future of work
We’ve noticed a significant interest in FoW coming from Australia over the past year or so, and as befits a research consultancy, we were intrigued to know the source of this interest. We asked Kristen Miller, Workplace Transformation Director at Westpac Group to provide us with a perspective and here’s what she had to say…
“Today, Australia’s population of about 23 million is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations in the world. As a result, Australian workplaces need to be prepared to deal with the challenges and opportunities this presents.
In recent times, Australian companies have dealt with workplace challenges that have led them to focus on preparing better for the future. For example, the mining boom in 2011 led to skill shortages, the “war for talent”, economic prosperity and wage growth. Coupled with a decade of economic growth and record-low unemployment rates, companies felt challenged in an unknown territory – people. Traditional (and successful) industries found themselves challenged with regard to how, when and what people worked on as the employee/employer power shifted increasingly toward employee choice – many companies were ill-prepared.
Changing where, when and how we work
In terms of working habits, government investment in the National Broadband Network (NBN) is designed to provide access to a minimum level of broadband service across the nation. This initiative has led to an increase in opportunities in education, business, entertainment, health care and sociability giving everyone the potential to be more productive, more creative, more efficient and more connected for decades to come. Importantly, working from home has become a real option for many now that anyone can experience a fast and reliable internet connection in the home.
This connectivity is vital for other reasons. Australia is a high wage-earning country and because of this, many companies within Australia have moved to offshoring and partnering arrangements to initially minimise cost. The changing landscape of on-going globalisation, and Australia’s relative distance from other parts of the world, is making work international, networked, culturally diverse and 24/7. Value creation and productivity for Australia will depend on its ability to build and maintain networks across regional and national boundaries, meaning that Australian companies have to be focussed on the global talent pool when it comes to employing the next generation of workers.
Gearing up for marathon careers
Like many other countries around the world, Australia has an aging population. Combined with high quality health care, this means that a larger proportion of the population is moving towards retirement and living far longer. The impact of this is that current superannuation plans are not expected to sustain people for their retired lifetime resulting in an increased burden on social welfare. As a result there has been increased focus from the Federal Government on raising the pension age, and organisations are now starting to think about ways to engage and support an aging workforce.
Recent years have also seen increased media coverage of the importance of work/life balance, wellbeing in the workplace, activity based working and employers of choice. These stories are often used as ways to highlight what employers should be considering as a way to attract and retain key talent. As a result, a number of organisations are seeking out additional or more progressive ways to differentiate themselves from competitors – raising the bar for everyone in the process.
Australian organisations are keen not only to learn how to deal with the implications of these shifts, but also to prepare for the changes will follow them. Participating in the Future of Work Research Consortium has been a great way for Westpac to gain deeper insights into the forces shaping the world we work in and how we can respond to them.”
Do you work for an Australian-based organisation that’s tackling these issues? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how joining the Future of Work Research Consortium could help.
I’m blogging from Tokyo this week, where Lynda and I have been meeting our Japanese Future of Work Consortium members at a series of special events. We started the week with a FoW workshop addressing a number of key global trends, including hyperconnectivity, the rebalancing of financial markets, longer working lives, the hollowing out of work, climate change and the rise of poverty and inequality. Hosted by Kokuyo, the workshop also included delegates from Fast Retailing and Ricoh.
Kokuyo also hosted an evening event where Lynda gave a talk about her latest book, The Key and we enjoyed an excellent presentation by Kokuyo’s CEO Mr Kuroda. Lynda also had time to meet with Mr Tadashi Yanai – the founder and CEO of Fast Retailing – and learn about his approach to leadership and the future of work – before heading off to do a series of interviews with Japanese newspapers and television. It’s been an exciting and action-packed trip so far – check out Lynda’s Twitter feed for more updates on what we’ve been up to.
Take a sneak peek at the next three themes we’ll be exploring with our Future of Work Research Consortium.
The Hundred Year Life
We are at the dawn of the 100-year life – a fact which creates enormous opportunities, but also significant challenges and risks. In this theme, we will explore how a three-stage career will evolve and what it means to work for up to 80 years, as well as what this means for selection and development and how corporations can prepare for the most significant change in human capital ever faced.
The Collaborative Imperative
Working with colleagues across time zones and locations is part of our everyday business life, but the conventional design of organisations is not geared towards fostering a collaborative way of working. We will explore the latest advances in research on collaboration, including the role of generosity, recognising and reward collaboration, and the debate on diverse teams.
Demographic shifts are changing where the world’s workforce will be located, with some countries entering a period of demographic dividend with millions of young people entering the workforce. But, what does this mean for workforce planning and how will organisations develop the agility they need to respond? With the latest data from our Generation Z survey, combined with academic and business insights, we translate these shifts into what they really mean for the employers of tomorrow.
If you would like to be part of exploring these themes with us, email@example.com to learn more about what membership entails and how your organisation can get involved.
by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work
When to retire? It’s a life-changing question most of us will face and, while we may be able to calculate the financial implications, it seems we could be making this decision with astoundingly little data on what retirement means for our health. A clearer understanding of the health implications of retiring early or late will be essential in deciding when to swap the office for the golf course…
Perhaps one of the most cited studies in this debate is that of employees at Boeing, the world’s leading aerospace company. This research revealed that the earlier a Boeing employee retired, the longer they lived. For example, an employee retiring at 50 lived on average to 86, whereas those working to 65 lived on average just a couple of years after their retirement date. This was of course a shocking message, not least to Boeing who responded with some data of their own, seeming to show no correlation between retirement age and life expectancy post-retirement.
To complicate the matter further, The Institute for Economic Affairs recently published research showing that while the short-term impact of retirement on health is somewhat uncertain, the longer-term effects are consistently negative and large. Their data, involving a sample of 9,000 people aged 50 – 70, revealed significantly lower self reported health among the retired population compared with those in the workforce. These negative health impacts included both physical and mental health, with retirees 63% more likely to be diagnosed with a physical health condition than the working population, and 41% more likely to be suffering from clinical depression. Worse still, the adverse effects of retirement increased as the number of years spent in retirement increased.
So, according to the study of Boeing employees we should be planning to retire at 55 or earlier if we want to preserve our health and live longer. According to Boeing’s own research, the decision on when to retire has no bearing on our life expectancy at all. And, according to research by the Institute for Economic Affairs, we should actually continue working as long as we can to preserve the particular health benefits of being in the workforce, such as increased physical and social activity.
So, why are we receiving such contradictory advice on the best time to retire in terms of health? Well, it’s largely down to the significant challenges in researching this link. First, retirement decisions are affected by health: people may retire because they are experiencing health concerns that are already reducing both their quality of life and life expectancy. Second, there is a time lag in terms of how long it might take before the health implications of retiring take effect. Finally, when people decide to retire, they may start changing their behavior in anticipation of this lifestyle change for example they may begin eating more healthily or exercising more, both of which will influence their health in retirement.
While the Institute for Economic Affairs perhaps goes the furthest in addressing these challenges, we are still far from a conclusion in this debate. In the coming years we may see the nature of this conversation change quite dramatically as people begin to let go of the idea of retirement as the third definitive life stage (after education and work) and instead move towards long careers with regular sabbaticals with no official expiry date. Some organisations such as the UK’s hardware store B&Q, and the North American steel manufacturer Vita Needle, are already preparing for a cohort of older workers who have abandoned the notion of a fixed retirement age, instead leaving and reentering as and when they need to.
In terms of the golf club membership, best you consider a Pay-As –You Go option for now…
by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work
Earlier this month I was in Dusseldorf delivering one of our new workshop formats for engineering firm GEA – a combination of our latest research, insights from the Future of Work Research Consortium and company-specific data.
GEA holds regular monthly meetings of their senior HR leadership and wanted to initiate discussion about their future HR strategy by preceding one of their meetings with a workshop discussing the mega-trends and how they are impacting GEA, and in particular its HR function. It was a useful opportunity to take time to think about these mega-trends, which affect and drive much of the company’s HR strategy.
The workshop we devised was divided into two parts: a morning session during which we discussed the mega-trends we’ve identified during our research and an afternoon session which applied these trends to GEA and extrapolated the challenges they are likely to face in light of these trends.
The one thing we needed to make the afternoon session work was data on how GEA is currently dealing with major challenges. To obtain this we sent our Future of Work diagnostic to all attendees in advance of the workshop, and invited them to complete it and send it to other members of their teams.
Using this information, we were able to give the attendees three different perspectives on mega-trends: how they will affect the corporate community as a whole; the trends FoW members feel will be most important over the coming two decades; and the trends and challenges GEA considers most important. There were often differences in these data sets: for example, a number of things FoW members thought would be important were less important to GEA. We were then able to examine this at a deeper level and encourage attendees to consider the reasons for the different perspectives, weighing up whether their industry make some issues less relevant than others, or whether there are some trends to which they need to pay more attention.
The real value of this for GEA is that we were able to give them access to what we know about trends and help them apply it to their current challenges and to a specific rather than speculative future.
We’re hoping to run some more of these workshops over the coming months – contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to learn more.
by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work
We had a busy start to the week as we hosted our Engagement 2.0 masterclass in London. It was a diverse event offering a wide range of perspectives on the topic, so towards the end of the day, we asked our delegates to think about – and then share – the key insights they were going to take away. Here are the top five…
The link between engagement and performance
In her keynote, Lynda pointed out that the popularity of engagement surveys is based on the belief that measuring engagement is a way of measuring performance. But some recent research suggests that low performers can be highly engaged and high performers disenfranchised. If this is true, and engagement isn’t as reliable an indicator of performance as previously thought, what does that mean for the future of the engagement survey? And, what are the implications of tying managers’ bonuses to engagement scores?
Is HR ready for Big Data?
There’s no doubt that Big Data holds a lot of promise. Guest speaker Guy Halfteck gave us his perspective on the potential of Big Data has to help companies identify the best talent for each role. Guy’s company, Knack, uses gaming to generate real-time data about people’s skills that can predict an individual’s performance in a role. But, as one of the videos we commissioned with Central Saint Martin’s highlighted, there is still a lot of work for companies to do when it comes to ensuring they are extracting the most relevant data and interpreting it correctly.
One thing our delegates were concerned about was how to customise engagement approaches to reflect diversity. While organisations have traditionally focused on adapting their offerings based on gender, race, disability and other visible indicators, our members felt that diversity ran deeper and that truly customised approaches must now reflect life stages and aspirations.
Renegotiating the employee/employer relationship
The workers of the future won’t be looking for a “permanent” role – they’ll be looking to organisations to add to their career portfolio by providing them with opportunities that will help build their own personal brand. In light of this, how can organisations prepare themselves to renegotiate the deal? How can they create portable credentials that employees can transfer into their next role?
Managing intangible assets
As our recent newsletter highlighted, health and wellbeing is at the forefront of many workers’ minds. At the masterclass, it was pointed out that in the days when jobs were for life, employers took care of employee health and wellbeing – a priority that fell by the wayside as careers models shifted. The big question is how organisations can re-integrate health and wellbeing into their outlook given that in future employees will be on the scene for a few years at most.
And finally…We all need more sleep!
One of Lynda’s key take-aways from Davos was the need for a solid eight hours’ sleep. Lack of sleep causes poor decision-making, poor health, and can even trigger conditions such as Alzheimer’s. But does anyone but the most eccentric of senior executives have the opportunity to take a nap in the middle of the day? One of our delegates said their company encourages naps – and perhaps in future this practice should become more widespread.
by Emma Birchall, Head of Research, Future of Work
Thanks to Twitter, I came across this blog by Microsoft HR Director Theresa McHenry for HR Magazine. McHenry’s main thrust is to remind us of the big changes taking place in business, society and our day-to-day working lives. However, at the same time, her post highlights the confusing advice we all receive around flexibility in the workplace. She starts off telling the reader to: “encourage employees to work flexibly” and then, a few lines down, reminds them to “where possible, reintroduce boundaries… and encourage colleagues to switch off in the evenings and weekends.” So, which one is it? If we are to create truly flexible organisations whereby work is no longer a place we go, but a thing we do, perhaps we need to wave goodbye to the idea of a Monday-Friday working week.
Flexibility requires us to look beyond the false dichotomy of “work” and “life”. Rather than perpetuating the narrative of achieving “balance” between the two, we must be bolder and aspire to the harmonious integration of all parts of our lives. This aspiration will be particularly important for the future of work as people embrace portfolio careers, working for many organisations and individuals at the same time. Preserving the traditional work schedules in this context will be increasingly challenging and, likely, unappealing.
At the Future of Work Research Consortium, we collaborate with some of the world’s leading organisations to find new solutions to long-standing challenges, and gain surprising insights into issues such as flexible working by taking deeper look. To find out more about how your organsation can get involved, contact email@example.com.
- Flexible Working Shown To Be A Prerequisite For Productivity: Give A Little, Gain A Lot (modernghana.com)
- Skirting the Issue: Flexible working shouldn’t equal the Don’t Promote list (telegraph.co.uk)
- How Flexible Working Can Help a Business Attract The Best Staff (onsmb.com)
- Flexible working good for business (gulfnews.com)
- Why Leaders Need To See Flexible Working As A Strategy For Success Rather Than A Perk For Some Employees (forbes.com)
- Why Flexible Work Arrangements are the New Black (projecteve.com)