One of the most classic workplace scenes from Hollywood is the opening scenes of The Apartment, which shows Jack Lemmon’s character, an insurance processor, walking to his seat in a huge room filled with endless rows of desks occupied by hundreds of fellow employees all doing the same thing – hammering away at adding machines.
I never had the opportunity to visit an insurance company back in 1960, so I can’t verify if this is what they all looked like. But, given all the human labor taking place to what appears to be claims estimates or risk rating in the movie, this probably wasn’t too far-fetched. And, notably, it’s very likely that all the daily number-crunching all those people were doing could now be accomplished on a single laptop. And that’s a good thing, because people are no longer battened down to adding machines and typewriters, doing endless hours of such grunt work. Theoretically, insurance professionals’ roles are now more elevated, doing more business-value activities, such as overseeing product lines, working directly with customers, designing new interfaces, or overseeing deep analysis.
What will the workplace of 2020 look like – 60 years on from the industrialized insurance setting seen in The Apartment? Heather Stockton, Mariya Filipova, Kelly Monahan, all analysts at Deloitte, recently provided perspectives on an entirely new kind of workplace, based on their crowdsourced research.
More “exponential organizations”: These are organizations that take advantage of the latest technology and data analytics techniques, combined with forward-thinking human talent management, to excel in their markets. “Harnessing a mix of data, technology, and people allows exponential organizations to create opportunities in untapped markets. It is also necessary to develop core business competencies like statistical reasoning, data manipulation, and data visualization. And, while exponential organizations focus heavily on science and data, they also place a premium on technical workers who can also leverage soft skills such as social interaction, creative thinking, and complex problem-solving.”
“Unleashed” workforces: Talent will be both inside and outside the corporate walls. “Factors such as the growth of freelancing, 24-hour everything, mobility, crowdsourcing, and gamification have unleashed the workforce, freeing it from many traditional bounds and constraints. Indeed, one of the fastest-growing workforce segments is the “alternative” worker—one who works off-campus and outside of an organization’s official talent balance sheet.” Expect a greater emphasis on teams as a result.
Lifelong reinvention: “Longer lifespans seem to be challenging traditional ideas about careers, retirement, and work-life balance, and these changes in mindset are starting to affect the way people work.” People will increasingly “make education part of their careers, including engaging in both traditional and on-the-job training opportunities,” Stockton and her co-authors predict. “Organizational leaders will likely want to consider implementing flexibility policies that are suitable for and inclusive of workers of all ages.”
Technology, talent and transformation: “The falling cost of automation, an increase in the use of artificial intelligence, and the rise of human-machine collaboration presents the opportunity to reimagine the economic value of work through the increased productivity that human-machine collaboration can bring to the workplace,” the Deloitte authors state. “Agile organizations assess and reassess the mix of human and machine talent at all levels as an essential element of their business and strategic planning.”
The ethics of work and society: “Developments such as artificial intelligence and job market fragmentation could produce large-scale shifts, changing how we think about work, what is valued at the workplace, and what is valued by society. In particular, worker demands appear to be pushing organizations to focus on worker interests—such as the effect of some technology applications on workers’ well-being—along with broader social benefits.”