The Future of Work in a Digital World

Mallory Mason
5 mins read
Future of work
Employer AI automation career experience career pathways careers contracting Employee engagement Future of work

Typically when I picture ‘the future’, I imagine a world in high definition, carefully crafted through CGI and digitally enhanced – much like a sci-fi movie, which I shamelessly love getting into on the weekends. And while this version of a futuristic world seems far away, a dramatically different employment landscape doesn’t seem so distant. As a recruiter, it’s natural that the topic of the future of work is always at the forefront of my mind. In a recent meeting I was asked the question; “What do you foresee as the biggest disruptor in the employment industry recently and in the near future” and instantly my response was ‘technology’.

You hear a lot of noise about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation going on in the world today. Technology is advancing faster than it ever has before, so it’s not surprising to hear these topics popping up more and more frequently in the workplace. This is a great thing: technology is here to stay.

But how do these technological changes impact our careers, and the way we work?

Gone are the days of climbing the career ‘ladder’ as we say hello to the career ‘experience’. Employees are now seeking a new experience from their career moves, and typically that new experience is going to come from a sideways move, rather than the classic move up the company hierarchy. Marija Potter from Fuel 50, an award-winning career pathing platform, recently delivered a talk here at Madison on this topic. She explained how that in the future, it’s predicted that career paths will have many more lateral moves, with longer tenure, and then a much steeper vertical progression, once an employee has a more desirable and diverse skill set. In the Employment Market Report (EMR) that Madison published earlier in 2018, we found evidence of the beginnings of this trend. We found that more frequently, hiring managers are seeking employees for dual roles, often combining roles in an organisation to be multi-functional across multiple departments.

Digital transformation in progress

The career landscape is changing rapidly and one of the biggest contributors to change is the digital transformation of today’s world. Automation will, if it hasn’t already, replace many more jobs that are centred around routine tasks. On the flip side, this will make roles requiring the human touch, creativity or strategic thinking even more important, and the skill sets required for such roles to be broader and well rounded. For example; many of today’s accounting roles are required to be more strategic, as automation reduces some previously manual tasks; product marketing roles benefit from hands-on product experience, and customer service teams are melding with digital or customer experience teams.

Some may find this scary or intimidating, but I find it fascinating, and I can’t wait to see what the future job titles and disciplines might be. Not long from now, an Avatar Relationship Manager or a Head of Social Robotics could be real job titles!

A new breed of candidate

So here we are in a world where Agile is trending and more and more people are able to talk about their latest workplace scrum (am I using the term correctly?), the career landscape is changing, using technology in your workplace is a must and employees want an experience instead of a career (thank you, Millennials and Gen-Z). Just the other day, I interviewed an ambitious Gen-Z candidate who has already started her own business, along with an integrated social media strategy. This candidate applied for my vacant job (which she’d learned about from Instagram) via her smart phone. She’s a great candidate and bonus – she’s serious about her desire to work in customer service to continue to develop her communication skills, and learn about working in a large company. She’s a prime example of an already skilled candidate, seeking an experience, to shape her future career.

Impacts and challenges

It’s inevitable that these rapid changes will have an impact on staff engagement, retention and the timing of recruiting new employees. We all need to consider what practical changes we can apply into our organisations, to address issues and potential engagement challenges arising from the changing career landscape.

Here’s some food for thought:

  • Outline the potential experience pathways from the minute you hire a new staff member; a growing percentage of employees want better visibility and transparency about growth opportunities.
  • Consider job rotations or learning assignments to allow employees to develop new skill sets. Implement this in your business, and make it a part of the culture.
  • Blur the lines between functional areas inside of an organisation, and develop strategies for departments to cross over or work on projects together.
  • When recruiting, don’t skip over existing talent in your organisation. Consider the possibility that the best candidate might be in a different department, and encourage applications between departments, functions, branches or brands.
  • Develop and implement a talent mobility strategy, or at least get talking about it.
  • Be open to new ideas, structures and job functions in order to capitalise on, and retain top talent.

The future of work has already changed since I began writing this, so my question to readers is: what is your organisation doing to be ready for the future career landscape?

I am always keen to discuss this fascinating topic, and would love to hear your ideas about what the next two, five and ten years might look like, and hear how your business is preparing. If you’d like to start a discussion, why not drop me a line at or phone me 09 3034455.

Mallory Mason
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