How the Nature of Work is Changing in 2019

January 21 2019

Every year, the World Bank's World Development Report takes on a topic of central importance to global development. Having looked in recent years at education, governance, and the digital revolution, I was interested to see this year’s report focus on the changing nature of work.

The theme of the report is that technology is creating opportunity through new jobs and increased productivity - digital transformation means businesses can grow rapidly and expand their boundaries. But there is also a focus on how businesses, and governments, will need to build human capability for this new world of work.

Human capital trends and the changing nature of work

Here I’ve pulled out from the report the key trends that will influence businesses from a people perspective.

1. A greater value placed on people: “The most significant investments that people, firms, and governments can make in the changing nature of work are in enhancing human capital.” As technology and automation take on more basic work, more value is placed on skills that are uniquely human. Plus, the growing role of technology means many jobs require more advanced cognitive skills.

2. Changing demand for skills: “Many jobs today, and many more in the near future, will require specific skills—a combination of technological know-how, problem-solving, and critical thinking as well as soft skills such as perseverance, collaboration, and empathy.”  Businesses will need to be able to either find, or know how to grow, these skills.

3. The changing nature of firms: Even small firms are global. And they are growing faster. Technology increases proximity to markets, facilitating the creation of new, efficient value chains.” Physical presence is no longer a prerequisite to doing business and while expanded boundaries create opportunities for firms to grow, the risk of market concentration increases.

4. New working practices: “The changing nature of work demands skill sets that improve the adaptability of workers, allowing them to transfer easily from one job to another.” Instead of the once standard long-term contracts, digital technologies are giving rise to more short-term work, often via online work platforms. The linear career path is no longer relevant, and people are comfortable with moving between employers and industries.

5. Changing geography of jobs: “Technology is also disrupting production processes, challenging the traditional boundaries of firms and expanding global value chains. In doing so, technology changes the geography of jobs.” You might find the skills you need in unexpected places and talent pools as technology disrupts traditional geographic boundaries.

6. New competitors: “More start-ups mean more competition. If the business conditions are right, it is more likely that some start-ups will grow strongly, creating jobs.” This means that, faced with new competition, less productive firms may exit a market and so it’s vital to have an understanding of your competitive landscape.

You can download the full report from the World Bank here.

Making sure conditions are right

As we prepare to launch Stratigens later this month I’m acutely aware of how the changing nature of work is dependent on new skills – and how the importance of being able to track and see emerging human capital trends will grow.

The World Bank’s report identifies conditions that will help businesses to thrive given the changing nature of work. They’re exactly what we’re helping businesses to understand via Stratigens – is there a business-friendly environment? A good level of infrastructure? Broadband access? Streamlined governance and compliance processes?

Finally, I found it interesting that the report finds that large firms still dominate the global economy: 10 percent of the world’s companies are estimated to generate 80 percent of all profits. Will this be the case in five- or ten-years’ time given the changing nature of work?

To see a demo of our new platform, Stratigens, please get in touch