Charlotte Aguilar-Millan looks at the workforce in future companies through her twelfth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
The Company of the Future will utilise technology for growth, efficiencies and profitability. The historic use of staff will not continue in perpetuity. This trend can be seen in companies of today through the use of the contracting markets along with a rising self-employed workforce. Millennials will be in charge of the workforce by 2050. No longer will they rely on getting a good paying job and taking a back seat in their future earning potential. They have grown up with technology and the opportunities that come with it. This changing expectation will be visible in the future company.
Staff will want control over their work-life balance, independence to set their own hours and flexibility in the work being performed. The future company will adopt working practices to incorporate this as millennials advance in their careers. By 2050, they will occupy the positions to make this happen where it has not already. Some companies have currently embraced changing appetites as an opportunity. This is demonstrated in home working arrangements and unlimited holiday balances. Flexible working will be the norm for the company of the future.
With changing workforce preferences, some companies have found loopholes for exploitation. By classifying staff as self-employed, the tax burden is then placed on the individual rather than the company. It is estimated that over £300m is lost in tax revenue each year in the UK through this classification of the workforce. The tax authorities today are barely keeping pace with these loopholes. By 2050, they will be closed as legislation changes.
This is only possible where there is a shortage in supply. Specialists in fields such as IT or Finance have seen their conditions significantly improve, with large companies offering incentives such as unlimited annual leave or pet maternity leave. In the unskilled work force, for gig workers in fields such as fast food or transport, the landscape is not so good. Uber provides a platform for gig workers to supply their labour. It determines a driver’s profitability and whether any customers are routed to their cars. Uber’s control over what a worker is paid month on month has created an instability for unskilled labour. It also demonstrates that the company of the future does not need staff. The Company of the future will not even require drivers. Once autonomous vehicles become sufficiently reliable to be roadworthy, these will replace the workforce.
An additional change to the company of the future will be seen in the need for a workforce. This will decline for most industries. In the transportation sector, where it is not already, full automation will occur. We can see this with Scotland's introduction of driverless buses in 2020 and Uber's current development of the driverless car. The service industry is also seeing automation of its workforce. US burger chain, Wendy's, now use self-cleaning ovens while Arby's uses smart cookers which can detect when patties are cooked and will automatically change the temperature.
The company of the future will have a more fluid workforce through temporary workers and a much stronger work life balance. This is evident in some companies today through unlimited holiday offering for staff within BlackRock Inc, and Netflix Inc. Future companies will also utilise technology to generate growth. No longer will CEOs city hop to meetings on a weekly basis. Instead video conferencing and virtual meetings will be the norm. This can also be seen in companies today.
Finally, the company of the future will demonstrate more transparency in its treatment of staff and legislation. Today, loopholes have enabled many companies to avoid paying their fair share of tax. The company of the future will be taxed on the basis of resource usage rather than gaps in legislation utilised; something that current companies are reluctant to adopt. By 2050, adoption will no longer be optional.
The generation in control in 2050 will aspire to live their golden years along with their working years. This is translated into a need for flexibility within the workplace. Intangible based companies are on the rise. This trend can be seen developing today and will continue to so do. It means that only a small portion of the future company is visible today.
© Charlotte Aguilar-Millan 2019