Picture of The Strategist Anita Lettink

How will we work in 2025?

The only certainty we have is that how we work in 2025 will be significantly different to how we do today. How different is largely up to you. Technologies, including robotics, artificial intelligence and automation continue to change how, where and what we do for work. 

I use ‘continue to change’, deliberately. Often when I talk about how we will work in 2025, there are people insisting there will be little or no significant change. Many of them claim that there’s been little or no change in the past five years. However, when you call up all that is different, and how this has changed how we work today, people are surprised. 

Just at the tip of the iceberg, working from anywhere in the world is now easy thanks to the proliferation of wifi and cloud apps. Miles and hours of business travel have been replaced by Skype calls. Meetings by collaboration tools. HR interactions by self-service apps. Repetitive tasks, such as data entry have been automated. Front-end customer services are now handled by bots and many mundane tasks can be done by applying artificial intelligence. 

There have in fact been more advancements in technology in the past five years than ever before. Much of the development of next-gen technologies will be in commercial application by 2025. There will also be a rise in the hybrid workforce. Where once we added machines, we’re now adding machine learning and automation to improve the time and efficiency of delivery. 

Job swap

Jobs will be lost, but we will not ‘run out’ of jobs: new jobs will be created. Think for instance about “bot socialization” – someone must teach bots how to interact with a human. Others will work to check algorithms for bias and remove it. As with any prior revolution, people will need to re-skill. To succeed in the future of work, people will also need to embrace new work structures. 

People need to rethink (by intention or requirement) how they earn money. Many salaried roles will be replaced by the procurement of skills for specific tasks or projects. Comments in the HR2025 survey also state that older people are increasingly choosing phased retirements, opting for well-paid zero hours contracts rather than full-time employment to supplement what are likely to be longer retirements. 

Interestingly, this is also flattening hierarchies, something my colleague, Andy Monshaw, Chief Commercial Officer, will talk about in his upcoming contribution. 

Who’s in the driving seat?

Interestingly, initial HR2025 survey findings reveal that millennials (59%) more than any other age group expect to work for the same employer in 2025. It’s Generation X that’s driving change in working models. People who are 40 plus are least likely to choose to work during traditional office hours. 53% would like flexible start and finish times and, with Baby Boomers, they’re most likely to want to compress more hours into fewer days. Only 14% of Gen Z have considered compressed days. 

The trend for longer working days is backed up by comments from people who state they want to keep working when motivation or inspiration strikes, and to have the option to recharge when it’s not. Work will still be delivered on time, if not to a higher standard. I believe this is all part of the people-led efficiency drive we’re seeing across industries.

Where sub 40-year olds are driving change is in the need for enhanced workplace tools and environments.

Not a job for life, but a job for this stage in my life

There will be added competition too. Many new roles will be virtual and so the wealth of new talent entering the world of work from growing economies can apply; people who are not conditioned by existing workplace models and with lower salary expectations due to lower costs of living. 

It’s not just technology that will drive a very different way of working. Just as the customer has taken back control of how they buy, employees are taking a closer look at who they work for, and how they work. The biggest change is from a job for life to a job for ‘this stage in my life’. Life being the operative word. 

We know now that the current model is neither sustainable nor necessary. Above all else, it’s unproductive and can hold back business performance and career development at a time when effectiveness is key to long term success. 

According to the research, people of all ages in most countries are no longer prepared to be a slave to the clock. Instead, they’ll work to deliver best results. Patterns in the findings suggest only 15% of us think they are fully productive for the entire 9 to 5 day.   

44% perform best early in the morning and 40% in the afternoon or evening. This reasons that if people have the option to set their own schedules, productivity and efficiency at work will go up. The net result being a more engaged and happier workforce. 

For decades, largely office-based 9 to 5 work has determined how we live. Long commutes, antisocial hours, children in nursery, older relatives unsupported, careers stagnating, hobbies forgotten, health and wellbeing neglected. In the digital world, technology means we have options. Being able to choose how, when and where we work is proving extremely beneficial for employees and employers.

Motivated and stimulated

We’ve established that many are no longer looking for a job for life. Not everyone is looking at a home for life either. In both the HR2025 research and the 2019 Global Payroll Complexity Index, findings point at more and more people looking for career stepping-stones with employers who will support their lifestyle.  

In many instances this change is coming from growth countries. Eastern Europe, South America and Asia, for example, have new economies, often the result of the expansion of global organizations and this is changing the composition of the workforce. 

With more money comes better education and new ambitions. As a result, people are looking at new careers, moving away from the traditional service sector and land-based jobs to professional and skilled roles, either with these new firms or outside of their home country, whether virtually or physically. 

This will continue to have a knock-on effect in countries where employment is typically high. People, perhaps those still expecting a job for life, will find they’re going to have to work hard to prove, maintain and grow their skills. 2025 is likely to be the tipping point. Why is this? 

Global mobility

Only we can answer accurately for ourselves. One of the contributors to this project, Rafael Rossioli, Senior Program Manager at CI&T, explains in his blog that it’s his love of travel and discovering new cultures that’s mapping his career journey. He graduated in 2006 and traveled from Brazil to the US. There he improved his English and studied project management so he would have the skills to create his own opportunities. 

And Rafael is not alone. Many of my colleagues at NGA HR benefit from a global mobility policy. In our Granada office we have more than 35 and in Belgium, 10 nationalities work side-by-side. Each adds to the culture and shared experiences of the other and very much reflects the set-ups of our clients. This in turn helps us to understand what the HR and payroll opportunities and challenges are for them. 

As an employer it’s essential to not just keep top talent, but to keep them motivated and stimulated. Moving job roles and locations is a great way to do this. Compared to this approach, continually replacing talent has higher cost and more impact. 

React and respond 

These are two important points to focus on here. While there is no ‘right’ to choose your employer, there’s also no need to stay in a job that does nothing for you. The ‘rapid react and response’ ways of a digital lifestyle have taught us there is always another option – if you make yourself stand out in the far wider talent pool of the digital age. 

According to studies, the best employees leave because the employer offers;  
1) Limited career opportunities  
2) Uncompetitive salaries   
3) Lack of challenge  
These are relatively easy to fix. The question employers need to be asking is; How are you making it easy for top talent to work for you? 

Be more human

I’ve already mentioned that the hybrid workforce will almost be inevitable in 2025. Career opportunities will be different from today. I see streams of people acknowledging the need to evolve their skills. Working side by side with bots will be the norm. People need to move away from repetitive activities and become masters in utilizing soft skills. 

Many roles in engineering, law and accountancy, for example, are process driven and so can be done by robots. Michael Rogers, Chief People Officer at NGA HR will explore this in his contribution and Aitor Vinos, SVP of Accounts, who looks after our clients says there is a definite need to develop the skills to manage the machines, may these be robots, algorithms or bots. 

The roles that will secure your future require collaboration, discretion and empathy, none of which can be done by a robot (yet). The reality is, we need to be more human to be successful in the future. Compliment the rise of artificial intelligence, even robots need people to teach, coach and manage them. 

Be ready

Readiness for work is another point of change. According to the HR2025 research, there’s a move towards workplace degrees. What we’ll see is greater collaboration between education and business. Similar in fact to the master’s degree program we run with the University of Granada, Master’s Degree in Digitalization of Human Resources

Here we’re combining research with experience: customer needs with technical potential. NGA works with the university and lets its professionals teach courses. The university in return allows students to study thesis topics at NGA and makes the latest research available. We enable students to apply theory in practice and teach them how to solve real challenges ahead of entering the world of work. Spending time in a real-world situation then leads to new insights and theories. This is motivating and valuable for both parties and enables us to become partners in our quest for continuous improvement and learning to stay ahead of the curve. 

Visionary world of work 

What has long been talked about as the ‘future of work’ will be the way that we work in 2025 and this will not be static. We’re on the cusp of change. I foresee that the 2020s will bring the most rapid change in the way we live, work and communicate we have ever seen. Why? Because much of the future is already here. 

The groundwork is done. We have the technology. We now need to apply and ‘live’ it. For years, we’ve had better technology in our personal lifes than in our professional lifes. Our tolerance for using outdated technology has lowered considerably: and when it is in the cloud, there’s no reason not to use it at work. Much of this will be down to the management of and acceptance to change. While the unknown can be scary and people are right to have anxieties, the future is also bound with possibility. 

The initial findings of the global research project, ‘HR2025: How will we work? will be published in December 2019. You can register in the footer of this page to receive a free copy. The study outlines how changing cultures and the increased use of technologies including robotics, artificial intelligence and blockchain (you can read my thoughts on blockchain here) will enable us to engineer better working practices. 

Sometimes what lies ahead is scary, because we don’t know what it is and we like to be in control. I am optimistic about the future of work, and the many ways in which we can make life easier for the people that work with us. I hope you’ll join me on the journey to discover what thought leaders think about work, pay and HR in the years ahead. They will also share practical approaches for what you should think about now to get ready. We have exiting and thought-provoking contributions from all over the world. Stay tuned for our next blogs and podcasts.