Are you ready for a digital future?

Looking up the side of a sky scraper to a blue sky with cloud

Photo credit – Gerrit Vermeulen via

A recent report from the CSIRO projects future trends for the digitally enabled workforce that will have the jobs. The significance of this impacts you, your loved ones and the way you live. There is a big emphasis on digital literacy but also on new workforce trends. It might be a good time to get ready.

Crystal ball gazing
The report – Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce Report – provides a projection to 2035 using megatrends and scenarios. Trends look at patterns of change over short periods, while megatrends look at patterns over years in multiples of ten. It is suggested that megatrends look at “gradual and deep-set trajectories of change that will …  reshape the business and policy environment” (2016, pp.8).

The megatrends and scenarios paint a picture of a future that will be much more automated, digital and dynamic. Skills and capabilities required will evolve and the way workplaces and work is organised will be different. There are signs of these changes evident now. The report proposes that this will become the norm.

Photo credit - Olu Eletu via

Photo credit – Olu Eletu

It won’t happen tomorrow, but it will evolve. However, considering the change and what it means for you, being adaptable or willing to consider change will be important. If you thought you had had enough change, then this is the “new normal” and you better get used to it. The pace and rate of change is getting faster.

If this strikes a chord with you, will you act now? Will you position yourself for future changes? What advice will you give the up-and coming-people in your life to get ready for the same? Read on and see what you think.

Megatrends for jobs and employment
Increasing technology will influence supply chains, the workforce and jobs. 44% of jobs in Australia are potentially at high risk of automation and computerisation. As a nation, we are high users of internet on mobile devices both of which will impact jobs and employment markets.

Employment arrangements and organisational structures will change. There will be an expansion of the peer-to-peer (P2P) economy eg use of freelancers. There will be many more people working independently in the P2P economy. Organisations will engage freelancers and thus have different structures internally. This trend has started in the US where one in three Americans is an independent worker. Anyone can operate as a freelancer – even people with jobs, freelancing in their free time.

Career opportunities in large organisations will no longer exist in any number. There will be a trend toward entrepreneurship with an emphasis on low cost, lean innovation that can scale up quickly. Australians are already strongly oriented towards small business (43% of employment in 2012-13).

With increasing life expectancy, people will stay in the workforce longer and retire later. Workplaces will have more diversity to manage and HR strategies will deal with aspects of employee lifestyles including diet, well-being and mental health.

As work becomes more automated, work done by employees will be more complex. Higher skill levels will be required for entry level positions. There will be an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) knowledge in the fastest growing occupations. However, with interest in STEM areas falling in Australia, the shortfall may be made up by workers from neighbouring countries. It is predicted that by 2030, China and India will provide more than 60% of the STEM qualified workforce in G20 countries.

Employment growth will be in service industries, particularly healthcare and education. Social interaction skills and emotional intelligence will be increasingly important. Younger generations moving into the workforce will be influenced by connectivity, technology, creativity and entrepreneurship. They will have new perspectives and expectations of work environments and operating styles.

Photo credit - Seth Schwiet via

Photo credit – Seth Schwiet via

Evolving scenarios

The report proposes different scenarios that may evolve from the change predicted. Already we see advances in technology – although not the same in each industry. Business structures and workforces have not changed much yet. Moving to a scenario of artificial intelligence and automation will see technology replace many jobs. Those that are employed will probably retain the same employment models.

Another scenario could be that technology advances more slowly than envisaged, and task automation does not impact jobs. However, organisational structures, cultures and practices would change substantially with the rise of the P2P arrangements. This could evolve further into another scenario of exponential technology growth, as well as the development of innovative and socially inclusive employment models.

What are the implications?

It will require new skills & mindsets, notably

  • education and training
  • new capabilities for new jobs
  • digital literacy with numeracy and literacy
  • changing importance of STEM

Attitudes and perceptions will need to change

  • to develop aptitudes and mindsets for a dynamic labour market
  • to challenge perceptions and norms about job types

Divergent and vulnerable demographics need attention by

  • improving workforce participation in vulnerable demographics
  • moving towards tapered retirement models
  • developing new models to forecast job transition requirements

New business models will need understanding and adjustment to improve the understanding of the P2P and freelancer economy.

What do we do?
We stay alert! We stay curious and seek to understand how organisations and work may work. We upskill when we can. We develop additional technology skills. These changes will evolve – slowly or quickly. The important thing is to stay on-board and engage with the those driving the change.

What do you think?

Source: Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce by Stefan Hajkowicz, Andrew Reeson, Lachlan Rudd, Alexandra Bratanova, Leonie Hodgers, Claire Mason & Naomi Boughen. January 2016. CSIRO.

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