WORKERS know their jobs are under threat and their skills need upgrading, and a new report indicates they’ll be willing to go to extreme lengths to stay competitive.
The report, released by PricewaterhouseCoopers, paints a confronting picture of how the average workplace will operate in 2030.
It indicates the pace of change and job competition is accelerating and workers are feeling the threat of automation. But the research also finds people may be willing to undergo medical treatment and change their bodies and brains to adapt to the changing workforce.
Of more than 10,000 workers from around the world surveyed, 70 per cent said they would consider using treatments to enhance their brain and body if it would improve employment prospects in the future.
The report predicts people in the corporate world — one of four “worlds of work” the report divides the workforce of 2030 into — will depend on a productive workforce, and will see large companies compete fiercely for the best talent.
“They push past the limits of human ability by investing in augmentation technology, medication and implants to give their people the edge,” the report says of the future corporate workforce.
The research predicts workers in this area will also have to sacrifice some of their privacy in order to stay competitive.
As well as having workers implanted with chips under their skin or treated with yet-to-be developed technology, organisations will be “obsessively”
monitoring and measuring data from their workers, including their location, performance, health and wellbeing both inside and outside the workplace.
“Organisations use the data to predict performance and importantly, to anticipate risk,” the report says.
Across all areas of the workforce, the report found people were overwhelmingly conscious of how much jobs were changing.
Almost three quarters (74 per cent) of people surveyed were ready to learn a new skill or completely retrain to keep themselves employable, and saw this as a personal responsibility, not their employers’.
Jon Williams, Australian PwC partner and joint global leader for People and Organisation, said that while the pace of change is accelerating and competition for jobs is fierce, workers are adapting.
“Our report found that 60 per cent of respondents believe few people will have stable, long-term employment in the future. People are shifting from a qualification that would last a lifetime to thinking about new skills every few years, matched with ongoing development of personal skills of such as risk management, leadership and emotional intelligence,” Mr Williams said in a statement.
Overall, 37 per cent of respondents believe automation is putting their job at risk, up from 33 per cent in 2014 and over half (56 per cent) think governments should take action needed to protect jobs from automation.
Mr Williams said it was up to employers to have “mature conversations” with their staff, and help them understand the future changes.
“With a third of workers worried about the future of their jobs due to automation, employers need to be having mature conversations now, to include workers in the technology debate,” he said.
“This will help them to understand, prepare and potentially upskill for any impact technology may have on their job in the future. The shift is nothing less than a fundamental transformation in the way we work, and organisations must not underestimate the change ahead.”
The PwC research is only the latest dump of data to ring alarm bells for workers worried about their career futures.
A report published by the Foundation for Young Australians just last week predicted every job in Australia would be changed and some wiped out by 2030.
In an interview published by Virgin, futurist Dr James Bellini predicted the next 20 years would see “more disruptive innovation than in the whole of the 20th century”.
Dr Bellini said that while some “disruptive technologies” that have already had a considerable impact on work are already known to us — the internet, cloud, and mobile devices — others would have a growing impact over the next 10 to 20 years.
“3D printing is beginning to change all the rules about making things; 4D printing is on the horizon and will offer limitless possibilities in areas like infrastructure and construction,” he said.
“The ‘new realities’ — virtual, augmented, hybrid — as well as other visual technologies such as holography, will be transformational in their impact on how we communicate, innovate, design and countless other everyday workplace tasks.”
Dr Bellini predicts energy efficient quantum computing will be an “essential development” as we run out of the capability to power all the computing machines around the world, and will be “up to one million times faster” than existing computers, making possible data analysis tasks “that currently we can only dream of”.
In line with plenty of existing recent research, he predicts traditional workplace hierarchies are on the way out.
Dr Bellini says the future is “not some distant imaginary world with no relevance to the present day”, and warns workers, and employers to get ready.
“The future is unfolding all around us right now and it is essential that we address today the challenges this will bring,” he said.
And with the number of people willing to have their brains and bodies transformed to increase employability, according to PwC’s research, people may be more willing to address these challenges than we think.