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© Working the Future Ltd. 2016-2024. Limited company no. 10512378 registered in England and Wales

 Registered office address: 42 Longfield Drive, Amersham, Buckinghamshire, HP6 5HE, United Kingdom

Working the Future, the Working the Future logotype and the arrowhead device are all registered trademarks of Working the Future Ltd.

Working the Future's Foresight Focus report

Learn about the emergent shifts and undercurrents that are having a significant impact on the future of work. 

 

At Working the Future, we carry out our own expert analysis of the over-arching themes driving change in our workplaces. We make this an ongoing priority, to ensure the insights and knowledge we share with clients are always on-point and relevant - helping them keep ahead of the curve.  

 

Every year, our intelligence is collated into our Foresight Focus report.

10 meta-trends reshaping the future of work 

INDUSTRY 4.0

 

SHIFTING ATTITUDES TOWARDS WORK

 

OPERATING FRAMEWORKS ​REBOOTED

 

ATTENTION DISRUPTION 

 

CLIMATE CHAOS

GLOBALISATION & GEOPOLITICS

 

NEXT-GENERATION TALENT ECOSYSTEMS   

 

RESKILLING EMERGENCY 

 

INCLUSIVE WORKPLACES 

 

21ST CENTURY LEADERSHIP

Inside Foresight Focus

Most business leaders lack the time to fully understand the multiple convergent trends creating complexity and disruption – as well as transforming how we work.  

 

Foresight Focus provides distilled trend intelligence to enable better strategic planning. 

 

Our research and insights drill into the detail, increasing awareness and helping organisations better mitigate risk and leverage opportunity. We present a five-year outlook on key trends, each of which has been expertly analysed and evaluated to assess both business risk and commercial opportunity.   

 

And because application is as important as the trends themselves, the report contains 50 actionable insights for comprehensive strategic planning by any business leader.

 

Foresight Focus provides an informed pathway to improved organisational agility and performance. 

What people say:

There is so much information out there, but this super-interesting report from Working the Future opens the door to our new, fast-moving 4.0 world. The report is both thought-provoking and helpful for those who want to stay in the game. It offers insight in what might be our biggest challenge, to offer and engaging and rewarding future to people."

INEKE BOTTER, TECH CEO

​“The breadth and depth of Foresight Focus is remarkable. We use it to help guide our own clients and modify our learning designs to meet the world of work where it is and where it's going."

BETH SALYERS, CEO, 

CUSTOM LEARNING ATELIER

The Future of Work | Working the Future
The Future of Work | Working the Future

GLOBALISATION & GEOPOLITICS

As tectonic shifts in economic power continue, how value is created requires reconsideration. 

There’s no doubt the impact of the Internet and mobile broadband on international trade has been extraordinary. The past few decades have fuelled the link between global trade and technology, ushering in an era of ‘capitalism-on-steroids’ globalisation.  

 

Every person on the planet with access to a smart device has, by default, access to information, knowledge, education, and the possibility of economic advancement. 

 

The trade body for international mobile network operators, the GSMA, predicts there will be 8 billion smartphone connections globally by 2027, and 90% of the global population using smartphones to access the Internet by 2029.

 

In thirty years, transformative digital technologies such as worldwide Internet connectivity have eliminated physical borders, creating multiple new market opportunities, triggering an entire rethink of commercial value and market parameters.

INDUSTRY 4.0 

The pace and range of new technologies accelerating 21st Century business is transforming the very nature of work itself. 

Since its arrival at the tail end of the 1980s, the World Wide Web, coupled with the deployment of increasingly ubiquitous high-speed broadband, has underpinned game-changing advances in technological evolution. 

 

The Internet heralded a new era of globalisation, allowing people and businesses from all corners of the globe to connect with one another like never before. This in turn has fuelled unprecedented levels of collaboration, innovation, growth and prosperity. 

 

The triumvirate of networked technology, ever-increasing computing power and decreasing hardware costs led rapidly to Web 2.0 – an era where anyone with access to the Internet could both consume, create and share web page content. This intrinsically links with the rise of social media and is responsible for some of our greatest societal gains, alongside some of our most complex emergent challenges. 

 

In addition, the proliferation of AI, automation, robotics et al is set to fundamentally alter the nature of task allocation and completion within all organisations.

The Future of Work | Working the Future
The Future of Work | Working the Future

NEXT-GENERATION TALENT ECOSYSTEMS

As successive economic cycles re-shape labour markets, the range of employment types diversifies. 

Every economic cycle subtly reshapes the labour market. The financial crisis of 2007-2008 had more of an impact on the labour market than many of us realise, as it sounded the death knell for both the notion of job security and the concept of ‘a job for life’.  

 

Since 2009, job precarity has been on the rise, as employment security has been sacrificed in the pursuit of shareholder returns and profit maximisation. The modern corporate workplace is all too often a merry-go-round of organisational restructuring and streamlining as a result.  

 

So, in fast-paced and uncertain markets, organisations will increasingly need to nurture talent ecosystems that select for optimal resilience and agility.

SHIFTING ATTITUDES TOWARDS WORK

How populations perceive work evolves over time to accommodate the nuances of updated socio-cultural attitudes.

Each new generation entering the labour market brings with it a fresh set of hopes, dreams, aspirations and behaviours.  

 

These arise from the prevailing cultural narrative of the time and are influenced by the messages we hear in the media, in music and entertainment, in education, in our social circles and more.  

 

Unfortunately, the commercial world has been much slower to evolve its own attitudes towards employment. Many business operating and organising models in play today were designed in the last century, for economies that were skewed far more towards manufacturing and production.

 

Smart, future-proof organisations must adapt to accommodate the emergent preferences and needs of divergent demographics.

The Future of Work | Working the Future
The Future of Work | Working the Future

RESKILLING EMERGENCY

How we learn at work must match the pace at which skills and performed tasks evolve and obsolesce.

As technology continues to bring game-changing transformation to how we live and work, learning becomes a continuous cycle of ‘endless newbie’. 

 

In the past five years, the conversation about the impact of technology on the very nature of work has skyrocketed.

 

Ever-increasing computing power and falling costs of production create the perfect springboard for digital technology to revolutionise 21st Century organisations.  

 

And yet, while the topic of digital transformation might pepper most boardroom strategy conversations today, it lacks adequate parallel conversation about the urgent need for workforce upskilling and reskilling.

OPERATING FRAMEWORKS REBOOTED 

The shape and structure of organisations must adapt to meet and withstand the uncertainties of 21st Century markets.

As with the other trends outlined in our Foresight Focus report, COVID-19 has accelerated the requirement for 21st Century business to rethink, redesign, test and measure new operating and organising models.  

The 2010s saw a variety of alternative operating models evolve, such as holocracy, decentralised organising and Teal. Each of these came into being to address a growing number of shortfalls in mainstream operating and organising models. While each offers its own set of merits, none has reached the critical mass in adoption required to shift the status quo

And so, we remain stuck with a fundamental issue – which is that most operating and organisational models in play today can actually hinder, rather than optimise, productivity, because they were designed for an entirely different economic landscape. 

 

Our expert analysis suggests that organisational imperatives will transition away from ‘command and control’, towards optimally agile ‘sense and respond’ operating models.

The Future of Work | Working the Future
The Future of Work | Working the Future

INCLUSIVE WORKPLACES

The 2020s will bear witness to substantial re-sculpting of global demography, with ground-shifting implications for both employment and the wider workforce.

By 2025, 25% of workers in the UK and the US are expected to be over the age of 55, and that segment of the workforce is proving to be the fastest growing in many advanced economies. 

 

This demographic shift is set to entrench yet further – looking further out to 2050, there’ll be one person aged 65 and over for every two persons aged 20-64 in developed economies, compared to one for every three today. In parallel, those aged 50 and older will form 45% of the population, versus 37% today. 

 

This is fuelling a talent shortage, with boomers reaching traditional retirement age at a rate faster than younger cohorts are able to take their place. 

 

Smart organisations of the future will need to nurture multi-generational, culturally dynamic workplaces. 

ATTENTION DISRUPTION

Perhaps the most under-estimated challenge of our times is the extent to which technology reshapes brain wiring.

Since the arrival of the commercial Internet, the dynamics of society, culture, business and work have been transformed. 

 

The way we access information and, arguably, the way we approach our relationships have been entirely upturned by our access to online.  

 

It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that there’s something going on with our ability to concentrate.  

 

In the age of skim culture and the battle for focus, designing work for creativity, innovation and optimum mental performance will be one of the preeminent challenges of the 2020s.

The Future of Work | Working the Future
The Future of Work | Working the Future

21st CENTURY LEADERSHIP  

As markets shift and transform, entirely new leadership mindsets and competencies are required. 

Modern workers want to work for inspiring leaders that role-model the positive actions and behaviours required to solve the great challenges of our times.  

 

For this reason, ambitious leaders need to be visible. Whether you like it or not, transparency is mandatory in our hyperconnected age. As more ‘digital natives’ enter the workforce, they expect their leaders to have online presence AND be a force for good in the world. As the boundaries between consumers and workers blur, so ‘employer brand’ becomes centre stage. 

 

So, with so much change afoot, there’s an urgent need to revisit the vital attributes required for effective leadership in the 21st Century – to navigate, lead and manage organisations, a palpably more human-centred approach is required.

CLIMATE CHAOS

The black elephant of our age. In a world of continued population growth and accelerating resource depletion, how do organisations provide sustainable value?

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.” 

 

The headline statement of the August 2021 report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is its starkest yet. It leaves no doubt that planet Earth faces catastrophic damage, due to mass over-consumption.  

 

In the past year, newsfeeds have reported extreme record-breaking temperatures and climatic events so regularly that one could easily be forgiven for feeling a sense of helplessness. 

 

Except doing nothing simply isn’t an option, of course – building business sustainability within this disruptive context is already one of the key commercial challenges of our time.

Looking to dive deeper into these key future of work meta-trends?

 

Purchase Foresight Focus as a full report or by individual chapter below.

Alternatively, arrange a bespoke Strategic Foresight session.

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Individual Foresight Focus 2024 trend chapters available to buy 

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