Future Work: 5 Trends That Might Change the Business Universe (Part 1)

Talent in Logistics delves into the future of our industry by imagining how present trends might reconfigure the workplace by 2030.

The hammer of the future descends. To paraphrase the spuriously attributed ‘ancient Chinese curse’, we are living in interesting times. Covid-19 in particular has presented a challenge to business unprecedented in the last half century, but the pandemic is only one of multiple impactors beating the business world out of its current shape: Brexit, the home delivery boom, increasing focus on social inequalities, the tectonic creaking of global economies as they shift against each other. The degree of success logistics firms will enjoy in 10 years’ time depends on whether the force of change shatters them open along old fault lines or is harnessed to shape them into something stronger and tougher.

In order to help readers get a head start in the notoriously tricky business of augury, TIL will be looking carefully into present day trends. These trends were established in a November 2020 paper by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), so all credit goes to CIPD for identifying and developing these. The paper in question is available in the link at the top of the page. TIL also got in touch with customer experience expert Clare Muscutt, founder and director of CMX Ltd., for some additional insight into the nature of the challenges ahead.

1. Internal Change

In the short term, Covid-19 has necessitated bold changes in the way organisations operate and make decisions. But the long-term consequences of this culture shock are yet to become clear. What can be said is that traditional ways of working are being challenged—not least the role of the ‘workplace’. With the viability of work-from-home proven, potential cost savings and the flexibility work-from-home solutions offers employees may redefine our concept of the workplace from a physical space to a social and technological network.

The need to manage operations at a distance is increasing the relevance both of technological communications platforms such as Zoom and workflow management solutions such as Monday.com. The proliferation of these and growing concern about information overload may force organisations to rethink both how they communicate and what, perhaps leading to more stringent policing of internal communication (fewer emails? Yes, please.)

Businesses on high alert, in aiming to react dynamically, may even dissolve traditional organisational leader/team structures in favour of mobilising possies to confront specific projects before disbanding and reassigning them once their objectives are complete.

Here, Clare issued us this word of warning: excessive, ill-considered or mismanaged change could atomise unwary businesses. Getting transformation right is a delicate process requiring clear objectives, unwavering customer focus, and the right methodology and tools.

2. Technological and Digital Transformation

Tech has a habit of bowling googlies to the business world. Impossible to augur innovations force large scale changes on an increasingly regular basis (the internet, mobile tech, data). The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2019) suggests more than one in ten jobs will cease to exist within the coming 15–20 years and a further 32% will be significantly different due to automation possibilities. This in turn could mean significant restructuring of the workforce, with reskilling and the development of new roles—not to mention the obvious social and ethical ramifications of removing so many jobs from the market. And this is the predicted impact of just one sphere of technological advancement: automation.

Much as with internally motivated change, the drive to adopt sexy new tech can also be dangerous. For Clare, any change is dangerous where top-down decisions are made without input from frontline staff, as their on-the-ground expertise can be used to identify potentially devastating pitfalls before they become costly mistakes.

Anecdotally, the author of this article saw the evidence for this first-hand, working in education: the school that replaced all its whiteboards with glitzy, unreliable computer tech without asking the teachers; the school that installed an advanced multimedia classroom suite for foreign languages without realising the department lacked the skills necessary even to send an email with an attachment.

In light of risks such as these, the appetite in the logistics industry may be to ‘defend traditional ways of working’, making businesses slower to transition. But if the growth of home delivery shows anything it is that logistics will likely be profoundly affected by changes—whether it chooses to engage with them or not.

Our analysis of the five trends that may change the business universe continues next week, when we look at what the future holds for employment relationships, diversity and inclusion and responsible business.

Based on findings from CIPD’s People Profession 2030 report.