Tomorrow’s work

Caroline Horn assesses how technology is changing employment patterns and
offers a guide to the jobs of the future

The development of new technologies has had a dramatic effect on our working
lives during the past century and, as we enter the 21st century, employees as
well as corporates are embracing the next tide of change.

A study by the American Electronics Association shows that more than 200,000
employees joining the high-tech industry in the US last year alone, while the
number of high-tech businesses in the US has risen by 74 per cent since 1990.

People are also changing the way that they work – some 4.5 million people in
the UK now work from home, of which CoHo staff – company employees who work
from home – is the quickest-growing sector. Len Tondel, chairman of Home
Business Alliance, expects the UK’s CoHo figure to double to two million in
three years as more white-collar staff from sectors such as banking and public
services request an element of home-based work.

This change in lifestyle is being encouraged by improved communication technologies.
By 2003, Graham Whitehead, British Telecom advance concepts manager, predicts
that most voice (telephone) calls will be mobile, while land lines will be used
mainly for computer links. This will enable businesses to transmit large
amounts of information, diminishing the need to be in an office.

Such developments are resulting in fundamental changes in the workplace and
are creating many new opportunities. A proliferation of titles such as
futurologist, paralegal, web master and personal carer reflect some of the
careers of tomorrow. A shift away from management titles also reflects the
emerging shape of many organisations – when BT reduced its staff from 250,000
to 110,000, the titles "sectional head" and "divisional
head" disappeared to reflect its flatter structure.

But as well as bringing opportunities, the new pattern will also create
challenges. Margaret Stead, managing director of Career Design International,
says the explosion of new titles is one of the by-products of a less secure
workplace. People are choosing, or inventing, titles that will open up their
career opportunities, rather than leaving them pigeon-holed in one particular
sector. Their skills, often based on how knowledge is managed, can be applied
to several industries.

For those without skills, the outlook is less encouraging. The US Department
of Labour points out that in tomorrow’s world, there will be fewer jobs for the
unskilled. This is already happening as retail outlets, banks and travel agents
begin to switch to Internet-based trading and factories continue to replace manpower
with automation.

The workforce of the future will also be more diverse and that, while
creating opportunities for economic growth, also raises the potential for
discrimination and inequality.

In the longer term, however, the emphasis will not just be on developing a
single career. Given that the life expectancy of a child born today is some 135
years, future work trends will be very different. Career planning will not just
involve one career, but possibly three or four.

Culture development officer

When people join a company, they might have a particular perception of that
company as an employer, as a result of its public image. It is up to the
culture development officer to ensure that, on the ground, the company lives up
to its public image.

The culture officer works closely with the HR department. Duties may range
from developing a company’s induction programme to helping drive company
policy. The officer works closely with the HR department.

Chris Goscomb, head of people and organisational development at EasyJet,
which has its own culture committee, feels that the growing significance of a
company’s culture reflects deeper changes in the corporate psyche.
"Corporates are much more aware of the well-being of people. I sense that
there’s a material change in the way people do business and that businesses in
the 21st century need to be as aware of their culture as much as their HR
practices."

A culture officer needs to be people-minded and to have some management
experience. An understanding of HR practices is useful, but an ability to
develop strategies and understand how people fit into the organisational
context is especially important.

Diversity manager

The diversity manager aims to ensure that every member of the workforce is
able to contribute to an organisation’s goals and to achieve their full
potential, unhindered by group identity such as gender, race, nationality, age
or sexual orientation.

In the US, where diversity management evolved, leading organisations are
vocal about making themselves a fairer and more equitable place where the
skills and talents of all staff are maximised.

During the 21st century, the diversity of the workforce will be more visible
– by 2050, minority groups will make up nearly half of the US population and
staff will not feel the need to hide their differences.

But Joseph Potts, president of Diversity Metrics and an associate of Elsie Y
Cross Associates Inc, warns that good intentions often do not result in action,
and that in future organisations are likely to play lip service to diversity
management, while determining that it is a thing of the past.

He adds, "I believe diversity management will remain a central issue in
nearly all organisations. If asked, employees will assert that there is a
favoured group – which will remain white and will probably remain male because
that will be the legacy of 2,000 years of socialisation."

Environment director

The environment, once an issue handled by a corporate’s marketing
department, is now in the hands of scientists. Today’s industries need to be
much more aware of UK and European regulations governing the environment, and
most larger corporates will employ environment officers or directors to ensure
their compliance.

Adeena Thomas, health, safety and environment director for packaging firm
Rexam, says, "The Government has encouraged businesses to take on formal
management systems that lead to sustainable development. Businesses have to
take responsibility for the environment and every business will have different
requirements in this respect."

An environment director will be responsible for issues including land
contamination, waste control and so on, which cover what happens on site, as
well as how a company’s activities affect the local environment. This will
require an environment director to have a background in environmental science
or related areas such as chemical engineering.

Environmental issues are recognised as a global concern and corporates in
the UK are having to look not just at European legislation but what is happening
in the US and the Far East. Globally, regulations are becoming more harmonised,
and tougher.

Paralegal

The paralegal first emerged in the US but is a growing force in the UK. The
term is generally used to describe anyone who assists a solicitor – from a
legal clerk to a PA.

Paralegals do have some training in law – often up to A-level standard – and
may also have secretarial or office management experience. Amanda Ibberson,
secretary general of the Institute of Paralegal Training, says, "A
paralegal will bridge the gap between the legal secretary and a legal
executive. They will be able to interview clients and take details of cases –
things that can help to take the pressure off the solicitor."

A number of corporates are starting to employ paralegals because it is
cheaper than employing a legal executive and, when they are working on site,
can save time, too. If agencies specialising in legal employment do not already
include paralegals in their recruitment, word is that they soon will.

Personal carer

As our working lives become more intrusive, the work place will play a
greater part in our well-being. Today, the more affluent – and demanding –
companies are installing gyms or sports centres for their employees. Tomorrow,
the whole health gamut will be catered for, from eye and ear tests to
consultations with your own workplace GP, or a stress-relieving massage.

Gail Cotton, occupational health management consultant and president of the
Association of Occupational Health, says, "The Government is recognising
that, as people live longer, they need to keep themselves fitter. And companies
that put their employees under greatest stress are learning that they need to
value those employees."

Occupational health practitioners are uniquely trained, with their background
in health care as trained nurses supplemented by specialist health occupational
training, so that they recognise the stresses of the work environment.

While it is currently the larger, more affluent corporates that are
attending to the health needs of their employees, rising levels of stress in
the workplace and more concern about working environments will encourage a
wider range of businesses to introduce health initiatives.

Relationship technologist

New technologies, be they in software or genetic engineering, are not always
understood or appreciated by their potential consumers. It is the job of the
relationship technologist to create better understanding of those new
technologies, as well as to design tools or products that incorporate the
technologies in a friendly interface.

The first computer systems were not designed to be user-friendly, but today,
it is important to ensure that consumers can use what is developed. If a
company decides to sell its products via the Internet, for example, the on-line
shopping mall package it orders will be easy to install and develop, as well as
simple for consumers to use. In the future, there will be a greater emphasis on
training people to show others how to use these new technologies.

Training as a relationship technologist can range from computer-aided design
to engineering – any area that involves developing new technologies. Candidates
need to show a capacity for understanding new technology, and ways to expand
it.

Developing the interface between technology and its potential users will
become more important as new technologies – from interactive phones to
electronic banking – becomes more complex, yet more a part of our everyday
lives.

Software developer

In the days of main frame computers, a software developer would have been
responsible for writing programmes for individual applications – say, a payroll
system for a single company. Today, software developers tend to build systems
from existing packages, which are run across a number of processes.

ICL eBusiness managing director Derek Sayers says, "A software
developer is really more of a software engineer. They need the capability to
design a software solution which will do a number of different things for a
number of different manufacturers."

People coming into software development would be expected to have been
trained in the technology – for example, in Microsoft programmes and in
computer languages such as C++. Typically, trainees will follow an intensive,
three-month training course getting to know the products, and nine months
on-the-job training as well as further on-line learning.

In the future, as more distributed processing is developed – where programmes
are distributed on the Web or a server – software engineers will be responsible
for bringing more programmes together, chasing the right components, and
understanding how they fit together. They will be working across a number of
computers and a number of different processes.

Web master

In the age of the Internet, companies have to have a presence on the Web,
but these days, a web site has to do more than just make a company visible. As
well as being attractively laid out, it often has to include activities such as
sales and marketing and customer support. It is up to the web master to ensure
that a site is useful and interesting to customers.

More and more tools are needed to make the site work in this way. As well as
the design function, today’s web master needs to be something of a
psychologist, evaluating how a site is used and whether customers understand
how the site works.

Today’s web master occupies a much more senior position than the designers
once responsible for setting up Internet sites, says ICL’s eBusiness managing
director, Derek Sayers. "The web master has to manage the image of the
company on the Web, and he will have to manage the team responsible for
developing the site. That will probably include an interface designer and
someone who can analyse the statistics generated by the site and re-engineer it
to give a logical structure."

Current webmasters may have trained up from one of those areas but in
future, the job will probably be the responsibility of the key PR in the
company.

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