European Executives Identify the Future of Work

A research report commissioned by imaging and electronics multinational Ricoh and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) outlines European executives’ insights on the future of work in the 21st century.

The research, entitled ‘Automated, creative and dispersed: The future of work in the 21st century’, canvasses views from 474 executives, key business academics and experts – including Paulo de Sa, vice president of employee services technology for Unilever; Robert Teagle, Europe, the Middle east and Africa (EMEA) IT director for Starbucks; and Ian Stewart, chief economist for Deloitte.

Among its findings:

The top three trends identified as impacting the future of work are:

  • As work is increasingly digitalised, everywhere – from employees homes to public spaces – is a work space (47%).
  • Automation will make jobs obsolete, leaving those that rely on creativity and social intelligence (42%).
  • Changing work patterns will require managers to become more effective at nurturing talent (36%).

Automation is incredibly beneficial: Seventy-eight per cent believe a significant increase in the automation of physical labour will benefit the organisation; 57% believe that “it would allow us to focus on other work that differentiates us from our competition”.

Softer skills are growing in importance: Eighty-nine per cent believe the strength of employees’ human capabilities, such as creativity and communication, are important to future success; 39% believe it’s the single most important factor.

Managerial priorities are changing: Employee productivity (61%) and cost control (55%) are currently the most important managerial responses. But in three years’ time, employee well-being (42%) and advancing employee skills and capabilities (42%) will be most important.

Digital dissolution of the workplace: ‘We would get more value from our employees if they were less tied to their desks/computers’, agreed 87% of survey respondents. Over 70% believe that employee productivity, employee well-being, organisational innovation and customer service would all be improved.

There is a tension between allowing flexible working and a fear of losing control: A third of global execs are worried about the negative impact greater mobility will have on the ability of senior management to control the organisation.

The full whitepaper can be downloaded here.

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