The future of work. Increasingly written about, talked about, tweeted and infographiced. The bandwagon effect is in full flow. The early adopters have come and spoken at conferences and gone. The laggards are quickly catching up.
There are plenty of clichés about the future of work, but one thing is certain: a change is coming.
I’ve heard it called the hollowing out of the labour market.
I’ve heard it called the hourglass effect.
I’ve heard it described as a void between the people who matter and the people who don’t.
Well paid highly specialised knowledge work at the top. Low paid low value work at the bottom. And nothing much else in between.
So goes the theory.
But like the saying goes, the future is already here, it is just evenly distributed*. Zero hours contracts, low paid work, reducing employment rights, high youth unemployment. These problems are already very much in evidence.
There are huge implications for HR and for people management in this definitely maybe future labour market. We might just find ourselves with a strange tension. The manager of the knowledge worker versus the manager of the traditional worker, living in a parallel universe, opposite extremes. A completely new management gap. If the predictions hold true, we are left with more unknowns than knowns. A whole host of implications not just for managers and leaders, but the methods, processes and HR practices that support them.
Can all people managers and all employees embrace the potential of the future of work, or just a lucky few? Will others be left behind, repeating the management models and methods of the past? A Coffice for some and Taylorism for everyone else? Will it ever be possible to switch from working or managing at the bottom of the gap to the top? What will this mean for the skills and jobs mismatch, and the (sorry) so called war for talent?
Are we ready? Are we heck.
There is a future of work, coffee shop paradox.
If you are a knowledge worker at the top of this future labour market, you can work in a Starbucks**. Pitch up anywhere with a Wifi connection and a power source for your tablet. Work is a thing that you do not a place that you go. Just saying no to the 9-5 thing, sitting in an office thing. Coffee and cake. The crowd and the cloud.
And if you find yourself at the bottom of the hourglass shaped labour market, you too can work in a Starbucks.
Only you will be the one serving the skinny lattes.