Onion Peelers and the Future of Work

Is work changing more now than it has before?

Posted Sep 09, 2018

An Onion
Source: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

I invite you to apply for the job of an onion peeler. Seriously… watch the video and think about how we describe the future of work now. There's a lot of hype: driverless autonomous vehicles, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Does it scare you? Or does it inspire you?

Watching the video on the fate of onion peelers, we realize that in 1969 media covered the replacement of jobs by machines in ways very similar to how media now covers the topic of the future of work. They showcase new technologies and talk about how it will change workers’ lives, for better or worse.

There have been moments in history where technological advances have accelerated, bringing drastic changes in people’s work. We are currently talking about a fourth industrial revolution, a digital revolution. Not only is technology changing the type of work we do and how we do it, it is also changing the way we live. Everyone is grappling with the revolution: governments, organizations, workers, universities, schools, parents. What work will we do and how will we do it? What will we need to be good at and know to get jobs. Do we even call them jobs? How about the “uberization” of work? Think about how people under 20 years of age live compared to how we lived at their age. Do you think they would want to our jobs the way we are doing them now? What should schools and universities focus on teaching future workers to prepare them adequately for the future?

It’s not just technology pushing for change. It’s also those younger workers coming into the workforce pushing for change: change in where and how they work and change in how they are managed and led. And the future of work is deeply impacted by the forces of a globalizing economy and demography.

I am excited to now work at the Future of Work Institute at Curtin University on the beautiful coast of Western Australia. We form a team of researchers looking to understand and shape the future of work with the mission to help people and organizations thrive as they transition into the digital revolution. I will post our insights on this blog as we research how to design work for effectiveness and health, how to prepare the future workforce and future careers, including the mature workforce, how to manage people in new forms of work and new forms of organizations, how to design work-life systems, how to use data analytics to create a better workplace, and how to influence public policy during the digital revolution.

It’s about helping you “Get up on Monday Morning” ready to tackle your future!