The Future of Work: Navigating New Realities

23 July 2018

Australia’s workforce is undergoing the most significant disruption since the Industrial Revolution. Some have called the upcoming era ‘the perfect storm.’

Demographic upheaval, globalisation, digital technology and the evolution of the ‘share economy’ – independent business solutions such as Uber, Airbnb and Airtasker to name a few – are disrupting business models and radically changing the workplace.

The rise in flexible work, the increased use of contingent workers, changing social values and worker expectations have introduced new tensions to the world of work as we know it. The emergence of the ‘gig economy’ along with advances in artificial intelligence and robotics are impacting education, skills and career development.

The grand challenge of education is to figure out what the successful learner – and future worker – will need. In our turbulent world, the challenge has never been bigger, or the urgency as great.

What’s more, the concept of ‘education’ is moving from a university degree to lifelong learning. Learning new skills is no longer something people do only when pursuing a significant career change. Remaining relevant, let alone competitive and in-demand requires a commitment to lifelong learning.

This rise in continuous learning and the emergence of non-traditional rivals offering new educational services challenges the dominance of universities in teaching and learning. It begs the question: where will universities fit in the changing landscape of education providers?

Should universities reposition closer to, and work more collaboratively with industry to better prepare graduates to succeed in the workforce of the future?

And what role does business have to play in ensuring a workforce that can thrive into the future?

The answers to these questions are complex, multifaceted and constantly evolving.

We know, however, that in the future world of work, what’s needed is a capable, agile, adaptive workforce with more than just technical skills. Digital know-how is important, but critical thinking, entrepreneurship, complex problem-solving and good oral and written communication skills are increasingly essential. Those with both cognitive and social skills will fare best.

We also know that business must take a leading role in future-proofing Australia’s workforce. Organisational leaders need to redesign work for technology and for learning. They need to invest in human capital – build capability, provide experience-based learning, create new jobs and take advantage of technology by re-training and re-deploying people to higher value and more productive, engaging jobs.

The future of work is unfolding rapidly.

To ensure a workforce that can thrive into future, education providers must adapt the way they teach to the evolving needs of learners. Businesses should be prepared to redesign work and refresh their talent models. We should all set our eyes on longer careers and engage in lifelong learning.

Policy makers and education and business leaders must work together to support a dynamic workforce that can constantly upskill, re-skill and enable innovation. This means revisiting education and career models and our approaches to learning and work.

Learn more about the future of work and what it means for you at our Business and Education Leaders Review on Future-Proofing Australia’s Workforce on 7 August. Secure your place here.