Work is heading toward a more automated, creative – and dispersed model

John O'Hanlon
- Leadership - Apr 26, 2015

A new European research report commissioned by Ricoh and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit shows how key business leaders are at last getting their heads round new technology. The report is entitled ‘Automated, creative and dispersed: The future of work in the 21st century’.

As well as summarising views from key business academics and experts – including Paulo de Sa, VP of employee services technology for Unilever; Robert Teagle, EMEA It Director for Starbucks; and Ian Stewart, Chief Economist for Deloitte – about the trends influencing the future of work, the report also surveyed 474 European executives on their thoughts about the trends identified. 

Some of the most interesting findings are listed below: 

·         The top three trends identified as impacting the future of work are:

o   As work is increasingly digitalised, everywhere – from employees homes to public spaces – is a work space (47 percent)

o   Automation will make jobs obsolete, leaving those that rely on creativity and social intelligence (42 percent)

o   Changing work patterns will require managers to become more effective at nurturing talent (36 percent)

·         Automation is incredibly beneficial: 79 percent believe a significant increase in the automation of physical labour will benefit the organisation; 57 percent believe that “it would allow us to focus on other work that differentiates us from our competition

·         Softer skills are growing in importance: 89 percent believe the strength of employees’ human capabilities, such as creativity and communication, are important to future success; 39 percent believe it’s the single most important factor

·         Managerial priorities are changing: Employee productivity (61 percent) and cost control (55 percent) are currently the most important managerial responses. But in three years’ time, employee well-being (42 percent) and advancing employee skills and capabilities (42 percent) will be most important


·         Digital dissolution of the workplace: 86 percent said that ‘we would get more value from our employees if they were less tied to their desks and computers’. Over 70 percent believe that employee productivity, employee well-being, organisational innovation and customer service would all be improved

·         There is a tension between allowing flexible working and a fear of losing control: A third of global execs are worried about the negative impact greater mobility will have on the ability of senior management to control the organisation


David Mills, CEO of Ricoh Europe comments: “Priorities will soon be changing for European businesses, with employee wellbeing and work-related preferences expected to be top managerial concerns. Employers will need to adapt to this change but simply embracing the notion of flexible working is not enough. The adoption of appropriate, advanced technologies is essential to building a truly flexible, modern business that facilitates dynamic working environments without impeding effective management. Companies that are able to navigate this successfully will bring out the best in their employees and gain an edge over their competitors.”

The full report can be downloaded here

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