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Andy Hines and Chris Carbone on the Future of Work

COVER STORY: AUGUST 2014

What Will Work Look Like in 2020 and Beyond?

Futurists Andy Hines and Chris Carbone Share Insights

By Hope Katz Gibbs
Publisher, Be Inkandescent

What might surprise us about the nature of work in the future?

According to Dr. Andy Hines, a futurist and professor at the University of Houston who heads up the country’s largest foresight program, several early signs indicate trends that could result in dramatic changes in the future.

“As professional futurists, my colleagues and I are continually scanning the external environment for signals of change,” explains Hines, who has pulled together a dozen of these signals, which may not yet be on the radar screens of many organizations.

The dozen surprises listed here have been emerging piecemeal—they appear in small pockets and are not widespread. Hines believes “things will get really interesting in the decade ahead, however, as most of them will have a reinforcing influence on one another, which could result in a fairly sweeping transformation.”

How can you prepare for what’s on the horizon?

“By studying the changes that are occurring now and trying to understand their significance for the future, organizations will be able to spot opportunities to proactively shape their future,” he insists. “These trends emerge primarily from issues affecting knowledge work, and will most likely appear first in affluent nations.”

Hines’ dozen surprises for the future are listed below. Scroll down to discover his big ideas. And for more details, click here to download his comprehensive analysis of the future of work.

Given all these changes, what jobs will you—and your kids—have in 2020 and beyond? That’s the million-dollar question that Futurist Chris Carbone helps us understand.

Like Hines, Carbone’s job as a futurist is to track international business and consumer trends by reading and analyzing just about anything he can get his hands on. As a result, he is able to forecast what life might look like around the bend.

Indeed, the future of work is one of the hottest trends that he is studying.

“Like the economy, it is one of the big mysteries that keeps us all up at night,” Carbone says. “And research shows work will look much different in 2020, whether judged by the types of computing devices we use on the job, where we work, or the way we collaborate with our coworkers.”

Following are two trends that Carbone is tracking.

  • For starters, the types of jobs that people hold will change. “There will be careers that don’t even exist today—just as there were no ‘social media strategists’ or ‘mobile app developers’ a few short years ago,” Carbone observes.
  • That said, a great many of the jobs that will be held in 2020 are here already. “There’s a simple way to learn what they are by tapping into the wonderful world of government statistics,” he says. “Now this may not sound like the most thrilling thing to do on a Friday night, and to save you the trouble, we’ve combed through the most recent employment projections.” The projections for 2010-2020 are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Here’s why the BLS does what it does. The BLS creates these long-term projections to help educators, counselors, and policymakers plan for the needs of the future workforce.

“These projections can also offer insight to parents, students, career-changers, and anyone who—like me,” Carbone says—knows that “there’s a pretty solid chance that come 2020:

  1. They’re not going to be independently wealthy, and
  2. They’re still going to want and need to be working.”

So what can we say about the careers of 2020 by looking at the most recent BLS data? Click here to find out.

Andy Hines: A Dozen Surprises About the Future of Work

  1. Hey, that’s cheating. Augmented or enhanced human characteristics will present challenges for organizations and individual talent.
  2. Emerging markets rewrite the rules of work and work culture. As emerging markets improve their positions, they will influence the culture of work.
  3. Intelligence shows up in unusual places. Information technology (IT) will create new forms of intelligence that will migrate into infrastructure, devices—or persons (wearables or implants), or all of the above.
  4. Work now, get paid later … maybe. Do the work and get paid according to what the customer thinks it is worth (e.g., the Radiohead model, named after the English alternative rock band that released a digital form of one of its albums for free and asked customers to pay what they thought it was worth).
  5. Time- or project-based employment contracts begin to mainstream. While currently in the domain of the elite athletes and actors, this will become a mainstream practice.
  6. Fairness becomes impossible. The need to customize and personalize to attract talent will make across-the-board, same-for-everyone types of policies increasingly untenable.
  7. Workers prefer working to live instead of living to work. Work will be a shrinking portion of time—and even incomes—in affluent nations.
  8. Work increasingly becomes a thing you do instead of a place you go. Work will be increasingly thought of as a process that happens wherever and whenever.
  9. Employer-provided training disappears. As organizations become increasingly reluctant to invest in training, new ways will be devised for organizations to acquire the talent and skills they need.
  10. “Nearsourcing” will become preferable to outsourcing. Growing shipping costs and the complexity of global supply chains will lead to a preference for local and in-house talent.
  11. Work in the happiness society changes metrics. Work as a source of fulfillment will influence a shift in measures from GDP (gross domestic product) to GDH (gross domestic happiness).
  12. Meet the new boss. As Boomers approach retirement, GenX and GenY—digital natives with different expectations, goals, and work styles—will reshape leadership and work.

Don’t stop now! Click here to read Carbone’s insights into Jobs to 2020 and Beyond.

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