The digital transformation that we have seen in the last few years has changed the landscape of the workplace dramatically. With the digital age, so-called “old-school” methods of working, recruiting and even learning have all been disrupted. In this period of flux, and the harkening of the fourth industrial revolution, businesses have the opportunity to embrace this fully but what does the future of work actually look like for businesses, recruiters and employees?
The notion of a change in the culture of work is not new, the First Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries immediately coming to mind. This revolution resulted in faster manufacturing processes, which changed how work was completed, and the skills necessary to do this. With the fourth revolution underway, similar trends can be seen, in the nature of work, the workplace and the workforce itself.
As with the industrial revolution, we find ourselves having to re-establish the relationship between man and machine. Tasks have been made easier by digitisation and labour itself is changed by the growing dependence on digital workspaces. Menial tasks are allocated to digital platforms, which in itself disrupts existing jobs, but it also opens up a world of opportunity for new jobs, and even to add and develop existing jobs.
However, this opens up a discussion about what skills will be necessary in this shifting landscape, what employers will look for in potential workers, and what will distinguish a candidate. In recent years, there has been greater emphasis on continuous learning, problem solving, interpretation and effective communication.
There is a newfound emphasis on flexibility, which is both advantageous for the employee as well as the employer. This flexibility, and the dependence of employers on freelancers and gig workers, help businesses to be nimbler, and to employ workers with specific skills that are relevant and allow for greater efficiency and creativity.
The notion of flexibility lends itself to a rethinking of location of work. Digitisation allows for remote working, and a shift in the traditional ideas about company culture, as more and more employees work from home or other remote locations.
It is exciting to see the development of what skills are seen as important, and digital literacy is one of them. I remember thinking how strange it was when hearing about a young girl who was in her first year of schooling learning basic coding, but this is a definite indication of how education is shifting to teach the skills necessary to thrive in in the fourth revolution.
While we can see some distinct shifts in the landscape of work, what it will look like is not exact. We are undoubtably in a season of change, where established norms are being challenged and notions of flexibility, which in the past was considered an uncertain perk in a job, are being embraced and seen as more of a given in the modern workspace.