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The New Ecosystem of Work

Not only has the pandemic helped us realize how ill-prepared we have been for deadly viruses. It has also made us realize that working in new ways can be good for the mind, body, and soul.

One outcome of the pandemic has been the acceleration in the phenomenon that many call the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The global health emergency has helped organizations large and small embrace working from home and develop new ways to engage with employees and consumers. As the future unfolds, organizations will continue to automate processes and augment workers’ capabilities to minimize disruptions and enhance productivity.

This article aims to focus on the various aspects that are changing or are likely to change, within the coming years, for employers, employees, and strategists.

Future strategies of employers

Many employers have developed new business approaches to improve employees’ well-being, customer satisfaction, and profitability. They have also learned that they do not need to rent or buy real estate to conduct their businesses. Many companies, such as streaming media and food-delivery services, have flourished in 2020 as consumers prefer to stay at home but still enjoy first-class entertainment and fine dining.

McKinsey & Company’s February 2021 report “The future of work after COVID-19” suggests that more work could be performed remotely than previously thought. New technologies enable activities such as sales calls, legal arbitrations, and routine doctor’s appointments to be carried out from home. However, the report indicated that effectiveness declined in some circumstances, notably classroom learning, particularly for young children and students with special needs.

Although remote work may seem like a viable solution, it is not the solution to every scenario. Workers managing confidential information, physical goods, or repairs will be unable to work at home. Some employers have become open to people working from home. Hybrid work may become the new norm for many, with employees dividing their work between home and the office.

McKinsey’s report also notes that employers may segment job roles into specific tasks that need to be performed. Eric Shepherd and Joan Phaup describe this in their book Talent Transformation: Develop Today’s Team For Tomorrow’s World Of Work:

Leaders who understand how to allocate tasks to the appropriate resource—an employee, a freelancer, or automation—can develop effective reskilling and recruitment plans. Consider this slogan when you allocate tasks to help you recall your options: Build, Buy, Borrow, or Bot.

The remarkable rise in computing options is transforming work in significant ways. Whether we like it or not, organizations are moving towards automating services. Many organizations now rely on apps and chatbots to facilitate transactions and customer service interaction.

Dramatic breakthroughs in automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics are disrupting industries globally and significantly impacting work and jobs. We are witnessing a widening skills gap as machines take on repetitive tasks and new jobs for humans require more communication skills, creativity, cooperation, and collaboration. And some industries, for example, the cruise ship industry, will likely see long-term detrimental effects as potential passengers consider the risks to their health of traveling with so many strangers. Such a business will need significant changes to operate successfully in the future.

Future talent strategies

As technology progresses, employers will need individuals that can co-exist with automation and artificial intelligence. While worthwhile in many ways, a college degree may not give workers everything they need to stay relevant. Reskilling and constant learning will help them leverage automation to their advantage and deploy it to support their organization’s mission.

Workers can no longer increase their employment chances by relying on academic credentials. They will have to prove that their competencies will benefit their employer and perhaps demonstrate why they are better suited than automation or artificial intelligence to perform particular tasks.

We will see a rise in the number of gig workers and freelancers. Employers that segment tasks into smaller ones will build agility and profitability by employing individuals with the required skillsets for these sub-tasks. With gig workers available worldwide, employers will be free to assign work to anyone, anywhere, who has the skills they seek.

Like employees, gig workers will need to learn constantly. Falling behind will result in lower pay, unemployment, and fewer opportunities.

Policymakers and Leaders

Leadership will play a crucial role during this industrial revolution. An essential focus for policymakers will be to help workers reskill in preparation for new jobs to avoid high unemployment rates and/or workers dropping out of the workforce entirely.

Governments have been reaching out to unemployed individuals with stimulus checks and monetary compensation. The same approach could sustain workers as they go through periods of retraining, thereby supporting life-long learning experiences.

Credentialing, micro-credentialing, certification, and licensing options could be usefully reviewed, and new programs introduced. Policymakers charged with accelerating and implementing these programs will want to ensure seamless transitions that result in minimal disruption for employers and employees alike.


With the disappearance of old jobs and the creation of new ones, workers will face unprecedented transitions in their careers. They will need to acquire new skills to stay relevant and advance into more rewarding jobs. Businesses and policymakers will play crucial roles in rethinking, retraining, and finding new ways to help workers develop the skills and competencies they will need.