The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum took place in Davos, Switzerland, last month. Providing a global stage to international leaders, discussions unfolded around the key societal trends that are shaping our present and not-so-distant future.

Amongst the umbrella themes, globalisation opened up exploration around the future of work – tying in with our own research. Here we take a look at the emerging trends surrounding workplace. 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

 Focusing on what has been termed the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, a spotlight was shone on the relationship between humans and technology in a work context.

Mirroring the findings detailed in Tom Cheesewright’s blog post Optimising the workplace for tomorrow’s key skills, an article on the World Economic Forum website by Vice President of Cognizant Technology Solutions, Ben Pring, argues that humans will remain central to the future of work. This is despite global worries that technology will negatively impact on the number of jobs for humans.

“The future of work is at the heart of every major socio-economic-political debate raging around the world today.”
Ben Pring, Vice President, Cognizant Technology Solutions Tweet this

Ben states: “Everyone is under pressure to outrun the machine. Each of us must figure out what to do when machines do everything.”

This lends itself to the case put forward by our guest blogger, Tom Cheesewright, who emphasises the importance of unique human capabilities, such as being emotional. This makes them [us] able to communicate empathetically - plus curate information in ways that computers and machines will never be able to.

Pring’s narrative takes a similar theme, believing that honing in on these types of qualities will lead us to a new set of jobs for the future – something he’s termed the ‘Four Es of Skills’:

Eternal - human skills that have existed since our beginning, such as leveraging sticks and stones to make fire, and cooperating in a group. Regardless of how far technology advances, these skills will always add value.

Enduring - attributes such as being empathetic, trusting, helpful, imaginative and striving will always be required in the world of work, in addition to mastering the art of selling – a very ‘human’ skill. 

Emerging - the ability to learn new skills and pick up complex tasks quickly is imperative to succeeding in the workplace.

Eroding - as time moves on, this year’s cutting-edge skills become next year’s pre-requisite. And many of this relates to technology. A marketing manager without a social media presence, for example, would likely be viewed unsuitable.  

Concluding with the sentiment that ‘the jobs we do have always changed and always will’, Pring cites a quote from Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man.

“We are all afraid - for our confidence, for the future, for the world. That is the nature of the human imagination. Yet every man, every civilization, has gone forward because of its engagement with what it has set itself to do. The personal commitment of a man to his skill, the intellectual commitment and the emotional commitment working together as one, has made The Ascent of Man”.

As we enter the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, our relationship with work once again appears to be facing a seismic shift – but one that many believe to simply be a natural progression for the human race.
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Alongside considering the now inextricable link between humans and technology, business leaders at Davos were also pressed to tackle burgeoning environmental concerns - with urgency. While sustainability has to be high on the agenda at such summits, how far do these passionate addresses translate into real action taken by the world’s corporations? And how much of a priority does the working population place on this ever present and ever worrying issue?

Environmental concerns?

Our research of 2,500 European office workers actually showed sustainability to be  much, much less of a concern than anticipated. As reported in Rethinking Workplace: Part One, only 9% of employees regard sustainability as an issue their employees should be prioritising.

Is this because people assume it’s already been taken care of? That a solid environmental policy is surely a given? Or that perhaps it’s time for other issues to take priority?

Irrespective of these surprising findings, the talks in Davos put the spotlight squarely back on the urgency of the situation - not least by Sir David Attenborough, who called out the crisis point at which the world has arrived in regards to climate change. 

Inciting both business and political leaders to take action before the damage becomes irreparable, Attenborough issued a stark warning.

 

“The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: the Anthropocene, the age of humans. We need to move beyond guilt or blame, and get on with the practical tasks at hand.”
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Environmental policy was shown to be less of a priority for our research population, with issues relating to health and wellbeing taking much more precedence. As we move towards 2020 and beyond, only time will tell as to how environmental sustainability is treated in the workplace. Will the conversations at Davos be enough to alter tomorrow’s agenda? Watch this space.

For more highlights from Davos 2019, visit www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting

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Anette Timmer EMEA Marketing Director Carpets/Workplace

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