The EFMD business magazine

The EFMD business magazine

Human centre leaders

It seems that the world of work evolves slowly, held back by natural human resistance to change until a major discontinuity arises that can no longer be ignored. For hundreds of years, work centred around an agricultural economy with some specialised skilled crafts and a few occupations in support of the church and state. Then the invention of the steam engine drove an industrial revolution that disrupted the status quo. Factory jobs replaced working in the fields and a clerical, professional and managerial class evolved and grew.

Fast forward to the 20th century and the invention of the internal combustion engine, which gave a boost, creating new jobs, and affordable air travel, which changed working patterns and the shift of manufacturing to low-wage economies that changed the global distribution of work. The introduction of computers and the internet into everyday life also had a fundamental impact on the nature of work.

As we proceed into the third decade of the 21st century we are at another turning point in the history of work. We have experienced a major disruption to working practices caused by a worldwide pandemic and are now facing new technologies that can replace jobs which previously relied on human intelligence, knowledge and creativity. We have proved that many jobs can be performed remotely using technology that is readily available and are now seeing artificial intelligence as an emerging threat to a variety of knowledge work.

Nearly 40% of respondents to PwC’s 26th Annual Global CEO Survey said their organisation had ten years or less of survival on its current path. That finding speaks to more than just C-suite pessimism. It conveys the urgency many executives feel about reinventing their business model in the face of disruption.

The combination of technological threats and changing expectations from the workforce presents a new challenge to the leaders of today. They need to separate the hype from the facts and understand the fundamental shifts in working practices versus the short-term reactions to the latest developments. This collection of articles from the Partners of the Future Work Forum, in conjunction with EFMD, helps to shed light on the lasting impact of the current social and technological changes on the workforce of the future. As we proceed into the third decade of the 21st century we are at another turning point in the history of work.

Discover the collection of ten articles in the special issue of Global Focus focusing on Human-Centred Leadership: The Way Forward in the Age of AI.

Eric Cornuel is President of EFMD.

Peter Thomson is a speaker, author and consultant on the future of work.

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