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Explainer: What will the workplace of the future look like?

Explainer: What will the workplace of the future look like?

With digitisation disrupting the workforce, is automation a matter of concern for employees

How has the workplace changed in the last decade?
There have been tremendous shifts in the last decade. The first is a generational shift, as we see the workplace is getting younger. By the year 2025, it’s predicted that 75 per cent of the global workforce will be made up of millennials, those who are in their 20s and early 30s today. As millennials redefine career goals and prioritise a different set of values and skills, organisations are striving to find that magic formula to retain talent.

The second shift has to do with speed and agility. To keep up with the pace of change, many companies have focused on speeding up decision making so they can execute more quickly. This means that organisational structures are becoming flatter, which translates into less layers of management. The third shift that continues to impact the way we work is the increase of virtual teams, which is a result of technology enabling the world to become more connected.

These changes naturally dictate new corporate policies, aimed — for example — at helping employees see a clear career path and putting more effort to achieve a work-life balance. The silver lining is that although defined career ladders are quickly fading, there are new career opportunities that didn’t exist in the past. Great organisations are fuelled by great cultures, and great cultures are built by great teams. To build happy, thriving teams, employee engagement and people development are key.

What are the factors that matter the most to employees these days?
Professionals are searching for jobs that offer a real sense of purpose, and they have a higher tendency to switch jobs if the organisation does not provide them with a long-term goal. We are also seeing work-life balance become one of the top priorities for employees in the region. They also appreciate upskilling efforts that help them learn and develop their skills in a way that keeps them valuable and hirable. Other factors we see come up a lot are job security, flexibility, and competitive compensation and benefits.

From an employer’s perspective, what are the most sought-after traits?
Long gone are the days where we were pigeonholed by our educational degrees. Today, professionals from different backgrounds can land a variety of job opportunities. And this means that employers are looking at other assets as well —these include soft skills such as collaboration and creative problem-solving. They also include the hard skills that are not necessarily a “given” with your academic degree. We therefore encourage our members to complete their LinkedIn profiles and highlight all their skills and achievements in a clear and concise way.

With the rise of AI, fears over the loss of jobs have grown. Is automation a matter of concern for workers?
LinkedIn has recently released the UAE’s Emerging Jobs report, which clearly identifies the new skills that are required for each of the emerging jobs. Interestingly enough, while advanced and applied digital expertise are essential for tech occupations, the findings also reveal that soft skills are equally important. As automation becomes more widespread, so will the need for the human soft skills that are impossible to automate. Skills like negotiation and creativity will indeed remain integral to digital roles. In other words, the argument we often hear in this debate, perpetrating that automation will give humans a wider margin to focus on creative tasks, is likely to hold true.

Looking ahead, what will the workplace look like in the next 10 years?
A decade from now, artificial intelligence will play a much bigger role in changing the workplace as we know it. Companies will continue to learn to utilise data and to enhance their brand offering for both employees and customers. What will be crucial will be to learn to marry the two — data and human decisions — in order to achieve the best business results possible. For example, we will see the roles of managers shift to spend less time on administrative tasks, which consume the biggest chunk of their work now, to focus on strategy, developing talent, and engaging with stakeholders. We also project that organisations will dig into untraditional talent pools, such as retirees, to fill skill gaps.

Ali Matar is the head of MENA and Emerging Markets in Europe and Africa at LinkedIn

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