10 Year Challenge: The Evolution Of Work (And What's Next)

Although the future is increasingly uncertain, we can see there are some clear, irreversible trends that will shape the future of work.
10 Year Challenge: The Evolution Of Work (And What's Next)
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Associate Partner, Aon Middle East & Africa
5 min read
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If you’ve browsed the internet recently, you’ll have no doubt noticed the #10YearChallenge social media trend that has taken over our news feeds– where individuals compare a current photo of themselves, to their former self 10 years ago. As well as thinking about how well (or not) we’ve aged over time, it got us thinking about the corporate world of work, and how the work "experience" has evolved.

The decade that was

The Middle East has experienced a tremendous amount of change during this period, and having worked with over 100 businesses in the region to support organizational changes, there are a number of key trends that are consistently transforming the workplace:  

The workforce has become more "fluid" Rather than being confined to a pre-defined set of tasks, many individuals and teams are now exposed to multiple functions and reporting lines, or temporary projects where requirements are targeting a particular end goal. As a result, a number of roles have become less transactional and more focused around solving problems. 

Technology is enabling productivity Technology is reshaping the way we work. It has automated much of the work traditionally done by what was known as the "personnel" department. Cloud-based HR management software has helped to streamline HR processes. File sharing technology, video conferencing, and internal social platforms have all contributed to driving productivity, collaboration, and ultimately, an enhanced employee experience. 

More demand for data Unlike 10 years ago, data now has the power to provide organizations with extraordinary insights about their employee population. Many organizations in the Middle East are now demanding tools that analyze data in order to spot workplace trends in relation to attrition, engagement, and performance, allowing HR to be more strategic and make better people decisions. 

Related: Six Reasons Why GCC Employers Are Losing Their Best Employees

Employees expect more than a paycheck A 10% pay rise might be enough to jump ship 10 years ago, but today, employees are looking beyond the traditional and functional aspects of a job and focusing on a more individualized working environment. Aon’s research into best employers in the region suggests that top employers in the Middle East spend time and money on essential elements of the employee experience, which are of value to their staff. This may include elements around creating more clarity on the future, both for the individual and the organization, creating a healthier work/life balance, and embracing opportunities to create wider value– for example, through CSR initiatives.  

The next ten years

If that's the last decade- what do the next 10 years look like? Although the future is increasingly uncertain, we can see there are some clear, irreversible trends that will shape the future of work:

Key skills will change as organizations look to hire people based on their ability to manage information, share knowledge, and work with others in a digital context. Some regional organizations are already assessing "digital readiness" to ensure they are future-ready. According to a recent Aon study, learnability, agility, and curiosity are three core competencies that will be vital. 

Artificial intelligence will continue to replace transactional services and manual tasks, where there are currently repeat processes and margin for error. Robots will dominate areas where we will not need to devote our time, creating new opportunities for humans that were not available before.

Rise of the gig economy representing a growing population of non-full-time employees, such as temporary workers and freelancers. We are already seeing this with the launch of new online marketplace "Maharati," which aims to connect businesses with freelancers with digital skills. Additionally, the new UAE 10-year expat visa is designed to attract highly-skilled workers such as technology entrepreneurs, scientists, and specialists, without necessarily being confined to an employer in the country. 

Data and analytics will become even more powerful as employers will have the capability to predict employee performance and engagement levels; not just during, but before employment has even begun. Progressive organizations will build on their current usage of tools such as employee engagement surveys and psychometric assessments to predict future performance.  

Related: Using Data-Driven Concepts To Unlock Incremental Growth

Peer leadership will become the norm, as roles within projects become interchangeable, and more Gen Z workers integrate into the workforce. We have already started to see "reverse mentoring" in some organizations, where the younger generation are supporting senior leaders in taking up new skills.  

It’s clear that these trends are going to radically change the way employees work over the next ten years and consequently, drastically change the way HR functions. However, change is, for the most part, a good thing, and those HR professionals and businesses who embrace these new challenges will be best positioned to reap the rewards in this rapidly changing industry landscape.

Related: How To Achieve Meaningful Career Advancement

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