The chaos wrought by 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have brought the modern workplace into even sharper focus as many companies scrambled to get both their remote working and digital transformation strategies in place. That trend has continued into 2021, and according to the Citrix Work 2035 report, we should see a myriad changes in the workplace moving forward.
One of the most concerning elements unearthed in the report, which included 500 interviews with C-Suite leaders, and 1 000 interviews with employees from medium and large-sized companies, is the growing disconnect between employers and employees on what the future of their respective roles will be in the coming years.
From the employee perspective, one of the biggest fears is that they will be replaced in their current roles. More specifically, it looks like employers and employees have differing views when it comes to how roles will evolve, as 70 percent of business leaders believe that new roles like AI trainers, advanced data scientists, and privacy managers will be created for people by 2035. This is in sharp contract compared to employee’s beliefs on the same subject, with only 33 percent agreeing that such an evolution will take place.
The growing disconnect
The disconnect takes on an even darker perspective given South Africa’s recently announced unemployment rate, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic and lockdown.
Added to this Citrix notes that over three-quarters of leaders believe that organisations will create functions like AI management departments and cybercrime response units, but fewer than half of employees anticipate them by 2035.
As for how this disconnect can be addressed, Citrix says that it can be tackled proactively when business leaders invest in reskilling and upskilling employees. “To bridge this disconnect, leaders must address the signiﬁcant upskilling and augmentation that will be required to elevate their workforces, and communicate a compelling vision in which technology plays an additive—not subtractive—role in the lives of employees,” the report advises.
While we have heard this rhetoric before, it ultimately lies with business leaders to address the disparity in terms of the evolution of roles. They will need to show a willingness to do so and not simply look to automation as the only option.
Looking at privacy concerns, which have grown and continue to do so during the era of remote working, Citrix points out that business leaders can, “get ahead of digital privacy concerns by being transparent today about what they’d hope to use employee data for, and the limits on that use.” Again, there needs to be a willingness on the part of employers in order to get this to happen.
“Business leaders and employees can thrive together in the future of work, provided the digital disconnect is understood, explored and overcome. Without these efforts, the workplace revolution could significantly stall,” the report optimistically tries to outline.
The gig influence
Another area where employers and employees could not be further apart is on the nature of permanent work, with the gig economy seemingly appearing quite pervasive as far as employees are concerned. To that end Citrix’s report shows that 60 percent of employees believe permanent work will be rare by 2035, contrasting significantly to the 19 percent that employers noted.
It also looks like a freelancing model will be adopting greatly by 2035 in the opinion of employees, with 64 percent stating that freeleancers will represent the most high-value specialist workers.
“With technological jobs and skills now accelerating within the South African market, employees could be anticipating a dramatic influx specifically in technological specialties. With the demand for jobs and skills in information technology at an estimate of 28% and the supply of these skills only at 7.5%, employees unfortunately do have a reason to feel worried,” Citrix warns.
“Leaders will therefore need to listen to their employees’ replacement anxieties—and move forward with strategies that calm, rather than fan, them,” the report concludes.
Whether leaders will indeed listen to employee concerns and work together with them in order to find a way forward, remains to be seen. Our inner cynic is not as optimistic as Citrix is.
To access the latest findings from the Work 2035 report, head here.