The 21st Century World of work

The 21st Century World of work

Rapid changes to the economy, jobs, and businesses over the last several decades have reshaped the 21st Century World of Work.  These changes have impacted the nature of work, the nature of jobs, the nature of our careers and the nature of the competencies required to succeed in the modern workplace.  

What are the driving forces behind these changes?  

Consider the following six drivers for change as reported by The Institute for the Future (IFTF) in their Future Work Skills 2020 report:

The Aging workforce impacts the nature of careers and learning

Continued advancement in medical services will accommodate an aging population to remain healthy and economically active for longer.  Organisations will take advantage of this well-experienced workforce by enabling flexible and diverse employment opportunities that combats the old paradigm of compulsory career termination at retirement age (typically 65). The nature of careers will change from linear career paths to career webs and lifelong learning will become a necessity for everyone.

Smart machines replace routine jobs

The World Economic Forum reports that the 4th Industrial Revolution will between 2015 and 2020 result in a drastic decline in routine, repetitive jobs due to automation – 7.1 million job losses worldwide (of which 60% will be in administration). At the same time, 2 million new job positions will be created in the fields of mathematics, computer science, architecture and engineering. Economists Frank Levy and Richard Mundane report that the jobs least likely to be automated or outsourced are those that require expert thinking and complex communication. In the real world employers want people who can “think” and who can solve problems. Learning and education therefore needs to keep abreast of the evolving requirement to develop these competencies for the 21st Century workplace.

Data management skills are essential

Technological advancement has created a computational world where every object, every interaction and everything we come into contact on a daily basis will be converted into data. As a result, our ability to interact with, understand and interpret data, see patterns and make value-adding sense of the available information will become a key requirement for everyday life and work in the modern workplace.

The new media ecology requires a new language to be learned

New multimedia technologies are bringing about a transformation in the way we communicate. Organisations will need to tap into this new ecosystem where millions of users exert enormous influence on culture and public opinion. At the same time new demands become prevalent for the development of competencies regarding online personal reputation and identity management.

Traditional organisational structures collapse  

New technologies and social media platforms enable traditional organisational boundaries to be eliminated as collaboration across teams, organisations and countries become possible. The availability of pooled resources, value adding information and technological tools enable endless opportunities for collaboration at an extreme scale to jointly address real-world problems. Examples include open source education platforms increasingly making content available to anyone who wants to learn, resulting in a new training paradigm.

Global interconnectivity requires global citizenship

Operating in a globally connected world requires everyone to become global citizens. Understanding your market, your customers, their needs, their requirements and the intricacies of their workforce culture is a key requirement for remaining competitive in the 21st Century World of Work.

So how will the future changes in the world of work affect jobs, careers and competencies? What are the jobs of the future? Which careers will offer the best potential for secure employment? Although we may not know exactly which jobs will come on stream in the future, we have a good idea of which skills will serve people best in the 21st Century.

Developing Critical and Analytical thinking, Collaboration, Communication, Problem Solving, Resilience and Professionalism should enable a good foundation towards future career development. And the good news is … we know these skills can be learned.

Carin van Rensburg is an Industrial / Organisational Psychologist (IOP) with a special interest in equipping Young Adults, Individuals and Small to Medium businesses with 21st Century Competencies through Career Development Workshops and Coaching.

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