January 2, 2017


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


Welcome to 2017!  In our first Water Cooler of the year we focus mainly on one critical theme — the need for organizations to adapt to fast-changing trends in workplaces and workforces, driven by demographics, technology and new ways of working. What will your strategy be? 


1. Our Changing Workforce

We all harbour assumptions about the differences between young and old workers. But a survey by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, authors of The 100 Year Life, found far fewer differences than might have been imagined.

Disruptive change will continue to hit our work force, according to The World Economic Forum.

“In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate. By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.

“In such a rapidly evolving employment landscape, the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the aggregate effect on employment is increasingly critical for businesses, governments and individuals,” the Future of Jobs report says.

It also suggests that current trends and disruptive labour market changes during 2015–2020 could lead to a net loss of more than 5.1 million jobs in the countries it studied.

That actually involves a loss in one area and a gain in another: 7.1 million jobs disappear, two-thirds in routine white collar office functions, while there is an expected gain of two million jobs in the computer and mathematical sector and fields related to architecture and engineering. Expect manufacturing and production jobs to continue to dwindle.

The study foresees an increase in data analysts, as that function grows, and specialized sales representatives, as practically every industry will need to become skilled in commercializing and explaining their offerings due to the innovative technical nature of modern products or engaging with new types of clients.

A particular need is also seen for a new type of senior manager to steer companies through the disruption in various industries, notably energy, media, entertainment and information.


2. The Old World And New World Of Work

Within the workplace, we will be continuing to change from an old model of work to a new model, according to a presentation by Queen’s Industrial Relations Centre Facilitator Brenda Barker Scott (also one of 8020Info’s associates).

In the old world of work, you had a pre-defined job and worked alongside a stable and familiar group of colleagues. In the new world of work, people want more meaningful, challenging assignments and connect through ever-changing, collaborative networks. The relationship with the boss traditionally revolved around assessment but today employees desire developmental feedback — they want a coach, not a boss.

Old world companies were fuelled by capital investment. Today, the driver is talent. A boss and job description provided direction in the past whereas increasingly employees are self-directed, on the lookout for what is needed.

Technology, which in the past was often intended to control, is now designed to enable talent and knowledge transfer. The emphasis is on innovation, learning, and collaboration.

“The focus of a knowledge worker shifts from simply acquiring a job-related skill to combining, leveraging and building on one’s knowledge. Indeed, in the knowledge economy, one’s contribution defines one’s relevance,” she notes.

“Knowledge is the new competitive edge. Turning the organizational hierarchy upside down, the emerging challenge is for organizations to inventory, connect and nurture talent in service of renewal and innovation.”


3. Dealing With 10X Change

Not sure how much these massive changes will affect you? Don’t look to the minimal. Instead, listen to entrepreneur Seth Godin on his blog as he warns about “Times 10” change.

“We’re woefully unprepared to deal with orders of magnitude,” he notes, giving examples such as ten times as many orders, one-tenth the number of hospital visits, ten times the traffic, one-tenth the revenue, or ten times as fast.

“We think we’re ready for a one inch rise in sea level, but 10 inches is so foreign we work hard to not even consider it. Except that messages now travel 50 times faster than they used to, sent to us by 100 times as many people as we grew up expecting. Except that we’re spending 10 times as much time with a device, and one-tenth as much time reading a book,” he writes.

“Because dramatic shifts rarely happen, we bracket everything on the increment, preparing for just a relatively small change here or there.”


4. Doctors, Lawyers And Professionals Won’t Be Spared

Not me, says the doctor. Not me, says the lawyer. Not me, says the professional. Sure others will lose their job. But not in our profession.

Think again.

Richard Susskind and David Susskind, authors of The Future Of The Professions, argue that technology will replace many of them. “We expect that within decades the traditional professions will be dismantled, leaving most, but not all, professionals to be replaced by less-expert people, new types of experts, and high-performing systems,” they write in Harvard Business Review.

A fundamental shift in delivering such services is shown by the fact there are more monthly visits to the WebMD network, a collection of health websites, than to all the doctors in the United States. As well, 60 million disagreements among eBay traders are resolved using “online dispute resolution” rather than lawyers and judges, which amounts to three times the number of lawsuits filed each year in the entire U.S. court system.

Signs of unanticipated change are already around us.


5. Zingers

  • Bigger and … smaller: In the 1990s, three of the biggest employers with sky-high market capitalizations were Ford, Chrysler and GM.  But today, McKinsey & Company CEO Dominic Barton points out, Facebook, Google and Apple “have 10 times the market cap but employ only a tenth of the people.” (Source: TheStar.com)
  • Time to cram on coding skills: According to current projections, there will be a shortage of more than 200,000 information and communications technology workers in Canada by 2020. Melissa Sariffodeen, CEO of Ladies Learning Code, says by 2027 we will need to teach 10 million Canadians to code or at least be literate about coding.  (Source: The Globe and Mail)
  • Design tech to enhance experiences: Consultant Josh Bersin says the key to success for organizations is what we now call design thinking. Organizations need to understand what technology can do and then use it to enhance the customer and employee experience.

“Starbucks or Peets could chose to install robot coffee machines in its stores. They don’t, of course, because the customer experience is focused on a personal conversation with a barista, the sound and smell of coffee being made, and a cup with your name hand-written on it,” he says. “Wegman’s, one of the best places to work in the country, coaches employees on putting down their phones so they can talk directly with customers.” (Source: Forbes).

  • Talent wanted: The hottest jobs (where employees are in demand) according to Workopolis: Registered nurses, software and applications designers, marketing managers, sales managers, medical and health services managers, network and computer systems administrators, and industrial engineers. (Source: Workopolis)
  • Being young is not so new: Much is written about Millennials as narcissistic job-hoppers. But David Burkus, a professor of management, says the problem with conventional wisdom about Millennials in the workplace is that it’s not unique to that generation; it’s unique to young people in general. He falls back on Socrates, who centuries ago wrote: “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” (Source: Inc.com).


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:
     Dont Underestimate Job Change

Question:  With the future of work and careers so uncertain, how do we plan?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

In 1970, I thought the baby boomers would radically transform the workplace. The alumni magazine I edited had a special issue on the plugged-in student and imagined an audio-visual world in which students would pick up filmed lectures at the library instead of reading books and attending in-person lectures.

So now, as Millennials and the Internet are supposed to change everything, I’m cautious.

But the Internet has radically changed many industries and workplaces. And whether it’s the Millennials or women or just wake-up time, workplaces are much more innovative and flexible than in the past.

Demographics offer clues:

In the 1990s, our futurist of popular choice was David Foot. He told us that demography predicts everything. You can count that next year we’ll essentially all be a year older. Back then, it was the baby boomers he was focused on. These days, it’s Millennials we are fixated upon for work, as they become half our workplace, and next attention will turn to the cohort after them, Generation Z.

To some extent, the most important trend we can predict with certainty — á la Foot — is the way their composition will change in the workplace, as the boomers pass the baton. Demographics suggest in five to ten years there will be fewer people of working age than jobs. That won’t apply to every job, of course.

And it’s hard to factor in automation and the other influences that could reduce the supply of jobs. But what we have always expected, increasing numbers in the work force and an ever-increasing number of jobs will change. What we see now —what we have seen for generations— is not what we will get.

That’s a stunning change in itself and arguably the one we are paying least attention to, as we talk of Millennials, automation, whether free trade will continue or markets close. It’s the part of the iceberg under the workplace surface. It means workplaces will have to fight harder to attract and keep its employees.

Check your workplace:

I thought the so-called “war for talent” a decade ago was hype, often voiced most by swaggering companies that bragged a lot but turned off employees by not doing much to change. But change will now be more mandatory (See Item #2 – The Old World and New World of Work).

So planning starts there. Make your workplace an excellent place to be. Treat your people as if your future depends upon them. That was always good advice, but more so today.

At the same time, many jobs haven’t changed for eons. A professor and a teacher and a nurse have all sorts of technology at their disposal, helping them, but the jobs have a certain consistency over the decades if not the centuries.  So how much things change, and how to plan, depends on our industry, job, and age.

This issue of The 8020Info Water Cooler, however, is a reminder not to underestimate. Powerful factors — sometimes intertwined, sometimes tangential, and sometimes at odds — are at work.


7.  From Our Water Cooler:
Welcome Matthew Wood

Over the years, 8020Info has benefitted in many ways from its association with Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College, not the least being the talents and skills of its graduates. Donna Gillespie, Ellen Bruce, Chantal Borst, Alison (Sortberg) Vandervelde and Michelle Godin all came to our practice after stand-out accomplishments during their years as students. Later this week we welcome Matthew J. Wood as a new 8020Info Associate.

Matthew graduated last spring from Queen’s University as a Dean’s Scholar in Mechanical Engineering and, as a top student, was awarded the Lorne C. Elder Scholarship in Mechanical and Materials Engineering. In addition to his tech capabilities and the analytical, research and problem-solving skills honed in his engineering program, he’s developed strong people skills as a teaching assistant, a design team project manager and analyst for the Queen’s Eco Vehicle Team (Shell Eco-Marathon).

He rounds out his multi-disciplinary interests with an active commitment to community service, most recently with the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. He’s also a bit of a basketball nut, and was a die-hard fan of his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers long before they won the NBA championship this year; he also coaches and plays tennis.

Matthew has been busy preparing for his new role by studying up on a score of client projects we have underway in January. It’s a pleasure to introduce him to you through The 8020Info Water Cooler — and welcome him to our practice.


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8.  Closing Thought

“If you don’t think about and plan for the future of work, then your organization has no future.”

— Jacob Morgan