to employment, with increases in both the US and the UK over the past five years.

Our advice: benefit from these changes by seeking out new opportunities within your organisation to work with different teams on a wide range of projects. And think about where you want to be in 5 years. Could freelancing be an option?

3. Developing new leadership skills

As the needs of the organisation changes, so do the skills required to lead it. Length of service will no longer be the primary criteria for selection. Instead, leaders - at all levels - will need to demonstrate their understanding of technology, be comfortable with uncertainty, and inspire and direct highly diverse teams and projects.

A recent Forbes article points to 'Seven of the top leadership skills for 2020'. In this view, leaders should be professionally humble; have an unwavering commitment to the right action; be a 360-degree thinker; be intellectually versatile; be authentic and reflective; inspire others; and be innately collaborative. On top of this, we think leaders for the future workplace need to embrace learning in all its forms, be able to design solutions, and influence others.

Our advice: embrace leadership opportunities in all your roles, and demonstrate your leadership skills. Hone these abilities whenever and wherever you can, drawing on any opportunity to learn.

What do you think the future workplace will look like? We'd love to hear your ideas.


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