Magazine article New Zealand Management

Corporate Life in 2020: The First Two Articles in This Series Looked at Corporate Leaders' Attitudes and Companies' Office Space Decisions Respectively, and How They Supported or Impeded Staff Work/life Balance and Productivity. This Final Article Projects Ahead to 2020 and Makes a Few Educated, Crystal-Ball Forecasts about the Nature and Requirements of Work, Leadership and Offices. (Life Balance)

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Corporate Life in 2020: The First Two Articles in This Series Looked at Corporate Leaders' Attitudes and Companies' Office Space Decisions Respectively, and How They Supported or Impeded Staff Work/life Balance and Productivity. This Final Article Projects Ahead to 2020 and Makes a Few Educated, Crystal-Ball Forecasts about the Nature and Requirements of Work, Leadership and Offices. (Life Balance)

Article excerpt

The first and perhaps most predictable feature of the business environment in 2020 is the aging of the workforce. By then, it is predicted, there will be one billion elderly people in an eight billion global population. The Baby Boomers (born 1945-1965), who changed the world in so many ways, will have retired or be in the twilight years of their careers. This may well create skill gap problems, since this generation has been the best educated, most highly skilled workforce in history. Generation X is smaller in numbers, less well educated and, at this point anyway, less well trained. It is probable, therefore, that many Boomers will be asked to delay retirement.

A combination of skill shortages, globalisation and skill transferability points to people migrating more in the future, creating a more ethnically diverse workforce. With more melding of the world's cultures and civilisations, societal and business norms will be more colourful and varied. But it seems unlikely that, as some fear, cultures will become homogenised within the global melting pot. It is more probable that elements of each culture will remain and influence the society we live and work within.

Women will constitute a higher percentage of the workforce in 2020 and hold more senior management positions. The more equitable mix of males and females at the top level of organisations will almost certainly speed up the introduction of further `employee-friendly' work practices. Surveys have shown that companies where women hold senior management positions are far more predisposed to such practices.

In 2020 the employment and business environments will be more fluid and fragmented than today. Corporate paternalism will be well and truly laid to rest. Core/peripheral workforce divisions will be more common, with many organisations having a very small, highly skilled core staff together with `peripheral' contract and temporary employees, and outsourced activities serviced by external organisations. There will also be more `virtual organisations', with the outsourcing of previously core activities such as production and sales.

As far as service expectations and skill requirements are concerned, `good' won't be good enough. Global communications technology will enable `superstar' individuals and companies to spread their talents across a wider market at the expense of smaller, local talent. `Super' teachers, doctors, computer programmers, and communications consultants will put pressure on the incomes of their good-to-average peers. The surviving knowledge workers of 2020 will be global `gold-collar workers'--technical professionals with superior knowledge and expertise and an ability to communicate, market and implement their skills effectively.

Management guru Tom Peters has predicted that 90 percent of white-collar jobs in the United States and, by inference, the western world, will have disappeared or been altered beyond recognition by about 2010-2015. Unlike gold-collar workers, the white collars will be forced to retrain, possibly more than once, in search of new occupations.

Creative ability will also set individual employees and companies apart. Researcher Murikami Teruyasu, of the Nomura Research Institute in Japan, suggests that we are going to replace `The Age of Information Intensification' with `The Age of Creative Intensification'.

In 2020, and far more than today, society will expect `gold collars' and companies to use creativity and knowledge to meaningfully address the social and environmental impacts of their actions. Further pressure on the world's resources and atmospheres will ensure that societal conscience organisations such as Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) will have more influence than today. Compulsion will replace choice and triple bottom lines will become the measure of sustainable corporate success. It is likely there will be measurement of employees' work/life balance positions and a greater emphasis on adherence to society's accepted ethics and values. …

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