"Like it usually does," you might think. But with today's rapidly changing world, there is no guarantee that there will be any such thing as "usual" in the future. Because nobody knows what the future will bring. The only thing we do know is that it will come. And by looking at the past and present, we can attempt to lay plans and think about the days ahead.
The future has always brought change. In connection with the industrial revolution and the growth of modern industry, we have experienced how professional knowledge can become obsolete. That there is no longer a need for the knowledge we possess. The technicians who used to build ventilation systems by hand now monitor automated processes, where robots and machines build the exact same systems. An auto paint specialist, once almost viewed as an artist, now stands by and watches robots paint cars faster and free from human error. These are just two examples of changes that have taken place in our work lives. And automation is also taking over in the knowledge society as well.
The fourth industrial revolution
On January 20-23, 2016, the World Economic Forum took place in Davos, Switzerland. Unfortunately, I did not attend myself, but the material they have published is very interesting - even to those of us who weren't there. One of the main headings was:
This refers to the fact that we are on the verge of a technological revolution that will change how we live, work and interact with each other in our social relations. The technological transformation we are facing is different from anything else we have experienced or seen in the past. At the same time, it will feel more "disruptive" than ever before.
What does it mean for you?
Not too long ago, I spoke with an insurance company that explained how, in the past eight years, they had reduced their staff by approx. 45-50%. This was possible thanks to the automation of more and more tasks - computers could do the job. Because the work is standardized, it is also being automated, resulting in efficiency gains for the company.
Similarly, I have also met journalists who say that they studied journalism because they wanted to write interesting and in-depth articles. But the reality of their work is quite different. Today, everything goes so fast online that many journalists find themselves writing short news reports for the web with a specified number of keystrokes (to fit the website template). These are just two specific examples of how the knowledge society has become automated and standardized.
You probably have more examples of how you now work with templates, use finished material from others, save time by reusing material etc.
According to a Swedish report (based on this Oxford-study), 53% of the work we do today will disappear within the next 20 years. What does this mean for your future vocation/job? Does it mean that your work will change (significantly) within the next 10 years? Is your job/vocation the next auto paint specialist?
How do these changes affect our job satisfaction?
Feeling satisfied with our job is based to a great extent on feeling motivated in our work. Motivation is primarily an inner driving force, where an interesting job is very important. You probably wouldn't say that monitoring an automated process is just as interesting as using your skills and know-how to do the job yourself. Still, you probably appreciate some aspects of standardization and automation. After all, your time is precious and the "help" saves you time. So you willingly accept it.
At the same time, our job satisfaction will most likely decline as we spend more and more time at work monitoring or filling out templates instead of creating new and interesting services/products. And our frustration over not being able to use our competences and skills will most likely increase. Over time, this may also affect our drive. An interesting job will no longer be what motivates us. Instead, it might be our colleagues and social interactions or something else entirely. The challenge for all of us is to understand the state of things and to keep up with progress.
Progress as a generator
Of course, progress will also generate new jobs, new companies, new products and services that we can't even imagine today. That's how it has always been, and there is every reason to believe that it will continue to be so in the future. For you as an individual, the key is to learn something new, to benefit from progress and to make an effort to keep up with developments. Every day. When changes happen fast and continuously, the trick is to create a climate where you can develop and learn constantly.
For companies and HR, progress means it is necessary to start thinking about how our organizations will look in the future. What kind of skills do we need? If we don't know what kind of skills we need, how can we be sure we're learning enough to acquire the competences we will need once we know what they are? And what type of leadership can make sense of this brave new reality?
In my first blog post, I wrote about transformational leadership in the future. The insights coming out of the World Economic Forum in Davos support me in this conclusion. As well as bring to light new questions: What will your job, your company, your leadership, your collaboration - and by extension, your job satisfaction - look like in the future?