Future of work

Two different days, two different strikes in Belgium. In both cases the underlying reasons are similar: concerns about the future of jobs. Not because they are moving to low-cost countries, but because they are being replaced by machines and new business models. Digital Transformation at work.

Jobs are being replaced by machines and new business models

Last week employees at retailer Carrefour tried to boycott the self-scan infrastructure and employees at De Lijn (public transportation in Flanders) are on strike because they fear job reductions in the future. Their concern is more than justified: both retail and (public) transportation will see major changes with huge impact on jobs and even the continuity of the companies these people currently work for. But will these actions really help them?

Amazon is showing the future of retail and every incumbent must change in order to survive: home delivery, fresh food ecommerce, Amazon Go cashier-less style shopping, they are all transformational business models that are hugely disrupting the status quo of retail and that will impact traditional retailers and their employees.

Amazon is showing the future of retail, disrupting the status quo

And it gets even worse when we look at the future of mobility. There is a growing consensus that in the next 7 to 15 years the entire model of car-ownership will have changed. Cars, trucks, busses, will drive themselves, no more drivers needed. This alone will make millions of jobs disappear in the coming decades.

Millions of jobs disappear in the coming two decades

So what needs to be done? Can we avoid these things from happening? The answer is no. Not because we could not come up with legislation to stop the disruption, but because we – consumers – are driving the adoption of the change ourselves. We want more shopping convenience, we want Netflix and we want lightweight banks. All these disruptors are successful because we want them, not because the government is not blocking them. A logical conclusion is that we simply cannot stop what is happening, as long as we – the consumers – want it, and that is not likely to change in the near future. So we have to embrace the change and deal with the consequences.

We simply cannot stop what is happening, as long as we, consumers want it

The problem with the current measures rolled out by retailers, banks, transportation companies and so many others, is that they are not providing an answer to the real challenges. They simply have no clue how to deal with the transformation ahead. They think that by shaving off some costs left or right they will be ready for tomorrow just by stabilizing cost/income ratios and securing the ebitda for their shareholders.

The only solution for this huge problem is a shared one

Employees will need to realise that they can’t have ecommerce or food home delivery without the flexibility of (other) employees.

Trade unions will have to realise that they should no longer fight for historically aquired rights but for future rights of workers.

Companies have the overwhelming responsibility to come up with real answers based on new technologies and changed business models. Once they have a strong future vision on their own transformation they should start to train their people so they are able to make the shift to new employment, based on what consumers of tomorrow want, and alongside machines, in a real man/machine collaboration.

Shareholders should allow the companies they own to invest heavily in this future. Any restructuring in their portfolio companies should be to fund the future, not to stabilize the current profits. If they fail to do this, they will eventually lose all their value.

And finally policy makers should create positive frameworks to allow for innovation, not just in tech but mainly in employment, taxes and income.

If we fail to address these challenges together we will be played apart by the current and future Big Tech players and we will lose.

About Duval Union Consulting

We are new-style management consultants focusing on transforming and growing organizations in a digital-first world with offices in Europe and the Middle East. New-style? Co-created business strategy, custom-made transformation trajectories and actual experienced business advisors are only some of our differentiators and why clients love to work with us. We design the future of your business together.

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