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Designing the future of work in the age of digital revolution and automation

Building new skills for the future of work.

Published by Rupert Morrison 

[Updated in November 2020]

For the latest point of view on skills and the future of work, read the latest version of this article.

When I talk to people across sectors – in retail, banking, oil and gas, and transport businesses, the pace of change is astonishing. One of our customers is currently planning to eliminate and replace 80% of its own revenue base. Disruptive technologies are fundamentally changing the activities people do and the skills people will need in the future of work. Major global organisations are re-thinking roles from scratch.

Building new skills and selecting people for future positions

A recent research by MIT revealed that 90% of executives believe their businesses are being disrupted or reinvented by digital business models, whilst 70% believe their businesses do not have the right skills. The readiness of consumers to change their habits when offered one-click ordering from Uber, or from Amazon, that recently bought Whole Foods, shows that business models and jobs across sectors can be reinvented in under three years.

As automation and Artificial Intelligence augment organisational abilities, what will businesses have to do to offer differential value to their customers? Are leaders being proactive in identifying new sources of value, thinking through the new work that will support them and building the skills their people will need to be ready?

Key steps that organisational leaders can take to harness the potential of technologies in the future of work

  1. Identify the new vision given emerging technical possibilities and emergent customer demand. Test it with seasoned executives and young, diverse, tech-savvy innovators. If there aren’t differences of opinion something is wrong, but at the end you need to have an aligned vision to move forward
  2. Understand the impact of the new strategic vision on the work to be done. What activities will have to change – in every function and geography? This is not just about reducing cost by 20% or 40%; the business model will have to adapt
  3. Understand the impact of the work on the skills that are needed. Quantify it. What competencies do you have now? If you don’t have the data, it may be worth collecting it. What competencies will you need? This is futurology, but a best guess is better than a head in the sand
  4. Design a path to the future: Training? Recruitment? Transition for some people or roles? The detail is worth getting right because a 1-3 year journey of transition is likely to be ahead, and if done well, it could set the business on a healthy path to the future…

Rupert Morrison

Founder and Deputy Chair of Orgvue, Orgvue

Rupert Morrison is the founding pioneer behind Orgvue, the leading organizational design and planning platform, which has won numerous accolades including Gartner’s ‘Cool Vendor’ in human capital management software. Rupert’s aim is to help businesses realize their goals through data and analytics. With over 20+ years of experience in consulting, and 17 years in developing software, he blends a deep understanding of board level business issues with new data driven methodologies to give real and sustainable business impact. Rupert is the author of the industry's foremost thought-leading books, considered to be essential 'must reads' for all org design and workforce planning professionals: "Data-driven Organization Design" (now in it's second edition) and "Organizational Planning and Analysis".

Photograph of Rupert Morrison