loading the innovate niagara site

The News

Innovation Insights: The Future of Work - innovate niagara

Innovation Insights: The Future of Work



The future of work is a big topic, however, while researching this there are three drivers and four themes that continuously rise to the top and play a vital role in our changing work environment. For the purposes of this column I’ll quickly provide some context to each of these “drivers” and “themes” and how they are shaping our future workforce. An assist goes out to Communitech’s Simon Chan, a leader in the Future of Work concept who I learned a great deal from before writing this article.

The four themes are: The Need to Upskill, Practical Work, Non-Traditional Work and Expectations. The drivers that are affecting great change are; “the 100-year life”, “pace of change” and “demographics.”

The 100-year life: Advancements in health and medicine are creating a much longer life expectancy in humans. With a 100-year life becoming the norm for future generations, this greatly effects the workplace in many ways. Many people previously worked until they were 55-65 years old when their life expectancy was 75-85. People will now be working a lot longer, potentially logging 80 years in the workforce.

Pace of Change: The main driver here is technology. If you’re not familiar with Moore’s law, take a look into it. Essentially, we’ve been seeing the circuit capacity that’s imbedded in technology doubling every two years, for the better part of four decades. These advancements in technology are creating a wider gap between a human’s skill set and the pace in which technology is changing.

Demographics: This relates closely to the 100-year life and generational groups colliding. Before, there may have been one to two distinctly defined generations working together at one time. Today, there are currently five different defined generations working together; The Silent Generation, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z. With such a diverse workforce spanning so many years, treating them as one entity and expecting similar results simply doesn’t work.

Hopefully you can start to comprehend how these drivers integrate with the theme’s previously identified:

The Need to Upskill: If humans are living for 100 years and working for 80 of them, obtaining a single degree that you can ride out for your career will no longer fly. The pace of change will require us to constantly upskill, creating ripple effects in the education system. Colleges and universities will need to adapt to the need of micro credentials and short burst education programs catering to the current and future needs of the workforce.

Practical Work: A report from the World Economic Forum stated that “65% of those now entering primary school will hold jobs in the future that currently don’t exist.” As such, apprenticeships, internships and integrated work/education programs will be of higher need as a rapidly changing workplace will require a ‘learning while working’ environment to adapt to the pace of change in technology.

Non-Traditional Work: Long careers with one company are quickly changing to contract work and freelancing. Long work cycles are more commonly becoming short projects. Changes in the expectations from demographics and advancements in technology are creating the ability to work from home and mobile workforces spanning different countries, cultures and time zones.

Expectations: As a result of so many other changes, the expectations of an employee are also rapidly changing. Previously, the employer/company held much more power. Today, technology is enabling a far more connected and informed workforce. This is enabling those that are highly-skilled or with personal brands and followings to be in the driver’s seat when choosing employers/projects and provides more room for negotiating employment on their terms. They better understand and can quantify their value. Another seismic shift for the employee and employer.

This just scratches the surface of a major topic but looking at these specific themes and drivers should help to gather some perspective and provoke some thought into how we can better plan for the future of work.

Steve Boese is the manager incubation at Innovate Niagara.

This article originally appeared in Business Link Niagara.