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Podcast: The Future of Work

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The panelists of this roundtable discuss the struggles of technology leaders around the globe and how the future of work will look ten years from now.

The pandemic forced a certain way of working on organizations around the globe, yet leaders working in different locations and industries have conflicting views on what the future of work will look like. 

How are leaders maintaining their organization’s culture today and how will this change going forward?

With Nikki Dean moderating, the speakers of this roundtable include:

  • Jeanine Norden, Chief Privacy Officer, Momentum
  • Jonathan Reichental, Founder, Human Future
  • Rohit Jain, Senior Director, Upwork

The future of work, globally

“We have seen a massive change in the way people work”, said Chief Privacy Officer at Momentum, Jeanine Norden. During the height of the pandemic, she explained that people in South Africa were too “scared” to resign or leave. Now that “the floodgates are open”, most of the skilled workers are working remotely or moving to work in their desired country.  As a result, she highlighted that there has been a scarcity of skills in the last two years. The “scarcity” of skills she referred to is mostly focused on IT-related roles like data analysts and developer skills.

Nikki asked the panelists how the landscape of work has changed in their respective regions.

Rohit Jain, Senior Director at Upwork, recalled a study conducted by the company in August about the great resignation and the move to freelance work. The study found that 20 percent of over 10 million Americans polled are considering freelance work. Rohit stated that the reason why this is the case is because they like the flexibility and having the option to work remotely. He believes that the pandemic prompted a “transformation” across all industries. “The future of work has evolved because of [this]”, said Rohit.

“We’re all experiencing this more hyper-connected digital world”, said Founder of Human Nature, Jonathan Reichental. He describes the situation as an international phenomena that’s giving people more options in terms of work. Working in Silicon Valley, Jonathan has seen some start-up businesses he’s worked with “give up” their offices with no intention of bringing them back. “It took a global pandemic to kick us out of this game we were in that we should’ve left a long time ago”, he said. 

Talent distribution and the future of work

Diving into the topic of talent distribution, Jeanine talks about the unemployment numbers in South Africa. She stated that South Africa is “one of the countries with the largest unemployment number globally”. Jeanine explained that either people lack the skills to perform work or were not given the opportunity to learn the skills needed. Another alternative she offered is that there are simply no jobs for the skills that are available. 

According to Rohit, “We really are experiencing a tectonic shift of how work gets done”. 

He believes this is because of the shift to hybrid and remote teams. Around 28 percent of professional working Americans expect to be fully remote in the next five years. Rohit deduced from this that people want to be remote and “flee” to different locations. “That also means self employment, small businesses and freelancing has surged at the same time”, he said.

Maintaining the work culture 

The traditional 40-hour work week of people going into a factory or an office has its roots in the first and second industrial revolutions in the 19th century, according to Jonathan.

To put things in perspective, he gives us the example of the movie industry in Southern California. “Now, what happens is there’s a skeleton crew. They bring together the actors and the people who call up special effects and they all work together for a special project like a movie. They work on it for six months, deliver the product and then they disperse”, he said. He believes this is more descriptive of the working world we are entering. As a result, Jonathan suggests that we are losing culture. 

Jeanine worked in a consulting environment for a certain period of time. This meant working from home. “I could come and go as I wanted and I had my movie – shot the movie and got out”, she said, referencing Jonathan’s previous anecdote. For the whole duration of her time at her previous company, work was conducted remotely. “I think the thing that made our culture there was a leader”, she said. Jeanine emphasized that a strong leader like her previous CEO could bring out the company’s culture.

Rohit made a similar argument in relation to maintaining his organization work culture under more unusual circumstances. He recalled an example where he took the lead and established his position as the company’s Senior Director in a distressing time for some of the company’s employees.

“When the Ukrainian crisis started, we started a 24/7 helpline for all our freelancers who are based in Ukraine”, said Rohit. He believes that creating a company culture starts internally by helping and taking care of people they have never met.

The future of work 10 years from now

One of the main factors that he takes into consideration when thinking about work is the idea that we need more training to take on better, sophisticated working opportunities. 

Why? Because of the competition. 

“We can’t compete against the robots”, he said. Robots are able to complete the same tasks we do more efficiently, he argued. This means we have to “reinvent” what it means for us to make contributions, according to Jonathan. 

He believes that in the next ten years or so, we could see a displacement of around 20 percent of the world’s workforce. That’s 800 million people.

He ended the discussion by posing the panelists with the question: “Is there a scenario in which people do something else with their time which isn’t defined as work?”. 

This podcast was recorded at The Studio.