The world of work is changing – and fast. A new wave of disruption is impacting traditional jobs, industries and business models. The 2016 Future of Work conference, hosted by the Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne, will look at the shape of things to come.
Follow this blog on 20 and 21 April 2016 for all the latest developments and have your say online using the hashtag #FOW2016.
21 Apr 2016
and that’s a wrap!
FOW2016 is over... so we’re off for a lie down.
Thanks for staying with us and contributing to the conversation on #FOW2016. We’ve had a blast these last two days, and learned lots. Hope you have too.
This blog will remain online so you can revisit your favourite bits and Pursuit will continue to cover developments in business and leadership.
Your FOW2016 blogging team were:
Editor/production: Val McFarlane
Senior journalist: Andrew Trounson
Reporting team: Eleanor Kennedy, Sal Orpin, Heath Pickering, Tathra Street, Cristen Teen, Rod White
Photography and video: Sarah Linklater
the future is our choice
In closing the conference, Professor Peter Gahan, director of the Centre for Workplace Leadership, said that as we face the future of work, we have choices.
“The future is many things. There are good and bad things. There are robots and people. But it is how we manage these different thing that will determine what that future look like,” he said.
“We have choices. I like the idea that what we blame we empower. That is a powerful message that Fred Kofman gave us today.”
But Professor Gahan said that designing the future will take hard work, just as Zeynep Ton had earlier told the conference that developing a “Good Jobs Strategy” isn’t simple and must be long term strategy.
“While it is very important that we recognise our role as designers of that future, it is hard work, it isn’t easy,” he said.
turning anxiety to excitement
Fred Kofman, president Conscious Business Center International warns that we have to stop playing the blame game. “Blame is a free electron looking to bind on someone, but there is no blame, there is just participation. The important point is to ask what are you going to do now,” he said.
When we confront challenges feeling like victims we feel anxious, but when we confront them and focus on what we can do the anxiety turns to excitement. “The butterflies start flying in formation.”
great minds don’t think alike - the verdict
36 hours ... 20 people ...4 teams ...and 4 big ideas.
That was the challenge set to University of Melbourne students in Great Minds Don’t Think Alike, an initiative that culminated in a pitch session this afternoon.
Richard Harmer from Holos Group introduced the session highlighting how intense life has been for the four teams in the last 36 hours: “Yesterday seems like a long time ago.”
Twitter feedback had helped the teams decide on what idea to pitch to the judges - the FOW2016 audience.
Team 1 – Leadership: #maverick
Jigsaw: matchmaking leaders
Think Tinder for leadership. This is a networking platform for emerging leaders to connect with experienced leaders. Based on the idea that experience is the only way to learn leadership, this platform would give emerging leaders access to the experience of more senior leaders.
Team 2 – People: #haveaflingwithrisk
Failbook: an application that encourages a culture that celebrates failure, underpinned by the idea that we learn when we fail.
In order to join the platform you have to share a failure. By creating a safe place to fail, Failbook will ensure Australia becomes a success one failure at a time.
Team 3 – Place: #lifework
Lifework: a solution to tackle the problem of housing affordability – reimagining the Australian dream
Housing affordability or the lack of it means that workers can’t live near work and spend valuable time commuting.
#lifework is a fund that houses people in unused buildings near to their work. This means that people have more time to reinvest in other pursuits. “Let’s bring work home”
Team 4 – Technology: #tsunami surfers
Evolve: a platform that helps people prepare for the future and empowers them to make sensible decisions about future jobs and skills.
Evolve allows users to see what skills they need for their chosen profession and tells them which of these will become automated in the future. It also shows which areas you can then move into so that people can plan skills training for a more secure future.
Dom Price of Atlassian shared his admiration of the teams, saying that he was glad he wasn’t entering the workforce now as he wouldn’t have got his job. He said he would buy any of the four ideas: “We should be encouraging rapid development like this.”
Voting was via the conference app...and it wasn’t long before the results were in. Team 4, #tsunamisurfers, triumphed with 38% of the 181 votes cast.
Team 2 lived up to their name in more ways than one, coming second with 35%. Team 1 scored 19% and Team 3 10%.
The #tsunamisurfers donated $200 from their winnings to YGap.
don’t be a victim
Fred Kofman, president Conscious Business Center International, says that while it is seductive to play the victim, instead we have to take responsibility and when things go wrong ask ourselves what we are going to do about it.
“The alternative to being the victim is what I call being a designer, or a player, because you are in the game,” he said.
blaming external factors ‘dangerous’
It is dangerous to blame external factors for problems rather than asking what we should have done to deal with them, said Fred Kofman, president Conscious Business Centre International, speaking from California.
He said people too often blame traffic for being late when we could have left earlier to make sure we were on time. He warns we blame external factors to save our self-esteem. He said we shouldn’t make ourselves into victims when contemplating the future.
“If we aren’t part of the problem we can’t be part of the solution,” he said. “The price of innocence is powerlessness, the idea that there is nothing we can do.”
finding meaning in work
What is meaningful work? Can work be both meaningful and secure? How do employers tap into this desire for purpose, fulfillment and meaning, and use it to shape the workforce of the future?
These questions were explored, and tackled to some degree, by the speakers in the Meaningful Work session, who shared their personal experiences and reflections on this topic.
Michael Bradley of Marque Lawyers says that while employee satisfaction surveys often put appreciation of one’s work above getting paid well, money and the meaning we assign to our salaries is an important part of the discussion. Because money is a universal language and we need to be paid to live, it is often (mis)conceived as an indicator of an employee’s worth to the company, and of the company’s recognition and appreciation of an employee’s work.
Abena Ofori of Compass, the Melbourne Accelerator Program’s impact entrepreneurship arm, is focused on the pursuit of purpose throughout her career and in her daily work with social enterprises. Having worked in Singapore, Vancouver and now Melbourne, and learning many lessons along the way, Ofori believes that making money and changing the world aren’t mutually exclusive. She says we need to find blended solutions that enable us to live our values and carve our purpose at the same time, in the line of work we’re in.
Simone Carroll of Vicinity Centres finds that increasingly, people do not work for companies – they work for purpose. She presents a more spiritual approach to finding meaningful work that involves finding perspective of where we fit into this world of eight billion people, choosing what we stand for and searching out like-minded people to work with.
shared values...different ways
Building a strong organisational culture relies on hiring people who share the values embraced by the organisation, but also giving people the space to live those values in different ways, says Atlassian head of R&D Dom Price.
“We are very clear and conscious of how we hire for cultural fit to make sure we have people who will add value to our organisation and to live our values. They can all live those values in different ways and from different cultures, but they have to be able to live those values,” he said.
“If you have one way of doing things and that must always be the way, I think that is called a cult not a culture, and we know bad things happen in cults.”
Mr Price said what works at Atlassian is having different rituals that appeal to different people. So they have social events just for staff, and separate social events that include staff and their families.
Atlassian head of R&D Dom Price said organisations need to build cultures that embrace and generate change because the environment is constantly changing.
“Because of the nature of our business, if we don’t disrupt ourselves we are going to get disrupted by somebody else,” Mr Price said. “The knowledge that people could disrupt you quicker than you can disrupt yourself should be a persistent driver of change.”
If you’re interested in learning more about how we can bridge the gap between research and industry - the subject of a panel discussion this morning - this piece by Dr Michael Fischer from the Centre for Workplace Leadership is a good place to start. His research has uncovered some approaches worth considering.
a winning approach to management - new podcast tomorrow
FOW2016 has just a few hours to go so we’re pausing to look ahead to tomorrow. The conference will be over but the learning can continue.
A new episode of the University of Melbourne’s Up Close podcast, presented by Elisabeth Lopez, will be released around midday tomorrow.
Beyond the caring boss: The powerful management style of Servant Leadership will feature management researcher Prof Robert C. Liden from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He explains the organisational leadership approach of Servant Leadership, in which managers commit to exemplary treatment of employees, who in turn respond with excellent treatment of customers - thus boosting customer loyalty, and raising corporate culture and performance.
Liden argues that the empirical studies he and others are doing into this long-term, people-first management style clearly demonstrate its power to benefit and inspire stakeholders across the spectrum.
The podcast will be available on the Up Close site. Bookmark the site, set a reminder on your phone...just don’t miss out!
“We live in an overly politically correct environment and that can be frightening... But bad things happen when good people don’t do anything. It’s better to tackle things awkwardly or clumsily than not at all,” says Rowena Allen at a masterclass on Leading Diversity in the Workplace.
no rules apply
A key part of Atlassian’s strategy to promote innovation is “Ship It” in which for a 24-hour period every quarter the whole business separates into teams to come up with new ideas.
“There are no rules,” said Atlassian R&D chief Dom Price, and people can pursue whatever ideas they like.
The teams form organically, and people often join teams in different parts of the business outside their normal team, and at the end of the 24 hours they present what they have come up with and the whole business (1,500 people) votes on it. Sometimes a team is just one person.
“It is a ritual,” he said. “There are no guidelines.”
time to innovate
Innovation is about giving people time to innovate, said Atlassian’s Dom Price, and they put aside 20 per cent of their employees’ work time for innovation.
One team may spend one day a week working on a problem that bugs them, or another may tackle a larger problem by spending a week on it out of every five.
“So from month to month the teams are different, they are not getting complacent,” said Mr Price.
He said it allows people to be “the change you seek” rather than just “whingers.” It also means there is no change fatigue because change is continuous.
So he said there is no need for externally bought-in “change programs” that “make you vomit.”
diversity in the workplace
Rowena Allen from the Department of Premier and Cabinet is sharing some eye-watering stats:
- 40% of staff conceal their sexual orientation from their employers.
- 56% of LGB people have been the target of negative commentary or jokes
- Only 66.7% felt confident that their immediate manager would address homophobia.
Atlassian’s Dom Price has exploded three myths of innovation.
The first is that organisations need dedicated innovation places or labs. “That just makes me sad,” he said, arguing innovation should happen everywhere, and not be separated out.
The next myth is that innovation is driven only by some people – the leaders and the experienced. He points out that sometimes the best innovation comes from those breaking the rules and from those who don’t have experience.
Finally he said be wary of paraphernalia promoting innovation in a business, because such PR stuff is just disguising the fact that no innovation is happening.
As conference delegates enjoy a masterclass on Leading Diversity in the Workplace, it’s worth reflecting on why diversity is so important - yet sometimes so hard to achieve. In this article Professor Lyn Yates from the University of Melbourne outlines why it’s a big issue for science research.
FOW2016 is trying very hard to be a paperless conference - but there are some times when you really need Post-its and flipcharts, as this team from the Great Minds Don’t Think Alike challenge knows.
bridging the gap between research and industry
Universities and industry have been urged to work more closely together, more often. But there is an inherent gap between the two, says Doron Ben-Meir, Director of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation at the University of Melbourne.
Broadly, there are a few key factors contributing to this gap, says Ben-Meir, one of them being the metrics of academic performance. Academics are usually measured on their research publications and citations, and the incentive to work with industry is not normally built into the academic career progression structure.
Culture and skill sets are other contributing factors. Ben-Meir says that it’s all well and good to say researchers should work with industry, but many simply don’t have the skill sets to do so. This is because universities and industry operate on very different paradigms; for example, universities are, first and foremost, about the pursuit and furthering of human knowledge and endeavours, and are focused on social and human impact, apart from economic benefit.
Daniel Crowley, CTO of energy storage startup Relectrify, echoes this sentiment. As a company that is on the research to startup journey - the idea for Relectrify was sparked by research in renewable energy and energy storage - Crowley speaks from experience when he says that you can’t get people to deep dive into their area of passion and research for about four years (about the time it takes to do a PhD), then expect them to jump into the startup world and commercialise those research ideas straight off the bat.
Rather than focus on those “rare cookies” as Daniel calls those who can, and do, make that jump, we need to create opportunities for universities to share their research ideas with the startup community who will have the drive to help push those ideas forward.
Laura McKenzie of female-focused angel investor network Scale Investors, meanwhile, is working to increase the number of female-led startups and investors. She cites research that shows women-led businesses earn 12% more revenue and are three times more efficient with the capital they raise, yet less than 5% of companies raising this capital has female founders involved.
Leah Heiss, a Melbourne-based designer and academic at RMIT, may just be one of those “rare cookies” who are able to bridge that gap between research and industry, as Crowley described. Having worked on projects that span the spectrum from a sole university-led research project to a public-private partnership to a wholly private endeavor, Heiss says that the “pathway to commercialization is rickety” but the value is in the new knowledge generated – that golden space at the convergence of multiple disciplines.
Cultures of innovation can’t be sustained on their own, you need to actively “sustain, feed and grow it” says Atlassian Head of Research and Development Dom Price.
And he says innovation benefits from pressure. He said the best way to get people to be innovative and creative is to put people under time pressure. “If it takes too long you are not innovating,” he said.
Some of the delegates might be taking a trip over lunch...
Looking for some lunchtime reading? Try this piece on workers’ wages featuring this morning’s keynote speaker, Professor Zeynep Ton from MIT Sloan School of Management.
Has it come to this? Given that businesses benefit from employees who have a work-life balance, do we need to introduce training in work-life balance, asks a participant at the “Many Spaces of Work” workshop.
“There is demonstrable benefit if staff have work-life balance under control but people are just expected to get it together” the participant said. And it seems Google is already doing it. Another participant points out that Google has launched a “search inside yourself” course for which there is a six-month waiting list within the company.
Dom Price from software developers Atlassian has been chatting on Periscope ahead of his session this afternoon. Watch him talk startup culture and hacking with conference organisers Wildwon.
The hot-desking dilemma
Hot-desking isn’t for everyone. Especially in an environment where workplaces will become increasingly intergenerational, how do you make the workplace work for everyone from the 18 year old to the 65 year old?
“Some like hot-desking but others like a consistent workplace to come back to with pictures of the children or the cats,” warns a participant at the “Many Spaces of Work” workshop.
need for recognition
In a mobile workspace where you don’t need to be at work all the time, where you can work from home and on the road, does your work risk not being recognised?
Participants at the “Many Spaces of Work” workshop say one issue that needs to be addressed is the problem of productivity being conflated with putting in the hours. One said there is a risk that “not being visible risks not being seen as productive”. Another says we “need to be cleverer” than equating productivity with desk time.
University of Melbourne student Michelle Jamsen on taking part in Great Minds Don’t Think Alike challenge at FOW2016. #gmdta
choice the key
Do we want to be “untethered” from the workspace? The answer is yes, no and sometimes, according to a participant at the “Many spaces of work” workshop. “People work differently” says the participant, noting some are extroverts and others are introverts, and people need choice.
what’s your leadershape?
The Centre for Workplace Leadership are showcasing their new leadership assessment and development tool, LeaderShift, at FOW2016. They have created a LeaderShape of the conference and are inviting participants to create their own LeaderShape - a visual representation of their strength in a range of capabilities. It indicates the areas that should be a priority for development, based on the individual’s current situation and/or ambitions for the future. Find out more.
a question of culture
How to bridge the gap between research and industry? Doron Ben-Meir of the University of Melbourne says culture is a huge issue. The motivations that underpin them are different, making it challenging. He says we need mutual understanding of motivations and ways of doing their respective business.
better scheduling, higher wages
What would MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Zeynep Ton do about work and industrial relations if she were in charge? Professor Ton was put on the spot by the audience at FOW2016 and straight away said that one of the first things to be done would be to reform the work schedules of retail workers.
“If I were in charge of labour or policy, one are that I would attack would be scheduling,” Professor Ton said, adding that “forceful mechanisms” could be used to achieve change.
She said current scheduling in the US “disables employees from getting a meaningful life, taking care of their families, or taking another job.”
She also said that the minimum wage in the US was “ridiculously low” and needed to be raised. “I would be careful about the minium wage but there is a reason that it is there and it shouldn’t be as low as it in the US right now.”
The Federal minimum wage in the US is US$7.25 an hour, but varies from State to State. New York State has a minimum wage of US$9.00 an hour, while Georgia and Wyoming have minimum wages of $5.15 an hour. In Australia the Federal minimum wage is $17.29, or US$13.50.
Great minds don’t think alike
Twenty University of Melbourne students are brainstorming to develop innovative solutions to real-world challenges facing Australian organisations. Facilitators extraordinaire of Holos Group will be getting the groups of five ready for the final pitches this afternoon.
How are you feeling today?
Jacob Workman from the Centre for Workplace Leadership.
Video: Sarah Linklater
All feelings are valid at #FOW2016!
a good jobS strategy for retail companies
What is a good jobs strategy for retail companies? Zeynep Ton from MIT Sloan says it is a combination of smart operational choices with a commitment to invest in people.
Sitting underneath this system is a solid set of values: a 100% commitment to a company’s customers, employees and excellence over mediocrity.
This slide shows the vicious cycle that hurts everyone. Zeynep Ton argues that the ability to deliver low prices for customers does not have to equate to bad jobs and low wages for employees, and bad service for customers.
Mercadona and QuikTrip are examples of companies that pay their employees higher wages and provide their employees with good jobs, yet are able to offer their customers low prices and great service while also performing well financially to please stakeholders.
Companies need to commit to continuous improvement and make four smart operational choices to gain satisfied employees, satisfied customers, satisfied investors. These four choices are: to- operate with slack, focus/offer less, cross train, standardise and empower.
investors not to blame
MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Zeynep Ton says it is easy to blame investors for being short term and making it difficult for companies to think long term, but she says that isn’t right. She said there are plenty of investors wanting to hear long-term strategies, but she warns CEOs aren’t giving investors the long term narrative they are looking for. “Too few executives give the long-term vision that attracts investors,” she said.
If you want to know more about the team behind the conference, the Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne, visit their website. It’s got lots of useful and entertaining stuff on the topic of work.
customers prefer chickens
Too many companies are focused on the short term and so are not investing in a good jobs strategy, said MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Zeynep Ton. She said it is up to wider society to “pressure” businesses by actively choosing where to shop and choosing services based on how they treat their employees. She recalled a conversation with a company CEO who said he wished customers cared as much about his employees as they care about chickens, for example, referencing the growing demand from customers for free range chickens as opposed to caged chickens.
zeynep ton at FOW2016
not a simple solution
MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Zeynep Ton warns that the solution isn’t as simple as just investing more in a businesses workers, but relies on making “systematic operational choices” that when combined add value to customers, investors and employees. She said it means cross-training workers so they can fulfil multiple roles; operating with slack to give employees time to train for example; to focus the business on offering less but in a better way; and standardising operations in a way that empowers workers. This is all part of what she called “a good jobs strategy”.
talking about a revolution
“We need to find a way to revolutionise low wage industries,” said MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Zeynep Ton, noting that such a revolution can be done and done profitably. She said that while US companies have good supply chain management, at the customer-end things “fall apart” because their retail workers are treated so badly both in terms of their shifts and pay, but also the lack of resources given to them to do a good job. If they fixed that by investing in people sales and profit can rise.
issues for today’s workers
MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Zeynep Ton says the typical worker of today works in retail or restaurants and not on the factory floor.
“They are today’s mass production workers of today’s developed economies,” she says.
“They not only pay poor wages but come with unpredictable schedules. One of the women in my research, Janet, is a full-time hourly manager in a large retailer and she works very unpredictable hours. This means she can’t hold another job and it disrupts her family time...apart from low wages, unpredictable hours make it difficult for people in the service industry to have a good life.
“The second complaint is that their work is designed in a way that they are almost destined to fail. These are workers who are depending on the service industries for their livelihoods. We need to revolutionise low-wage industries and to do so is not only productive, it is profitable.”
meaningful jobs for the many
MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Zeynep Ton says the challenge of the future of work is to ensure meaningful jobs for the many, not just those at the top. “The only way to do that is with human centred operational strategies,” she said. Central to this is the imperative of companies to move away from focusing on employees as a cost and instead treat them as an asset they need to invest in.
consider all workers
An audience member from the union movement warned that the voices of those low wages aren’t being heard in the discourse on the opportunities offered by the future of work. He warns that the danger is that the discourse focuses on “the privileged few” when we need to consider the fact that not everyone is going to be acquiring high tech skills.
choices to be made
Technology is “scary” but also empowering, says Centre for Workplace Leadership director Professor Peter Gahan. “We have choices around technology and the way we use it. It is a force for destruction but is also a force for creation as well.”
He said Intel’s Genevieve Bell yesterday had focused on the human dimension of technology which he said allows us to focus on the “emancipatory aspect of technology.”
how are you feeling today?
Looks like the level of apprehension has gone up a bit at FOW2016, according to the “how do you feel” jars. Maybe Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte’s straight talking yesterday on the challenges we face to ensure fulfilling work is inclusive may have hit home. On the plus side Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell’s vibrant talk included a great response to worries that machines are replacing us: “Technology is only as good as the people who make it.”
We’re back at the Future of Work conference for another exciting day of ideas, inspiration and advice.
One of the stars of yesterday’s sessions was undoubtedly Dr Genevieve Bell. If she inspired you, you can read more about how she uses anthropology in her work for Intel here.
We’ll be blogging throughout today’s sessions so stay with us and share your views online using #FOW2016.
20 Apr 2016
goodbye for now...
It’s time for us to sign off for today – thank you for following the blog and sharing your thoughts on #FOW2016.
But before we go, here are five things we learned today…some serious, some less so.
1. Most people at the conference started the day feeling pumped or curious…but didn’t want to sit on beanbags.
2. 70 per cent of young people are entering the labour market in jobs that in the future will be automated or lost.
3. Gen Y are actively seeking job security.
4. The shape of our cities will change as innovation and expertise cluster in particular areas.
5. The robots might end up taking over – but at least the future will be clean.
We’ll be back here tomorrow, bright and early (after a coffee or two). Do come back and join us for another day of future-gazing at the Future of Work 2016. See you tomorrow!
threads of the future
Intel anthropologist Dr Genevieve Bell distilled the near future for us into six “threads” that over the next decade we will experience and will be influential to different degrees:
1 – Big Data: The massive amount of data being recorded by technology is only going to grow and will increasingly raise questions over how it is stored and curated, and who has access to it. Dr Bell said that just as our devices are recording data so too will our appliances. How we manage data will be where “what it means to be human plays out”.
2 – Devices: Our devices already know a lot about us, our viewing habits for example. But the next step will be devices that can recognise the context in which we find ourselves, such as the setting we may be in like a conference hall. Dr Bell said that while engineers are working to make things as seamless as possible across our devices, she pointed out that that we has humans “aggressively” impose seams. “Most humans need seams” that allow us to separate parts of our lives. It is why many of us have multiple email accounts, she said.
3 – The Robot Uprising: In what was the joke of the day, Dr Bell said that vacuum cleaners are at the forefront of robotics and that suggests that for those worried about the robot apocalypse, at least it will be clean! More seriously she said that the increasing use of artificial intelligence would raise ethical questions that will have to be grappled with. For example Google has an ethics panel, she said.
4 – Security: Dr Bell told the audience that in the US a successful hacker had been able to hack into a hospital morphine dispenser. When technology is increasingly driving our world (literally in the case of cars), she said the importance of security would only increase.
5 – Mass Personalisation: Technology is already driving personalised medicine and service and that will continue and raise questions over sustainability.
6 – Interaction: The way we interact with our technologies will undergo significant change. For instance she said the technology for virtual worlds would firm up in the next few years as engineers solve problems such as headsets making people nauseous. That will create questions over what a narrative is. While in a movie we watch what a director wants us to, virtual worlds create the possibility of telling stories from many different angles at once. “If you can look anywhere you want in a story, that challenges notions of storytelling narratives.”
Dr Bell closed by pointing out that it is always human needs that drive technology. “Technology isn’t useful until people want to have it.”
the past informs the future
Imagining the future is important for not only what it tells us about the future, but what it says about the present.
“The future is knowable but we bring baggage from today,” said Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell, noting that ideas like the mobile phone, laptops and driverless cars were all talked about in the 1950s within the culture and attitudes of the day.
Sci fi informs reality
Science fiction is helping us to ask the important questions around the implications of technical change. Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell tells the FOW2016 audience that Intel consults science fiction writers and the two key messages they get back is that firstly there is this “persistent anxiety about what it means to be human” when machines are apparently replicating human thought. The second key message is that the importance of privacy and security as technologies advance.
how is tech changing work?
This session unpacks one of the major conference themes: how technology is changing the future of work.
Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte talks about the impact of computerisation and automation on future employment, saying that some 40 per cent of jobs that exist now in Australia will disappear in the next 10-15 years.
This reiterates what he said in an earlier session: jobs that are “repeatable, predictable or dominantly analytic” are more likely to be automated or computerised, while jobs that require originality or the “creative application of technology to problems” and deep social skills will remain and grow.
It’s not all bad news, however – there will also be jobs added, meaning that those 40 per cent of jobs won’t be totally lost; rather there will be a polarisation of future jobs.
Prof Durrant-Whyte says that we will also see greater geographical polarisation, as people converge in inner cities, and into clusters of geographically skilled areas, like knowledge hubs.
Peter Self from CISCO talks about how healthcare collaboration technology will make a difference in the way healthcare professionals work. CISCO has been working on this for the past nine years and has learned some lessons on the journey, chief among them the issue of “too much communication” in a sector where too many inputs can be seen as a distraction and, therefore, a risk.
Andrew Harris from global engineering firm Laing O’Rourke says that in Australia, construction is the third largest contributor to GDP and the largest employer of young people. It is also the last undisrupted industry on the planet – with the last major disruption being the invention of the brick (!).
According to Harris, while the construction industry has digital disruptions like 3D modeling, 3D printing and intelligent structures (such as a bridge that alerts maintenance crews when a car crashes into it), disruption to the construction industry is not likely to come from within, but from outside, citing Google’s crabot as an example.
So, if robots and automation are the future of work, what room is left for the human element?
Kristin Alford from the University of South Australia asks the question: “When we make machines that start to work like humans, then would humans start to work like machines?”
She says that while automation can make things happen faster and cheaper, what will work mean to us, in a world where technology gives us access to do things previously outside our grasp and we no longer need to rely on big companies to provide us with goods and services – for example we can 3D print our own jewellery and participate in citizen science and journalism? Will time replace money as a thing of value and if that’s the case, is work then more about purpose, discovery and curiosity, instead of working like a machine?
At least two panelists agree that more STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – graduates is not always the answer to adapt to a world changed by technology. Prof Durrant-Whyte argues the need to apply entrepreneurial skills to STEM capabilities, and in the future everyone needs to be a tech generalist. Alford suggests the ESTEMHAD acronym – combining Entrepreneurship with STEM and bringing them together with the Humanities, Art and Design.
flexible working in action
Genevieve Bell, anthropologist, researcher and Director of Interaction and Experience Research, Intel Corporation, proves that remote working is possible with the right technology - she’s appearing at FOW2016 via videolink from California.
can public policy respond to the pace of workplace change?
Innovation has become a popular concept, particularly since Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull launched the ‘ideas boom’. But how can the public sector support this? Is the cumbersome (but sometimes necessary) process for implementing effective public policies able to adapt to a rapidly changing workplace?
Jenny Lambert, from the Australian Chamber of Commerce, says the heightened focus on innovation is a boon for future workplace opportunities. “Anyone can have an idea and turn it into a product,” she says.
Ms Lambert adds that government must remove legislative barriers that impede innovation. However, she also concedes “it’s very hard to separate ideology from reality”.
Despite this, the discourse has progressed. She says the old adversarial model between industry and labour has changed. The public policy debate is moving beyond just advocating for employees; now we are protecting all key stakeholders in business.
Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin from BlueChilli, which supports entrepreneurship and startups, says that the government is best placed to support workplace change by supporting a”culture of innovation”.
Innovation in this sense is not a product, he says. Innovation should be viewed as a framework to enable innovative culture to occur.
He says there are three key ways the government can support a culture of innovation: speed of execution, empowerment of people and tolerance of failure.
Max Theilacker from the Centre for Workplace Leadership says Australia is ranked 17th in the Global Innovation Index. In inputs we are ranked 10th and on outputs we are ranked 24th, a strong overall score.
However, when considering the factors individually, we underperform in some critical areas. For instance, we are ranked 99th for “knowledge diffusion”, which is the area for spreading our innovation across the world. We are also ranked 63rd for knowledge absorption.
He says one problem is the innovation debate often focuses on STEM jobs – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, to the neglect of other important job sectors such as sales, customer service and more.
He adds that companies have highlighted the issue that “some STEM workers are programming themselves out of jobs”.
Ultimately, he says, there are two key observations from examining the innovation index data. Largely, the onus is on the business sector to innovate internally – to turn knowledge inputs into outputs; and we should be cautious about the focus on STEM skills, as we need to sell innovative products through other skill sets.
cutting the commute
What if businesses encouraged staff to live near their workplace and there was a fund to finance building micro sustainable housing close to workplaces?
This is one idea from the Life Work group of University of Melbourne students competing to come up with innovative ideas to address the challenges faced by the future of work.
“We want to reinvent the great Australian dream,” the team leader said.
no fear of failure?
How about this for an idea - instead of Facebook, we could have Failbook?
The idea is to encourage entrepreneurism and innovation by embracing a culture that accepts failure as simply part of the process towards success.
This is one of the ideas from a team of University of Melbourne students at FOW2016 tasked with addressing the ‘people’ challenges of future work.
“Can we be vulnerable enough to share our failures with enough passion as we share success?” said the team leader. The team is appropriately called Have A Fling With Risk. #haveaflingwithrisk
clusters of expertise
The Future of Work conference is happening in Melbourne - a city home to a number of self-styled precincts, where clusters of expertise converge with innovation and entrepreneurship in the one location or site. An example is the Carlton Connect innovation precinct at the University of Melbourne.
So it is perhaps fitting that Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte of the University of Sydney told a session on technology and business that in the future, we will see greater geographical polarisation, as people converge in inner cities and into clusters of geographically skilled areas, like knowledge hubs.
Want to work in a place like this? The coworking space at Deakin Edge, Federation Square, Melbourne - the venue for the Future of Work conference.
It appears the beanbags are finally taking off...
Seeking security in an insecure world
Security is a pervasive concept throughout our society. We talk about it in the sense of food security, financial security, securing our borders and now we are increasingly talking about job security and insecurity in the new flexible work model.
It is increasingly apparent that one person’s insecurity is another’s agility and flexibility. As the notion of insecure and flexible work becomes a debate topic we are seeing the term attached to Gen Y who are facing an insecure work world and they are having to build portfolio careers which will not be a job for life.
This was the subject of the Future of Work panel discussion, Seeking Security in an Insecure World.
The University of Melbourne’s Dr Dan Woodman conducts the Life Pattern study, which has followed two groups of Australians Gen Y and Gen X. He discusses what Gen Y want from work, saying his research has told us that they want increased security but that otherwise the two generations hold similar desires in what they want from work. We are seeing that Gen Y are building security into their CVs, he says.
Jacinta Whelan of executive search firm Jo Fisher Group talks about the other end of the spectrum - the CEO pool who have worked for 20-plus years and are choosing to build flexibility into their careers. She says the forces of change - market forces, ageing demographics, digital disruption - have built a society which allows for this increased flexibility for CEOs. It is this which makes flexibility a critical mass: more people are wanting to work flexible hours than ever before, and this flexible labour market can energise society through increased productivity and participation.
Sarah Liu of recruitment agency Gemini3 says she is from generation slashie, a group of people not defined by a singular job title but who know they don’t want a 9-5 desk job - a generation who have a career portfolio of satisfying experiences. Ms Liu says that flexibility needs to be thought about dynamically as the freedom to roam increases as well the flexibility in how we use talent.
Ideally, she says, we are working a situation where different teams and individuals can morph adaptively to bring new capabilities. Job and team sharing has the power to reinvent the future workforce.
James Law of creative tech company Envato tells us how building a flexible workforce at the company has been an exercise in trusting what the team say they want.
nurturing a diverse workforce
Some advice for managers from Varina Paisley of the University of New South Wales on managing diversity in the workplace, for example with LGBT team members:
- Understand people as individuals.
- Think about the different context you’re operating in.
- Create a climate of diversity - this can often override a hostile context and signal that it’s safe to be who we are.
- Think about the advantages of having diverse team members.
- Develop suitable HR, training and grievance procedures for each choice, for example being out or not.
what’s your future of work?
Dan Woodman, TR Ashworth Senior Lecturer and Head of Discipline for Sociology in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, is one of the speakers in the session on ‘Seeking Security in an Insecure World’. Read some of his thoughts on young people and the impact of penalty rates on their working lives here.
an unequal future
The future world of work risks being a world of increasing social and economic inequality as the technologically-savvy and creative enjoy fulfilling jobs while growing numbers of people are locked out, the Future of Work conference heard.
University of Sydney automation and robotics expert Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte warned the audience that a new “social contract” was needed otherwise large numbers of people risk being left behind in low paying and unfulfilling jobs.
“There needs to be some deep fundamental changes to the way society works in countries like Australia. We have the wrong social contract to make this work out in the long haul,” Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said, challenging the audience to come up with ideas.
He warned that the current model driven by businesses simply pursuing profits and lowest cost risks driving greater inequalities but also underpins our superannuation.
“This audience needs to figure out what are the future jobs and what skills do we need to provide to people so they have access to those jobs so that they are not all burger flippers at one end and investment bankers at the other, because that is where we are heading at the moment,” Professor Durrant-Whyte said.
Earlier Professor Durrant-Whyte warned that increasingly automation is taking away jobs, noting that at the Port of Botany in Sydney increased automation led the workforce to drop from 700 to 200. But he said automation also threatens those intellectual jobs that are repeatable and involve analytics.
Greg Vines, deputy director-general of the United Nations’ International Labor Organization, outlined the scale of the challenge, pointing out that just to maintain current employment rates around the world, some 600 million jobs will have to be created by 2030.
“We have over 200 million people unemployed around the world, but even more scary than that is the fact that there are 780 million people working on less than $2 a day. These are frightening statistics,” Mr Vines said.
“Inclusiveness and sustainability have to be two of the first principles that we look at in the future of work - inclusive from the point of view that the benefits of where are in the future are shared, if not equally at least not to the disparity that we are seeing now.”
Amid talk of increasing work flexibility, allowing people more choice of when and where they do their work, Mr Vines warned there was a potential negative flip side to such flexible contract jobs. He warned that people could lose protections associated with the “ordinary” jobs they have relied on. These protections include a decent wage, job security and superannuation. “These suddenly disappear when you are out working in your lounge room,” Mr Vines said.
Such “enterprise work” as it is called, is fine as an option, but is problematic if in the future people don’t have a choice, he said. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank managing director Mike Hirst said business needed to increasingly adopt a new “shared value model” in which business doesn’t simply pursue profit for its own sake, but for a broader set of stakeholders including community interests.
He said that the Global Financial Crisis had been sparked by the system getting out of “whack” in terms of how rewards are shared. “Capital and management were taking too much of the return and chasing higher and higher returns that led to the inevitable collapse that we saw,” he said.
A bleak future?
Future work prospects for the younger generation was a hot topic at the conference this morning. This piece by Professor Paul Kofman, Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Melbourne, suggests it’s not only the conference speakers who are worried - young people are too. But what can be done? Share your thoughts on #FOW2016.
We’re not just talking about the future of work at #FOW2016, we’re actually trying it out. Melbourne Accelerator Program alumni Scann3D are on hand to show off their 3D visual tour technology.
a more personal future
Personalised services are going to be a big part of the jobs of the future, say both Bendigo and Adelaide Bank managing director Mike Hirst and Sydney University Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte.
Professor Durrant-Whyte says personal services are hard to offshore. Mr Hirst says wealth management is likely to become more personalised and will be influential in the way currently under-utilised wealth is mobilised to create wider wealth.
A new growth industry
Elizabeth Ozanne, University of Melbourne Professor, tells the conference about two groups which have recently engaged in the University’s Masters of Ageing program. One is a large international firm of architects which is building a number of aged care facilities throughout the Asia-Pacific, but found their architects don’t actually know much about ageing. The second is a large Australian car manufacturer which is paying their workers to do the training because support for the ageing is seen as a growing area, whereas the car manufacturing industry is closing down
creating fulfilling jobs
Society needs to work out how we generate sufficient fulfilling jobs of the future because otherwise society risks being starkly split between “burger flippers” and those with more worthwhile jobs, warns Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte, automation expert at the University of Sydney.
“Otherwise we are going to have a lot of angry people,” he says.
He says governments won’t be able to do what is needed to address the problem in a redistributive way. Instead he challenges thinkers and the community to come up with ideas to address the problem.
a fair share for all
Business needs to ensure that all stakeholders are getting a fair share of the returns, including community causes, rather than pursing profit for profit’s sake, says Bendigo and Adelaide Bank managing director Mike Hirst.
He says the cause of the Global Financial Crisis could be summarised as the reward system getting “out of whack”.
“Capital and management were taking too much of the return,” he says, advocating instead a “shared value model”.
new jobs needed
For the world to continue on its current course, 650 million jobs will have to be created by 2030, says Greg Vines of the International Labour Organization. Currently world research indicates that 780 million people are working for less than $2 per day.
a global issue
Greg Vines of the International Labour Organization, which aims to protect rights at work, says that they will use their centenary year in 2017 to focus on the future of work and protections.
He says a central committee will be set up to discuss the future of work globally - the discussions at FOW2016 are very different to those that would be held in, say, Bangladesh.
Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte, automation expert at University of Sydney, warns robotics and automation is “polarising” and is concentrating wealth and creativity.
He warns that robotics and automation isn’t just taking manual jobs but intellectual jobs that are repeatable and analytical, and that some manual jobs like hairdressing are hard to automate.
He says that creativity can’t be automated but that creative people risk being concentrated in cities and notes that the recent automation at Port of Botany reduced the workforce there from 700 to just 200.
Plenty of discussion going on here at the Future of Work conference - and online. Join in: #FOW2016
young people at risk of being left behind
Australia needs to “turbo charge” its efforts to better prepare young people for a rapidly changed and changing workplace or too many will be left behind, Foundation for Young Australians CEO Jan Owen told the Future of Work conference.
She warned that 90 per cent of jobs will require digital literacy. At the same time, in what is a fast-changing and flexible work environment, enterprise skills like critical thinking and problem-solving are being valued by employers as much as technical skills.
But she said too many young Australians aren’t getting these skills. She warned that a while range of future jobs will require science, technology, engineering or mathematics skills, the Foundation’s own research has found that less than a third of 15 year olds “were ready for that different future.”
“Young people at 15, when we measured their literacies, were not there at the proficiency that we expected against other OECD countries, and yet the future is clearly here,” Ms Owen said.
She warned that already 30 per cent of young people are either unemployed or underemployed.
She said young people are more indebted and dependent on their parents than in the past, and are taking 4.7 years to secure the job that they have been going into debt training or studying for.
Meantime, in the past three years the demand for digital literacy among employers taking on workers with less than five years’ experience has increased by over 200 per cent. The demand for critical thinking and problem solving skills has increased by 158 per cent. The demand for creativity is up 65 per cent and the demand for presentation and communications skills is up 25 per cent.
Ms Owens warned that 70 per cent of young people are entering the labour market in jobs that in the future will be automated or lost. Some 60 per cent of young people studying vocational or higher education are studying jobs that will be rapidly transformed through automation.
“If young people right now are not adequately prepared at 15, if we have high levels of unemployment and underemployment in our 18-25 year old age group, then the only question is how does Australia get moving fast and accelerate to prepare young people for this different future,” she said.
Borrowing the term “muggle” from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series as someone ignorant of magic, she warned that Australians can’t afford its young people to be just digital muggles.
“Anybody can swipe left or right on their phone, but when you move from being a digital muggle to a digital builder and creator and maker, that is a different skills set. We need more young people to be digital creators and makers.”
If you’ve been inspired by Jan Owen’s talk this morning, you might like to read a bit more from her on what the future of work will look like for our young people. Here’s something she wrote for her organisation, the Foundation for Young Australians.
Find your tribe
Find your tribe, says Foundation for Young Australians CEO Jan Owen. Melbourne is one the most powerful places with fastest growth in startups, social innovation, enclaves of social enterprise that are networked globally. She asks: where is your global community, how are you communicating with them, who are you following, whose tribe do you want to be a part of?
try reverse mentoring
Who says a mentor has to be older than you? Not Jan Owen, Foundation for Young Australians CEO. She says if you are over 40 and you don’t have an under 25 mentor, you’re crazy. Every generation has skills.
The Future of Work conference is an initiative of the Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne. Find out more about the Centre’s work over on their website.
In case you missed the hashtag...the conference staff are here to help. #FOW2016
young need new skills
The challenge for the innovation economy is no longer so much just around knowledge and skills acquisition, but how we apply those skills, says Foundation for Young Australians CEO, Jan Owen. So key to future education is an ongoing focus on foundation skills and technical skills, but also enterprise skills. And also, given that young people will have 17 jobs across five industries during their careers, they also need more career management skills.
the future for young people
Young Australians are now more indebted than ever and more dependent on their parents, says Jan Owen, CEO of Foundation for Young Australians. She warns that significant numbers are under-employed relative to their qualifications, and young people are taking almost five years to get jobs that they trained for or studied for. This at a time when a significantly changed “new work order” is rapidly coming.
Some stats about the future of work:
1 in 10 service jobs are likely to be provided remotely
1 in 3 Aussies are already doing flexible work
A 15-year-old will have 17 jobs in 5 different industries
9 out of 10 jobs will need digital literacy
2 of 7 people are not proficient in problem solving
1 in 3 people are not financially literate
Andrew Trounson/Tathra Street
In his conference welcome, Centre for Workplace Leadership Director Professor Peter Gahan quotes the Prime Minister: “It’s never been a more exciting time to be an Australian.”
He says the event will bring together change makers to build future workplaces and urges participants to get involved, ask fantastic questions and forge alliances.
You can join the conversation too: use the hashtag #FOW2016
the higher education view
The Centre of Workplace Leadership is “pivotal” to University of Melbourne’s engagement agenda, Professor Bill Harley, associate dean for global engagement at the University’s Faculty of Business and Economics tells #FOW2016.
getting comfortable - or not
So far only a few takers for the 15 beanbags set up just in front of the stage here at FOW2016. Best seats in the house. Would you want beanbags at your future workspace? Is it the best seat for the virtual reality office, or work site?
how are you feeling?
Plenty of curious people here at the Future of Work conference, according to the tags mounting up in the glass jar marked “curious” at conference HQ. Delegates are also putting plenty of tags also into the “pumped” jar, and someone has admitted to being “uncertain.” No one yet has put a tag in the “apprehensive” jar. Given the wider unease out there about automation and robotics taking people’s jobs the apprehensive jar might get more tags if set up outside Flinders Street railway station.
And we’re off! Delegates are now arriving for the Future of Work 2016, a conference bringing together some of the world’s leading thinkers, practitioners and influencers to look at how the world of work is changing - and what it means for us.
Sessions start shortly and our team of bloggers will be here throughout today and tomorrow to bring you the latest ideas and inspiration from speakers. Stay with us and join the conversation: #FOW2016.
To get you in the mood for what’s to come, why not read Centre for Workplace Leadership Director Peter Gahan’s take on a big workplace question: will a robot take your job? His conclusions might surprise you.