The Future Of Work: How Jobs Change in the Next Decade

Gartner research analysts recently convened to discuss the changing nature of work and table some predictions for the coming decade. Their consensus view was that chaotic, distributed and ad-hoc teams of people, along with blurred organizational boundaries, would become the norm for most modes of work.

The group identified the ten key changes that they see shaping the world of work during the next decade:

  1. “De-routinization” of work. “Non-routine” activities that cannot be automated, such as innovation, leadership and sales, will dominate employment: By 2015, 40 percent or more of an organization’s work will be “non-routine,” up from 25 percent in 2010.
  2. Work swarms. Rather than traditional teams of people familiar with each other, ad-hoc groups or “work swarms,” with no previous experience of working with each other, will become a commonplace team structure. Gartner’s “work swarms” concept sounds similar to the Noded philosophy, which describes how groups of individuals, often but not necessarily geographically distant, come together to form temporary or recurring project teams.
  3. Weak links. Weak links are the cues people can pick up from people who know the people they have to work with. Exploiting our own networks will help us to develop the ties that are required for participating in wider “work swarm” opportunities.
  4. Working with the collective. Being able to influence the complex ecosystem of suppliers, partners, clients and customers will increasingly become a core competence.
  5. Work sketch-ups. Informality will define most “non-routine” work activities; the process models for these activities will be simple “sketch-ups,” created on the fly.
  6. Spontaneous work. Seeking new opportunities and creating projects around them is likely to be an opportunistic, rather than strategic, activity.
  7. Simulation and experimentation. The culture of Google’s (s goog) “perpetual beta” is likely to spread to other industries, with rapid prototyping taking place in very public environments.
  8. Pattern sensitivity. Extrapolating from history and experience will become less reliable; the ability to detect and parse patterns and trends in society will provide better insights.
  9. Hyperconnected. With formal and informal work diffused across organizational boundaries,  the support mechanisms for workers (healthcare, HR, IT) will need to evolve to support fuzzier, ad-hoc relationships between people and departments.
  10. My place. The boundaries between home and work life are already blurred. Balancing almost 24/7 availability against burning out will become a critical skill.

Editor’s note: We’ll be exploring how technology is shaping the modern workforce at our Net:Work conference, coming to San Francisco on December 9th. It’ll be interesting to see whether our speakers agree with Gartner’s analysts.

Do you think Gartner’s views are obvious, fanciful or accurate predictions for the coming decade?

Image courtesy Flickr user totalAldo

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