Welcome to the job market of the future

November 02, 2015

A holistic picture of the rapidly changing job market and an outlook into it's future

A question we regularly hear is, “How is the job market?” or "How will the job market be?". Allow us to tell you this: the job market is difficult. Oh, it's terrible! If it's not post or pre-crisis, we are in the middle of one. Either an economic or socio-geographical or a political one. Or is the word “crisis” an excuse for people who haven't learned how to navigate change?

Conscious managers and professionals have to be aware of the following factors when designing and planning their careers:

1. Ephemeralization

A term coined by R. Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller (a 20th century inventor and visionary), is the ability of technological advancement to do "more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing".

2. Democratization of and access to technology

Anybody with an internet connection can access anything from anywhere instantly including data and knowledge. Solutions are smaller, faster and cheaper or even free. The open-source movement. The Sharing Economy. All of these elements have led to the decentralization of power.

3. A diversified workforce

Changes in law (e.g., quotas), society and technology have led to the most diversified work force in the history of mankind in terms of race, religion, national origin, gender, personality or age (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials) 

These intermingling three factors have contributed in varying degrees to the “new reality”. Here are examples of how it is visible in the areas of technology, education and business.

Today's workplace has been changed by an inflow of new technology, allowing for new work environments.

1.) Technology

Technology-related professions have become more attractive:

  • As technology is an integrated part of every day, more people are exposed to it. Hence the probability increases that people become interested in it.
  • The barriers of entry are much lower. Everybody can become anyone by circumventing corporations as intermediaries that used to have a monopoly on technology and equipment
  • For the first time individuals can participate in shaping reality – even in their free time.
  • Technology companies have been and still are financially successful which in some cases means that their nerdy & geeky founders with their employees have risen to stardom. Their “sexy” brands attract a wider audience across generations.
  • Given the supply and demand of the market, it pays well.

2.) Education

Governments, NGOs, private entities have launched educational initiatives around businesses, technology (especially programming and robotics) for target groups which did not find easy access to these initiatives, including:

  • Khan Academy
  • University of the People: the world’s first non-profit, tuition-free, accredited, online academic institution

3.) Business

Companies apply lean management & continuous improvement philosophies by e.g.,

  • restructuring business units, firms or entire industries.
  • outsourcing and in-sourcing processes, e.g., by creating Shared Service Centers.
  • reducing costly office space, by allowing employees to work from home for instance.
  • Supporting knowledge workers to perform duties irrespective of their physical location and their arrangements
  • allowing employees to be entirely or partly at the office at their own desk, but not necessarily promoting “hot desking” (in other words: grabbing any available desk).
  • enabling employees to work remotely from home or while traveling with no need to go into the office very often.

    An observation: The initiative “work from home” was initially driven by employees with resisting companies. Now there are companies driving that trend with employees resisting. And yet some companies changed policies drastically from “remote work is good” to “a complete ban”.

Additionally, professionals with very different skill sets and generational habits work along-side each other: one takes notes with pencil & paper or with finger & tablet while yet another one simply takes a photo.

How will the future look like?

Nobody has a crystal ball. Some predictions from the past have been right, some wrong. Who would have thought that Star Trek replicators are 3-D printers, Siri is a voice interface and we do have something very close to holodecks, i.e. virtual realities thanks to the Oculus Rift?

Some predictions have been wrong:

  • The physical book was supposed to be dead. It's not. A Guardian leader said the apparent demise of ebooks was “one of the rare examples where a groundbreaking technology ends up being supplanted by its predecessor”.
  • Every month new programming languages surface that claim to be the new, one and only that will finally supersede the previous ones. Somehow Java, C++, PHP, SQL or JavaScript are still around.
  • There are regularly articles that predict the death of the CV. It's still the most popular application tool.

But there are two things that can be said with certainty about the future of the market:

  • Something interesting is happening.

As Tom Goodwin puts it in his article "The Battle is for the Customer Interface" (posted Mar 3, 2015) "Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the world's most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening. Since the Industrial Revolution, the world has developed complex supply chains, from designers to manufacturers, from distributors to importers, wholesalers and retailers, it’s what allowed billions of products to be made, shipped, bought and enjoyed in all corners of the world. In recent times the power of the internet and especially the mobile phone, have unleashed a movement that’s rapidly destroying these layers and moving power to new places. [...] By 2015, things changed. The balance of power between the different service layers is a jostle for control. […] the customer interface is everything."

  • The job market to date has been rather hierarchical

The idea of rewarding people with money and promotions is now shifting to be more transitory. The futurist Thomas Frey says, “The average person that turns 30 years old in the U.S. today has worked 11 different jobs. In just 10 years, the average person who turns 30 will have worked 200-300 different projects. Business is becoming very fluid in how it operates, and the driving force behind this liquefaction is a digital network that connects buyers with sellers faster and more efficiently than ever in the past. […] it has begun to morph and change virtually every aspect of how business is conducted including the duration and permanency of work assignments, the employer-employee relationship, and the organizing principals around which work assignments and talent coalesce.

What does that mean in practice?

The “who does what and how” will change.

Who: the job market will require professionals and managers to develop these competencies:

1. Self: this goes beyond “The 7 habits of highly effective people” and “GTD”. It's about learning how to effectively & efficiently work from the office or remotely while communicating with seven different cultures in two different time zones. And while, obviously, managing to have a family. It contains elements of:

  • Full awareness of oneself

  • Time management & discipline

  • Cultural awareness & communication

2. Digital: understand technology, use it and, ideally, be able to adapt it to your needs. This starts at learning how to “really” use tools like laptops and smart phones and ends at playing with (writing) the code of certain applications and programs.

3. Change: irrespectively of whether professionals and their corporate environments are “Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority or Laggards”, fact is that “in the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish.” Learning to swim fast under different conditions will determine the success of individuals and companies.

What: thanks to technology new professions will emerge: Augmented Reality Architects (you may recall the movie Inception), Alternative Currency Banker, Waste Data Managers, Urban Agriculturists, 3D Printing Engineers or Privacy Managers.

How: quoting Thomas Frey, “at the heart of the coming work revolution will be a new kind of business structure serving as an organizational magnet for work projects and the free-agent talent needed to complete the work.” He calls them business colonies, we would call them "talent hubs" that “are an evolving new kind of organizational structure designed around matching talent with pending work projects. [...] People who can effectively manage this type of operation will be in high demand.”

Micro-level: The Individual

There's one more layer to the job market: the individual with their own needs, desires, passions and required competencies of “self”, “digital” and “change”. Let's explore “self” a bit further:

Some theory to start with: according to the Decision Dynamics Career Model™ there are 4 career patterns and two perspectives to consider: career concepts and career motives.

They are defined by a person’s view of a successful career as well as its direction of movement and duration of stay in one field.

  • Experts = Loyal Dogs: little movement and stay within their fields for life
  • Linear = Royal Lions: upward movement and indeterminate stay in one field
  • Spiral = Constant Chameleon: lateral related movements and 5-10 years in one field
  • Transitory = Wandering Butterflies: unrelated changes every 2-4 years

Given the new generation's need for even more change, we've added one more category to the original theory and research:

  • Transitory+ = Tireless Kangaroos: unrelated changes every 1-2 years

Furthermore, the theory has two underlying assumptions:

#1: What we want to do (our heart) and what we actually do (our brain) is not necessarily the same due to external influences like family, society, corporate possibilities and the job market.

#2: Our hearts and minds change and evolve with time and experience.

The bigger the dissonance between what the heart wants and what the mind does, the bigger the frustrations of professionals and managers.

Currently approx. 60% follow a career they do not enjoy. How great would it be if we could be in sync with who we are from the very beginning of our careers?  

Zooming out to the meso-level

As mentioned, the job market and corporations usually foster a hierarchical, linear or expert-like environment. Firms have to be aware of these patterns and implied needs to be able to satisfy them accordingly. Otherwise they'll soon realize that a mismatch between what employees want and what the company has to offer increases the number of people who are leaving the firm. E.g. Millenials – often tireless kangaroos and wandering butterflies – consciously choose to be Digital Nomads in a dynamic, transitory start-up world over a false sense of security in corporations.

2015 vs. 2025+

The world as we know it does not exist anymore. Professionals and companies that do not realize this and can't adapt to the new reality call it crisis. A permanent state of crisis. Yet others will simply observe that we've gone from “driving change”, to “managing change” to “navigating change”. Irrespectively of who we are at our hearts and minds, we need to accept and respect that everyone carries around their “evolving little animals” - lions turning into butterflies, chameleons that grow fur – with their needs and desires. Only managers and companies who are able to fully embrace this will succeed.

Welcome to the future – what a zoo!

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