The new world of work in 4IR, the age of the Gen Z babies

Gone will be the days where employees will have to be at the office early hours of the morning, dressed in their finest gear, preparing for a busy and tedious week of endless meetings and difficult clients, handling paperwork as high as the skyscraper building their office is in and, having their managers breathe fire down their necks for not submitting a report that was due a few minutes ago. Well, we will still be in and out of meetings (just virtual ones from the comfort of our homes) and some will still have the same demanding boss.

“Radically different than millennials, this generation has an entirely unique perspective on careers and how to define success in life and in the workforce”

I am talking about the many factors and trends that will shape the future world of work, transforming the way we work, where we work, and how we work. Not to mention, members of Generation Z are graduating from university and beginning to enter the workforce, who are expected to have a profound impact on the working world. Radically different from millennials, this generation has an entirely unique perspective on careers and how to define success in life and in the workforce.

Strategic business and technology advisor, Bernard Marr, outlines 5 ways jobs will change in the Fourth Industrial Revolution; namely, fluid gigs, decentralised workforces, motivation to work, lifelong learning, and the effect of technology on human jobs. As an employee of a small business, I could not help but think how some of these future trends are already the working norms of many small businesses and start-ups. So, in many respects, the future of work is already here.

Fluid gigs

The working world will see a prominent shift from permanent positions to more project-based work where strict and rigid business models will be replaced by more fluid ways of work allowing employees to work from anywhere at any given time. This is ideal for generation Z employees as we do not desire to be tied down to one place or area of work. The “gig” economy will continue to expand where professionals sign on as contractors or freelancers and then move on to the next gig.

Decentralised workforces

Thanks to mobile technology, readily available internet access, and the COVID-19 pandemic that forced us into decentralised working conditions, remote workers are already common. Employees will not need to be in the same location. This gives people the freedom to live anywhere rather than relocate to the designated city of their employer.

For digital nomads, this is the working norm and platforms like Selina have made it possible to explore this kind of lifestyle. Selina, an accommodation business that makes hotels suitable co-working environments for start-ups, prioritises the tech-savvy and socially-minded traveller looking for the beach, jungle or mountain. This is definitely targeted toward the individual who is looking for a more purpose-filled life while doing what they love.

Motivation to work

For many Gen Z’s, a salary is not enough to keep them motivated to do their work or stay with a company. Many want to work for an organisation with a mission and purpose they believe in. They also seek different incentives such as personal development opportunities, the latest technology gadgets to facilitate their remote working ambitions, and many more.


Lifelong learning

Because of the rapid changes we see happening before our eyes, employees will be forced to learn new skills (and continue to do so) so they can remain up to date with trends and changes in the world. Technology will continue to evolve the role humans play in the workforce, so everyone will be required to adapt their skills throughout their working lives.

As we speak, tech giant, Amazon, has pledged $700 million (that is approximately R10 billion) towards upskilling and training across several of its departments. The widely recognised initiative that the company has embarked on is Amazon’s Career Choice programme, which provides its employees who are looking to move into high-demand jobs, up to 95% of tuition and fees towards a certificate or diploma in qualified fields of study, leading to enhanced employment opportunities for in-demand jobs.

Financial services company, MasterCard, is upskilling their staff to compete with start-ups, encouraging them to develop new skills through the learning platform Degreed. By partnering up with Degreed to create the MasterCard University, the overall objective of the programme is to effectively deliver learning for thousands of technologists in over 60 countries covering over 250 different topics ranging in expertise from entry to expert level.

Effect of technology on human jobs

As humans, we will need to develop a level of comfort and acceptance for machines as AI algorithms and intelligent machines are going to be a norm in our working lives, bringing the best of both into the workplace.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has published its 2020 Future of Jobs Report, looking at how demand for certain job types are expected to change over the next few years. The WEF noted that over the next five years, a staggering amount of jobs will be replaced by machines and automation – while millions of new jobs will emerge, necessitating new skills. They identified 20 job skills that will see an increase in demand over the next 5 years and in South Africa specifically, process automation specialists, data analysts and scientists, and social psychologists will see a big rise in demand.

Other professions which are set for growth (in SA) are management and organisation analysts, business development professionals, and big data specialists. Fields that will be negatively affected include accounting, payroll clerks, and client information and customer service workers.

 “An organisation that is bounded by a policy that restricts and constraints people through time and dress is a very limiting environment”

The information on the way in which the nature of work will change within the next 5 to 10 years is quite overwhelming however this is a learning curve for everyone – big and small businesses. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, states that over the past year, no area has undergone more rapid transformation than the way we work. Employee expectations are changing, and employers will need to define productivity much more broadly – inclusive of collaboration, learning, and wellbeing to drive career advancement for every worker. All this needs to be done with flexibility in when, where, and how people work.

Bombi Mavundza of BusinessInsider SA writes that Investec recently introduced a new flexible leave system in South Africa where staff can choose to get unlimited vacation time. Additionally, they have introduced a relaxed dress code that will offer employees the freedom to choose their attire based on their tasks and meetings for the day – Investec employees can now literally wear shorts and a t-shirt to work.

Lesley-Anne Gatter, head of Investec SA’s human resources, states that an organisation that is bounded by a policy that restricts and constrains people through time and dress is a very limiting environment. She continues to say that the leave policy is less about time and more about how work is contracted, people’s roles and the clarity around their roles and deliverables. Furthermore, this will give employees the feeling that they have control of their own time which will yield high performance as people will have an incentive to finish their tasks quicker.

“It is good for managers to support mobility and set an example by experiencing the new work model they expect their staff and customers to use”

FNB CEO, Jacques Celliers, is an example of a leader who is not confirming to old ways of working as he does not have a desk or office. According to Bombi Mavundza of BusinessInsider SA, the CEO enjoys working in open areas as he feels energised by the people around him. Furthermore, Celliers believes in instant messaging instead of long emails, and Ubers to work or catches lifts with colleagues to avoid traffic. His logic is that it is good for managers to support mobility and set an example by experiencing the new work model they expect their staff and customers to use.

One of the biggest app-based transportation platforms of our time, Uber, which uses a gig economy workforce has found a way to give healthcare benefits to their workers who historically would not have had access to company healthcare benefits because they are not full-time employees. IOL writes that the platform announced its partnership with Discovery to offer access to quality and affordable private healthcare cover for driver-partners and their families on a voluntary basis. Branded ‘Driver Care’, the cover offers value-added benefits such as unlimited GP visits, day-to-day medicine, emergency private healthcare services for a broad range of traumatic events, amongst other benefits.

Pati Kwakwa Matoyana MediaThis is an opportunity for small businesses and start-ups who have been operating in the gig economy and using a decentralized working force to take centre stage as bigger organisations will be looking to them to learn a thing or two. Coincidently, this way of work is a good fit for Gen Z’s as we want to control our own destiny and not rely on others for our own success. With our natural entrepreneurial spirits, we have strong opinions and want them to be heard, even within the workplace where we expect to be an equal contributor.

Pati Kwakwa is a Bachelor of Arts undergraduate and Business Management postgraduate who currently serves as the Research and Content Development Assistant Freelancer at Matoyana.

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