Please see below selected pre-2016 intelligence about work. This is a synthesis of major recent developments at corporates, business schools, thinktanks, media, commentators, and other key influencers in our external environment.
- Will robots replace people at work? Rapid advances in technology, from big data to artificial intelligence, are revolutionising the way we work and businesses are keen to capitalise on resulting efficiency gains. Raconteur's latest report explored workplaces of the future, including the impact of virtual reality and wearable technology, gamification in the recruitment process, the rise of the freelance economy and top business technology trends for 2016.
- According to Project Syndicate, in the Middle East, half of those aged 18-25 are either unemployed or underemployed. Aggravating this situation is the global refugee crisis, which has displaced some 30 million children, six million from Syria alone, very few of whom are likely to return home during their school-age years.
- Will computers take your job? According to a new book by a financial journalist, they’ll take the “cognitive” work but not the “interaction jobs”. For a long time to come, those positions will need real people with "authentic empathy". Many people get a buzz from collaborating with other people, and computers can’t replace that. New socioeconomic value, 'Humans are Underrated" argues, could therefore derive from innate human skill at engaging with others – collaborating, bonding, creating, caring and giving.
- A new book, The Refusal of Work, argues that the time has to come to challenge the work-centred nature of society. The author, David Frayne, an academic who looks at consumerism and radical approaches to work, describes the powerful view that jobs are an expression of our creativity and selves. There is for some, a religious devotion to work. He writes: “Gratifying work is a fantasy that we have all been trained to invest in, ever since our teachers and parents asked us what we wanted to ‘be’ when we grew up.” Moreover, he argues that “those activities and relationships that cannot be defended in terms of economic contribution are being devalued and neglected”. How different this is from economist John Maynard Keynes’s prediction in 1930 that in 100 years we would devote most of our week to leisure.
- Real estate billionaire Jeff Greene warned that technology will kill white-collar jobs. He says new forms of technology will only exacerbate the growing gap between the rich and the poor, because, he claims, we have left ourselves unprepared for the inevitable automation of many jobs traditionally done by humans. He said: “What globalisation did to blue collar jobs and the working class economy over the past 30 or 40 years, big data, artificial intelligence and robotics will do to the white collar economy - and at a much, much faster pace.”
- Meanwhile, Finland's government is drawing up plans to give every one of its citizens a basic income of 800 euros a month and scrap benefits altogether. A poll commissioned by the agency planning the proposal, the Finnish Social Insurance Institute, showed 69% supported the basic income plan.
- The European Commission, together with the European Business Network for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR Europe), launched the European Pact for Youth, a mutual engagement of business leaders and the EU to improve the chances for young people of getting a job, at the Enterprise 2020 Summit. The Pact is an appeal to all business, social partners, education and training providers and other stakeholders to develop or consolidate partnerships in support of youth employability and inclusion.
- It's tough for employees to meet performance goals when they don't know exactly what's expected of them. And far too many employees fall into that category. Based on Gallup's work with companies worldwide, only about half of employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. Helping employees to set and achieve goals is a manager's key responsibility, but Gallup analysis in Germany shows that many managers don't really own this task. To free employees to take initiative and inspire high performance, managers need to set clear expectations, hold employees accountable for meeting them and respond quickly when employees need support. But managers also should hold themselves accountable for meeting employees' performance needs.
- The OECD unemployment rate was stable at 6.7% in September 2015, 1.4 percentage point below the January 2013 peak. Across the OECD area, 40.9m people were unemployed, 8.0m less than in January 2013, but still 6.4m more than in July 2008, immediately before the crisis. The euro area unemployment rate declined by 0.1% to 10.8%, its lowest level since January 2012. Within the euro area, the largest fall was in Spain (down to 21.6%, now having decreased every month for two years). The unemployment rate in September was stable in Japan (at 3.4%) and in the US at 5.1%), while it increased in Canada (to 7.1%). More recent data show that in October 2015, the unemployment rate fell by 0.1% in the US (to 5.0%) and in Canada (to 7.0%).
- In One Algorithm to Rule Them All, strategy+business argued that we’ll likely see is unemployment creeping up, downward pressure on the wages of more and more professions, and increasing rewards for the fewer and fewer that can’t yet be automated. Meanwhile, in Will automation replace our jobs?, the professor of management practice at London Business School, discussed the impact of automation trends in the workplace, and in particular how this will affect the work of internal communicators.
- However, in Will Robots Put You Out of a Job, Or Give You a New One?, Design News concluded that over the long term, productivity increases and advances in technology have always created more jobs.Project Syndicate also noted that, while this is an age of anxiety about the job-killing effects of automation, with dire headlines warning that the rise of robots will render entire occupational categories obsolete, such fatalism [wrongly] assumes that we are powerless to harness what we create to improve our lives - and, indeed, our jobs.
- Looking much longer-term, in On the Edge of Automation, in five hundred years from now, claimed venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, fewer than 10 percent of people on the planet will be doing paid work.
- KPMG’s recent piece, Bots in the Back Office: The Coming Wave of Digital Labour explored the ‘withering’ BPO industry. KPMG’s report said “The concept of labour arbitrage as the primary value lever of business process outsourcing (BPO) is dying. The geographic discussion is giving way to automation."
- The EU28 unemployment rate was 9.5% in August 2015, stable compared to July 2015, and down from 10.1% in August 2014 - details.
- Eurozone unemployment fell to its lowest level in three years, hitting 10.9 per cent in July amid encouraging data from countries such as Italy that have been hardest hit by the region’s economic crisis. The 213,000 fall in eurozone joblessness has left the rate at its lowest since February 2012. Across the region, 17.5m people in the labour market remain without work. In Spain, the jobless rate fell to 22%. Greece, Portugal and Ireland - all recipients of economic rescue packages - have witnessed dips of about two percentage points over the past year to 25%, 12.1% and 9.5% respectively. Italy’s unemployment rate dropped unexpectedly to 12% in July.
- The Millennial generation is causing dissonance in the expectations of many traditional employers, a recent survey from PwC shows. Only 14% wants to work in the traditional office setting in the future and 20% would prefer a ‘virtual’ collaborative space in which to work. In addition, there is a shift to more freelance based work.
- As Europe’s post-crisis workers live through huge labour market upheaval, with growing numbers surviving on short-term contracts, the Financial Times analysed what this means for young people, business and the economy. The FT believes that, in Europe, the increase in temporary work is sinister, as it reflects a rise in precariousness rather than autonomy.
- To identify the 54 Best Companies to Work For, 24/7 Wall St. examined reviews from current and former employees on Glassdoor.com. The best US companies to work for were concentrated in particular industries. For example, technology companies are well represented among the highest-rated employers, as are consulting firms. Of the 54 best companies, only nine received an average rating of 4.0 or higher on a scale of 1.0 to 5.0. Of these, five are in the technology space and several consulting firms also made the list. Seven out of the 54 best companies provided consulting services, including the Big Four. The high pay associated with the technology and consultancy industries may also explain the relatively high worker satisfaction. Not only are software engineers and consultants some of the highest-paid individuals in the workforce, but employees at companies on this list tend to be paid more than similar professionals at other companies.
- Creating high-impact employment experiences for youth, a report from EY and the MasterCard Centre for Inclusive Growth, highlighted the fact that global youth unemployment is on the rise and is expected to remain unchanged through 2018. But there is some good news. As the report indicates, some businesses are discovering the dividends of offering work and employment opportunities to young people.
- Unemployment across emerging markets has risen sharply this year, reversing a six-year slide, even as it has continued to fall in developed countries. The figures compound a worsening slowdown in emerging markets, driven by a fall in commodity prices and a pullback in global trade, which threatens to drag consumer spending down.
- The OECD Employment Outlook 2015 highlighted what has been mentioned in countless political speeches over the past years: Europe is suffering a social crisis. Unemployment rates give the first indication of this: whereas unemployment has fallen below 6% in the United States and is under 4% in Japan and South Korea, in the euro area the unemployment rate remains above 11%. It is clear that Europe is still lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to employment.
- According to Deloitte, organisations today must navigate a “new world of work”- one that requires a dramatic change in strategies for leadership, talent, and human resources. In this new world, barriers between work and life have been all but eliminated. Employees are "always on" — hyperconnected to their jobs through pervasive mobile technology. Networking tools enable people to easily monitor the market for new job opportunities. Details about an organisation’s culture are available at the tap of a screen, providing insights about companies to employees and potential employees alike. The balance of power in the employer-employee relationship has therefore shifted - making today’s employees more like customers or partners than subordinates.
- In the Simplification of work: the coming revolution, Deloitte argued that organisations are simplifying work in response to employees becoming overwhelmed by increasing organisational complexity, growing information overload, and a stressful 24/7 work environment. Technology, globalisation, and compliance needs continuously add complexity to work. Left unaddressed, this can lead to an organisational environment that damages employee engagement, lowers quality, and reduces innovation and customer service. Business and HR leaders should therefore, for Deloitte, put “simplification” on the agenda for 2015 and focus on individual, organisational, and work-specific programmes that reduce complexity and help people focus on what really matters.
- For the first time since the financial crisis, the employment rate of the population aged 20 to 64 in the EU increased in 2014, reaching 69.2% but not yet its 2008 peak (70.3%). A similar pattern can be observed for men: their employment rate has hit 75.0% in 2014, up compared with 2013 but still below its 2008 level. In contrast, the employment rate of women has continuously risen since 2010 to 63.5% in 2014, above its previous 2008 peak of 62.8%. The Europe 2020 strategy target is to reach a total employment rate of people aged 20 to 64 of at least 75% in the EU by 2020.
- According to new Gallup research, employees with the longest tenures in a company are also the least likely to be engaged. After years with the same company, most workers lose some of their motivation to make a difference. Many grow apathetic over time and spend each day doing the minimum to get by. Some nurse grudges for years and even undermine the company when they get the chance.
- Unemployment will continue to rise in the coming years, as the global economy has entered a new period combining slower growth, widening inequalities and turbulence, warned a new International Labour Organisation report. By 2019, more than 212 million people will be out of work, up from the current 201 million.
- A London Business School professor identified forces shaping the future of work, arguing that technology is rapidly redefining the way we all work, enabling new forms of collaboration across traditional business boundaries. Trends that will profoundly reshape the context and practice of work in coming decades include the rebalancing of globalised markets for goods and labour; dramatically changing demographics; the widening of skills gaps; the demise of middle-skill work; and the rise in the importance of talent clusters, but one other stands out as having the most profound impact on the way work is done and, indeed, as underpinning all of these: IT-enabled hyperconnectivity.
- Tower Watson's The 2014 Global Workforce Study: Driving Engagement Through a Consumer-Like Experience provided a detailed view into the attitudes and concerns of workers globally, with responses from 32,000+ employees across a range of industries in 26 markets. Key findings: (a) just four in 10 employees are highly engaged, so there is room for improvement, (b) regardless of employee age, base pay is the reason most frequently cited by employees for joining or leaving a company and (c) 41% of employees cite job security as a key reason to join a company.
- BCG and The Network conducted research on today’s global workforce - everything from what people in different parts of the world expect of their jobs to what would prompt them to move to another country for work to the countries they would consider moving to. More than 200,000 people from 189 countries participated in the survey. The picture that emerged is of a global workforce that is stunning in its diversity - but that is also in broad agreement in certain areas. The areas of agreement included: a high level of willingness to work abroad; the g reater appeal of certain work destinations than others; the importance to would-be expatriates of broadening their personal experiences; and the growing interest in “softer” workplace rewards.
- In The Future of the Workforce - a world of contingencies, Shaping Tomorrow argued that the changes in both the nature and skills required of employees and the dynamics in the global labour market are creating both uncertainty and opportunity. Many labour trends have been stable for long periods of time, yet are now entering a period of greater change. Contingent workforces are on the rise. For example: businesses will face a shrinking workforce and fiercer competition for skilled workers; many service industries may shed much of their workforceto automation and more of the workforce may be located in service sectors and the average output per worker (and thus average productivity in the economy) will rise.
- However, the global problem of umemployment has become a major challenge for governments and international organisations alike. According to the International Labour Organisation, almost 202 million people were unemployed in 2013 around the world. Of this figure, 40 million are long-term unemployed (out of work for over 12 months). In view of this situation, KPMG argued that it becomes crucial to seek new and effective ways to activate the unemployed and, consequently, to curb high unemployment.
- Meanwhile, in Wealth without workers, workers without wealth, The Economist noted that the digital revolution is bringing sweeping change to labour markets in both rich and poor worlds. The modern digital revolution, with its hallmarks of computer power, connectivity and data ubiquity, is disrupting and dividing the world of work on a scale not seen for more than a century. Vast wealth is being created without many workers; and for all but an elite few, work no longer guarantees a rising income.
- High joblessness across most of the developed world results mostly from the tepid pace of recovery, rather than increased structural unemployment, a finding that has important implicationsfor policy, the OECD said in a new report. The developed world “is still recording a jobs deficit,” the report said, noting that almost 45 million people are without work - 12.1 million more than before the global financial crisis hit almost six years ago. Weak aggregate demand accounts for a significant part of the persistence of high unemployment, with the number of openings per unemployed jobseeker remained low by historical standards.
- Working in an office is becoming increasingly unpopular, with a growing trend away from the traditional nine-to-five day, according to a new PwC report. A survey of 10,000 adults in five countries found that only 14% wanted to work in an office in the future. About one in five of those surveyed said they would prefer to work in a "virtual" environment, where they could work from any location. The report said the lack of interest in working in an office showed a growing desire for people to have more flexibility in their careers.