Are we fit for the working world of tomorrow?

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Are we fit for the working world of tomorrow?

How will we be working in ten years' time? In all likelihood, very differently than we do today. Digitalization, automation and artificial intelligence are profoundly changing our lives – and with them the working world.
How will we be working in ten years' time? In all likelihood, very differently than we do today. Digitalization, automation and artificial intelligence are profoundly changing our lives – and with them the working world.

The transformation has three drivers

As Program Manager for Leadership & Future of Work at Zurich Switzerland, Matthias Bomatter is intensively involved with the current changes. He has identified three drivers of the transformation: "First, new customer expectations; second, new technological opportunities; and third, radically new forms of collaboration." In other words, change is being driven by the market, by technology and by people's mindsets. Accordingly, Matthias Bomatter's recommendation is: "Surf the wave of change instead of letting it hit you."

Surf – but how?

Surfing the wave of change – what exactly does this mean? For Zurich, lifelong learning is central to being successful in the labor market of the future. "The half-life of knowledge is getting shorter and shorter." That's why, he says, people should regularly ask themselves: "What skills and expertise will I need in the future? And how can I acquire them?" Inevitably, this means leaving your comfort zone and trying something new. "But change is above all an opportunity to develop personally and professionally," Matthias Bomatter is convinced. In his role, he wants to support Zurich Switzerland employees in discovering these opportunities and making the most of them. "Anyone who trains for a job today will probably work in different job in the future that doesn't even exist yet – that's exciting."

Routine tasks in particular are being eliminated

Cornel Müller also deals full-time with the future of the working world – as founder of the Future of Work Group. Just like Matthias Bomatter, he advocates reacting proactively to technological developments: "People keep saying that one in three skills will be redundant in five years. This is scary. But jobs as a whole will rarely be eliminated. In fact, it's more likely to be individual activities, such as routine work that no one actually likes to do."

As opportunities increase, so do demands

Matthias Bomatter adds: "Fear is important, because it protects us from danger. But actually, the digital future holds many more opportunities than dangers, I'm convinced of that." As an example, he cites the first feature-length animated film in movie history, Disney's Snow White. Back then, 750 people worked on the film, creating it by hand. In contrast, 4,000 people collaborated on the current film Ironman 2, which was hheavily digitally produced. "As the technical possibilities have increased, so have the demands of the audience. People haven't become superfluous – on the contrary."

Companies have to change too

Cornel Müller is convinced that companies in particular face challenges in the current situation. Whereas in the past, it was "survival of the fittest," the current maxim is "survival of the fastest." That's why not only employees need to be open to change, but also the companies themselves. "At Zurich Switzerland, we are very aware of this," comments Matthias Bomatter. "That is why we're strengthening our learning and development culture. We support our employees with further training and promote interdisciplinary exchange. We're also testing new forms of collaboration, such as agile planning and self-organized teams."

Attitude is becoming more important than qualifications

Cornel Müller observes that employees' expectations of their employers have generally increased. It is becoming increasingly important to be able to contribute, help shape and develop: "Plunking a football table in the office isn't enough – people want to do something meaningful." He is convinced that job switchers will have better opportunities in the working world of the future: "More important than formal qualifications will be attitude and willingness to learn, as well as conceptual, creative and social skills." 

Taking the whole team along for the ride

Matthias Bomatter can confirm this trend: "We have some success stories about highly competent employees who wouldn't have necessarily been considered for their job just based on their resume." In line with the "internal first" principle, Zurich Switzerland gives priority to existing employees when vacancies arise. "The same is true for digitalization. We want to take our entire team along for the ride. This makes economic sense and is also the right ethical approach." 

Self-management will become even more crucial

So is the working world of the future a paradise in which employees can develop freely, engage only in exciting tasks and work will be pure joy? "Yes and no," says Matthias Bomatter. "From my point of view, one of the biggest challenges is work-life blending, i.e., the blurring of professional and private life through digital tools, working from home and constant accessibility." To sustainably cope with this blurring of work boundaries, new skills are needed: "Self-management and resilience are important so that stress levels don't remain permanently high."

Communicating from person to person – and learning something new every day

On a more reflective note, Cornel Müller remarks: "It would be scary to me if we only communicated with each other virtually in the future." He is convinced that personal contact will gain a new quality. That's why there will still be Customer Consultants at Zurich Switzerland in 20 years, says Matthias Bomatter: "The trust, the compassion, the humor, the experiential knowledge, no machine can replace that." His conclusion: "I'm looking forward to the future. And I have personally decided to learn something new each day." With the smartphone, anyone and everyone has access to the knowledge of all humanity in their pockets. "So I no longer learn ahead of time, but in a solution-oriented way. If I've found a good solution myself, then I'll know it for next time."

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