Paul Drechsler CBE, Founding Associate – VocL
I was asked to speak at a conference about the future of employment, not a topic I’d thought deeply about. I jotted down some ideas, turned them into seven trends and asked ChatGPT to prepare comments on each of the topics ‘in the style of Paul Drechsler’. It did a super job!
I opened my keynote, repeating the output from Chat GPT verbatim.
I paused, informed the audience that everything said so far was authored by a robot and asked how many had personally tried to use the AI Chatbot. Less than 10% of the hands went up – less than 10%!
Generative AI is without question the most profound issue to future employment. Bigger than automobiles, personal computers, the internet, GPS navigation or social media – it will be 10, maybe 100 times more impactful on the world of employment. It’s already making waves – these waves are growing exponentially and gathering pace.
I raise generative AI in the context of employment; yet it applies to all of society, to mankind. From climate change to health it has the greatest potential for problem solving.
It may also deliver the fastest route to the extinction of human species.
Inequalities exacerbated by climate change will have significant bearing on migration flows, hampering the pace and scale of progress within diversity and inclusion. Extreme inequalities in wealth distribution will affect employee attitudes to workplace, remuneration, reward, and employer engagement in society.
Social responsibility is not just a letter in ESG – it’s about how we operate our businesses, how we engage in our local communities, regions, nations, and the world. It’s not about soundbites, it’s about action and impact.
Civil society and charities are fundamental to the functioning of society, including workplaces. Moving forwards, more employers will have to respond to the percentage of profit they give to charity and how many hours per week of employee volunteering are appropriate.
Diversity & Inclusion (D&I)
George Floyd’s death changed the D&I agenda significantly. There’s a great deal of activity and initial progress to be celebrated with brilliant initiatives, awards, programmes and training now on offer.
The ‘Black Talent Charter’, for example, aspires to create a world in which all talent can thrive equally at every level in business. However, independent research conducted in the UK suggests that if we make progress at current rates it’ll take at least another 30+ years to achieve race equity.
Companies and organisations that move faster to develop advantage through diversity will undoubtedly come out on top.
Authentic Leadership at Speed
The Dutch have a famous saying: ‘trust arrives on foot and leaves on horseback’. The internet and social media have since supercharged the horse’s speed!
Business Leaders are under the spotlight 24 hours per day. The intensity of this light and speed of reaction required to manage reputation has changed enormously. Leaders need excellent communication skills – of which a big part is listening – to thoroughly understand changes in societal expectations.
Youth Leadership and Voice
I was privileged to be Chair of an education charity Teach First (Teach For America in USA). One of the great joys was regular conversations with new university graduates and young teachers. Upon joining there were two young people (under 30) on the Board of Trustees. They were such a positive influence that by the time I left, we’d doubled that number.
As we entered the 21st century the difference from the arrival of the Millennial Generation into the workplace was clear. When it comes to the world of work and employment it’s Gen Z that is causing the greatest disruption.
Arriving on the work scene about 5 years ago, their workplace went into hibernation, then hybrid. They have clear and definite ideas about ‘flexibility’ – less negotiable than years ago when many of us were grateful to be offered a job. My instinct is that they are winning the war for talent – their war.
Most of us have grown up in a world where we took peace for granted – distant spectators of isolated civil and inter-nation wars.
In planning for long term business growth and employment we have to consider geo-politics: Russia – Ukraine; China – Taiwan; The State of Africa and, thanks to populocracy, the battle between democracy & autocracy.
Consequences on employment could range from conscription to reallocation of human resources, even war. Covid19 was perhaps merely a dress rehearsal for the next crisis.
A side effect of populocracy is national narrative or tone of conversation adopted by political leaders, where their preferred strategy is to increase division, passion and hatred. Too easily those who speak truth to power can be portrayed as enemies of the people.
This more global context has implications for how we lead and communicate within our organisations. Can business leaders of the future avoid public comment on complex political and societal issues? I think not.
I selected these seven topics as I thought these were the most significant in terms of the workplace and the future of employment. I looked over this list several times. There was one missing – THE most important:
I’m a great admirer of Nelson Mandela and held one of his sayings at the core of my philosophy for not-for-profit activity for over 20 years:
‘Education is the most powerful weapon with which you can change the world’.
The wrapper enveloping these seven themes is engaging in a long term education strategy for the nation, and for the firm. For the firm this starts with policies on childcare, primary and secondary education, broader education, and skills requirements associated with colleges and universities.
Beyond this, there’s the training and development you provide to your people to support and enhance their capability, response, and action on the seven aforementioned points.
One thing’s for sure for the world of employment: leadership has never been more exciting, yet has never been more challenging.
Paul Drechsler – Founding Associate VocL
vocL is a platform and community that empowers business leaders, especially future leaders, to be morally brave and better communicators.
Our purpose is to help create a more inclusive and positive national debate and for business to have a more positive impact on society”
For more see www.vocl.uk