The Future of Work

Want to take a dive ?

This is post 1 in a series about preparing for the future of work and learning.

When you jump into a heated pool or get into a warm lake in the middle of a hot day– this usually feels nice, right? What about when you jump into an unheated pool or a cold lake? Is it usually a gets your attention, even if you knew the water was cold.

When you think about the future of work, did it ever make you feel like you were jumping into cold water?  If not, you probably haven’t considered what this means for you.  It’s a big change.

Most of us are experiencing the changing workplace environment at some level while others are fully immersed.

In order to build your skills or the skills of others for work of the future, you need to understand how the future of work is changing.

Here are 19 Resources to help to gain a better understanding of this change.

The Future of Work is Now

Welcome to The Future Work


The Future of Work


Forces Changing Our Lives

Lynda Gratton says that five forces that are changing our lives (and already have, in most instances) are:

1. Technology (not just IT but all kinds of technology)

2. Globalization

3. Demography and longevity (people living longer)

4. Society (values, policies, families, the role of women, institutional roles)

5. Energy resources (and environmental impacts)

Good-bye to the Job – David Houle provides his perspective about the “job”

The social concept of jobs, careers and companies really developed over the last 300 years in the Industrial Age. Before the invention of the steam engine, the centralization of industry, and the urbanization of the developed countries, people were artisans, cobblers, blacksmiths and farmers.

The 100 years from the Civil War through the 1950s was a time of scale, mechanization, centralization and the creation of vertical hierarchies that rapidly became bureaucracies. People started at the bottom, or if they had a college degree, slightly above the bottom

The 1970s ushered us into the Information Age – with computers and communications satellites – and started the transition from production of goods to the generation of information at ever-increasing rates.

The last decade of the 20th century, with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, unleashed globalism and the global economy. Work began to transcend national boundaries. The birth of the Internet launched the connectivity revolution, which is playing out to this day.

In the Industrial Age, machines replaced manual or blue-collar labor. In the Information Age, computers replaced office or white-collar workers. Hardware and software replaced people doing jobs.  The Internet connected the world, so the lowest-cost producer became ascendant. Now in the Shift Age, all is in a state of shift. 

Gartner research identified 10 key changes that they see shaping the world of work during the next decade.

  1. “De-routinization” of work. “Non-routine” activities that cannot be automated, such as innovation, leadership and sales, will dominate employment: By 2015, 40 percent or more of an organization’s work will be “non-routine,” up from 25 percent in 2010.
  2. Work swarms. Rather than traditional teams of people familiar with each other, ad-hoc groups or “work swarms,” with no previous experience of working with each other, will become a commonplace team structure. Gartner’s “work swarms” concept sounds similar to the Noded philosophy, which describes how groups of individuals, often but not necessarily geographically distant, come together to form temporary or recurring project teams.
  3. Weak links. Weak links are the cues people can pick up from people who know the people they have to work with. Exploiting our own networks will help us to develop the ties that are required for participating in wider “work swarm” opportunities.
  4. Working with the collective. Being able to influence the complex ecosystem of suppliers, partners, clients and customers will increasingly become a core competence.
  5. Work sketch-ups. Informality will define most “non-routine” work activities; the process models for these activities will be simple “sketch-ups,” created on the fly.
  6. Spontaneous work. Seeking new opportunities and creating projects around them is likely to be an opportunistic, rather than strategic, activity.
  7. Simulation and experimentation. The culture of Google’s “perpetual beta” is likely to spread to other industries, with rapid prototyping taking place in very public environments.
  8. Pattern sensitivity. Extrapolating from history and experience will become less reliable; the ability to detect and parse patterns and trends in society will provide better insights.
  9. Hyperconnected. With formal and informal work diffused across organizational boundaries,  the support mechanisms for workers (healthcare, HR, IT) will need to evolve to support fuzzier, ad-hoc relationships between people and departments.
  10. My place. The boundaries between home and work life are already blurred. Balancing almost 24/7 availability against burning out will become a critical skill.


PwC believes that 3 worlds will co-exist.

  • Blue World – big company capitalism is thrives. Catering to the individual outweighs a focus on collective social responsibility
  • Orange World- companies have a powerful social conscience intrinsic to the brand and a “green” sense of responsibility. Consumers demand high business ethics and environmental credentials are a top priority.
  • Green World- businesses are fragmented. Most companies are small, lean and nimble, relying on an extensive network of suppliers.

Time Magazine provides their view of The Future of Work – 10 Ways Your Job Will Change

  • The Way We’ll Work
  • High Tech, High Touch, High Growth
  • Training Managers to Behave
  • The Search for the Next Perk
  • We’re Getting Off the Ladder
  • Why Boomers Can’t Quit
  • Women Will Rule Business
  • It Will Pay to Save the Planet
  • When Gen X Runs the Show
  • Yes, We’ll Still Make Stuff
  • The Last Days of Cubicle Life

A Dozen Surprises about the Future of Work”: Implications for Workforce Professionals

How Work is Changing 

The 2020 Workplace shares 20 predications for the future workplace.  See Future of Work

  • You will be hired and promoted based upon your reputation capital.
  • Your mobile device will become your office, your classroom and your concierge.
  • The global talent shortage will be acute. Recruiting will start on social networking sites.
  • Recruiting for the vast majority of professional jobs will start in one of the highly trafficked
    social networking sites.
  • A 2020 mindset will be required to thrive in a networked world.
  • Human resources’ focus will move from outsourcing to crowdsourcing.
  • Corporate social networks will flourish and grow inside companies.
  • You will elect your leader.
  • Lifelong learning will be a business requirement
  • Work-life flexibility will replace work-life balance.
  • Companies will disclose their corporate social responsibility programs to attract and retain
  • Social media literacy will be required for all employees.
  • Building a portfolio of contract jobs will be the path to obtaining permanent full-time employment.

The Gig Economy

Tina Brown writes that work will become more project to project based and people will have more of a freelance career.  She refers to a survey where The Daily Beast and Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates surveyed 500 employed U.S. citizens aged 18 and over and found that:

But fully one-third of Americans in our survey are now working either freelance or two jobs, with nearly one in two (45%) taking on these additional positions in the last six months. And, by and large, these new alternative workers are not low-income—they are college-educated Americans who earn more than $75,000 a year.

The Rise of Ronin and the Liquid Economy – Stowe Boyd’s suggests that we are rapidly moving toward an economy where the majority of workers will be freelance.  He prefers the term rōnin which means “wave man” suggesting one who is operating in a more liquid, less solid, sort of connection to the world and others.

Daniel Pink wrote about Free Agent Nation back in 1997

“Citizens are declaring their independence and drafting a new bill of rights”

Sara Horowitz says that The Freelance Surge Is the Industrial Revolution of Our Time

“We haven’t seen a shift in the workforce this significant in almost 100 years when we transitioned from an agricultural to an industrial economy”

Harold Jarche has been talking about The Freelance Revolution for years and has many posts about the topic here  


Workshifting – “ability to work when and where we want to.”

Highlights from The iPass Global Mobile Workforce Report showed that:

  • 68 percent of mobile workers occasionally disconnected completely from technology, up from just 47 percent last year
  • 75 percent worked more hours because of the increased flexibility in when and where they could work
  • 55 percent worked at least 10 or more hours each week
  • 64 percent felt they were better able to balance their work load with personal commitments
  • 51 percent were more relaxed as a result of this improved balance
  • 54 percent felt their productivity was substantially improved

The report also includes a nice Workshifting Infographic.

A McKinsey study Job Creation and America’s Future showed that:

58% of employers said they will hire more temporary and part time workers.

From 2003-2010, there was a net gain of 44,000 contract workers in high-skill professional and technical services, despite an overall loss of more than 600,000 jobs in the contract labor sector.

Key findings from the Telework in the U.S. paper include:

  • Based on current trends, with no growth acceleration, regular telecommuters will total 4.9 million by 2016, a 69% increase from the current level but well below other.
  • Regular telecommuting grew by 61% between 2005 and 2009
  • Forty-five percent of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least part-time telework.

Note:  for this paper telework is defined as those that are not self-employed and are employees that telecommute or workshift.