Truth and Lies: The Real Future of Our Jobs

‘There is no future in any job.
The future lies in the person who holds the job.”
George W. Crane

The ‘truths’ we were probably all told by our parents and teachers was ‘get a good education; learn a trade or take up a profession and you’ll never be without a job’.

As a parent I know I hunted out the best education I could afford for my children so they too could to get a job, keep that job and then retire at some stage. Hopefully with a healthy pension to keep them in comfort until they passed off this mortal coil.

For several generations that probably worked.

However, I’ve been researching and speaking at a few conferences about the future of ‘jobs’. As an HR consultant I’m confronted daily with a real fear in our workplaces; employees are expressing horror as they see the jobs they have possibly spent several years being trained to do, vanishing at warp speed.

Robots are slowly taking over many of the routine tasks in ALL workplaces; from banks to factories. Most routine jobs can easily be done using technology.

For employers this is great news.

Robots don’t have sick days; are never late; can work 24/7; do exactly what they are programmed to do and probably cost a fraction of the cost of employing a human – even after the initial investment of purchasing the robot.

Using new technologies or robotics, these are just 10 of the occupations that could soon be obsolete:

  • Stockroom workers (Think Amazon. Most of their picking/shipping jobs are mechanized.)
  • Bartenders
  • Soldiers
  • Pharmacists
  • Farmers
  • Journalists
  • Housekeepers (yeah)
  • Paralegals
  • Bank tellers and clerks

I read somewhere that education systems around the world prepare students for jobs of the past.  So is the idea of a job actually obsolete, and if it is, then what do we prepare our kids for?

‘As much as 45 percent of the activities that people are paid to perform today could be automated by adapting current technologies — representing about $2 trillion in annual wages. McKinsey

So I sought out Dr Google and asked ‘what are the jobs of the future?’. And this is just a small selection of my findings:

  • Augmented reality Designers and architects. Gaming is a huge sector; jobs aplenty
  • Urban agriculturists v farmers. These are people using their own small plots of land; even pooling space so they can grow their own produce. It’s a more modern version of the old ‘allotment’ concept
  • Business colony managers v project managers. Members of the ‘colony’ can be anywhere in the world v in the same office
  • 3D print engineers. Now that it is possible to print cars and even human organs this is very much a future job opportunity. The machines will also need servicing
  • Services for the elderly –  It is estimated that China alone, could have up to 400 million people over 60 years of age by the year 2050; who will look after them?
  • Drone services. This is a sector predicted to overshadow the multi billion dollar market of actually building drones
  • Robotic earthworms – designed to clean up toxic landfills and put the land back into use
  • Robot/Machine ethicists – As more and more ‘smart’ machines are developed, challenges are already emerging about the ethics of some decision making programmed into robots which could be detrimental to humans
  • Robot service and maintenance – someone has to do it
  • Data management and security. As hackers become more and more prevalent (probably because they don’t have jobs and are bored), protecting your database and sensitive financial information will become even more challenging,
  • Nano science – from implanting a minute robot inside an eye so blind people can see; to creating a whole industry based around turning insects into food
  • Advanced robotics – what about robo-bees and robo-turtles. I’d probably prefer we put the time and money into saving the living ones!

If you have the stomach for it, check out 55 jobs of the future from Futurist Thomas Frey

According to Ira Wolfe 65% of today’s students will be employed in jobs that don’t yet exist.   He goes on to say that ‘Both educators and businesses have a daunting task ahead of them: to teach students and employees the skills to solve problems we’ve never seen before and won’t see for year.’

So how do we do that? How do schools take that on board? How do our teachers embrace a whole new way of ‘teaching’ particularly when the kids they are teaching are more tech savvy than most teachers? How do we train our kids and our employees to plan for a job that may no longer exist in a workplace that may no longer exist?

And so I resorted to Dr Google again.

I asked ‘what are the skills for tomorrow’s workplace?’ and this amazing article by Dawn Rosenberg McKay appeared. The skills are actually designed to be taught to children at school but are so relevant to employees remaining employable that I’ve posted them:

Thinking Skills:

  • creative thinking
  • decision making
  • problem solving
  • the ability to see things in the mind’s eye
  • knowing how to learn
  • reasoning

Personal Qualities:

  • individual responsibility
  • self-esteem
  • sociability
  • self-management
  • integrity

As a worker reading this, answer these two questions:

  • How do I rate on the skills above (0 = pretty terrible, 10 = pretty fantastic)?
  • What am I doing to prepare myself for the day when what I currently do is obsolete?

As organisations:

  • What part of this business can be adequately done by robots so that we no longer need so many employees or even ANY employees?
  • What would the cost savings be?
  • How could I better invest those savings?
  • How could I better use the time I save from dealing with ‘people’ issues?
  • How can I prepare my employees for the time when what they do is no longer required in my business? (a process I’ve heard called ‘headlighting’) and is that my responsibility?

The Good News for Business – the massive savings you can make from NOT having to employ staff.

ANZ organisations waste NZ$61 billion each year on unnecessary admin tasks!

Monday, 30 May 2016 Press Release: Kronos

Imagine if ANZ could decide which admin tasks are ‘necessary’ and then use robots to do the bulk of them. Even if they only saved half of that NZ$61b; that’s a pretty healthy saving.

The Good News For Employees

How would your day be if, instead of being asked to do numerous repetitive and boring tasks, you were asked to use your brain power?

Example: To stimulate innovation, Southwest Airlines once gathered employees from every area of the company and the group met for 10 hours per week for six months. The result: 109 ideas were brought to senior management, including three major innovations that streamlined operations.

If employees can get their heads around not having a ‘job’, there are actually dozens of ways they can be gainfully employed.

The Portfolio workers

Most experts attribute the concept of portfolio careers to management guru Charles Handy, who in the early 1990s predicted that workers will be more actively in control of their careers by working lots of small jobs instead of one big one.

Randall S. Hansen Portfolio Careers: Creating a Career of Multiple Part-Time Jobs shares a study of portfolio careerists (conducted by — executives who had left employers and gone into early retirement — the majority, about two-thirds, reported they were very satisfied or satisfied with their success in establishing a portfolio career.

The most rewarding aspects of a portfolio career were:

  • the ability to control own activities (27 percent),
  • variety and unpredictability (21 percent),
  • freedom from corporate politics (19 percent).

The biggest drawbacks were:

  • difficulty in finding suitable roles (32 percent),
  • uncertainty (25 percent),
  • the constant need to network (21 percent).

The two most important elements to their success were:

  • networking (57 percent)
  • self-marketing (20 percent).


Predictions vary as to how many employees will be freelances in the coming years. Some predict around 35%, others as high as 50%.

Freelancing is ‘a way to work at home and be independent without needing to start an actual business. As a general rule, so long as you operate under your own name you do not need to register as a business (check your home state for any special requirements). This makes it possible to get started as a freelancer overnight without a lot of hassle and with the least amount of expense.’  Randy Duermyer

Examples of freelancing:

  • Freelance writer/ghost writer (articles, e-books even full length books)
  • Graphic designers
  • Book covers
  • VA’s
  • Book keepers/accountants
  • Telemarketers
  • Web designers
  • Computer trainers
  • Internet marketers

The beauty is you get to work from home; you choose your own hours. You may be a person who likes to get up at 4 a.m. and get work out of the way so you can spend the rest of the day with your children. Or you may be a night owl preferring to do your jobs once everyone is in bed and the house is quiet.

The downside – vagaries of income!

Permanent Temps

A ‘temp’ is someone who physically fills in for someone in a job who is sick or on maternity leave or even extended leave. It is something I did for around a year when I came back into the workplace once my children started school. It allowed me to pick up the latest skills before I felt confident enough to then apply for a permanent position. I’d been out of the workforce for around 10 years and a whole new world of technology had been introduced in that time.


In this case you have a wide range of skills (say you’ve been an office manager and are used to many aspects of running an office) then you could safely market yourself as an All Round Office Assistant. As more and more small businesses in particular, want to outsource as much as possible, to find someone with all the generalist skills they need would be a God send.


This is where you are particularly skilled in one or two key areas. Perhaps you are a payroll expert or an SEO professional or even a seasoned event co-ordinator. The more skilled and specialized you are, the more you can charge

Final thoughts:

I don’t want to discourage businesses from taking on staff – it’s quite a scary thought that most humans can be replaced by machines; I never want to see that happen. Imagine a society where most people don’t have gainful employment. How would they be able to afford to buy all the ‘stuff’ that these new robots churn out?

However, I do know from 30 years in HR the ‘cost’ of having staff.  According to the average extra cost, across the world, to businesses in social security and other “taxes” of employing a worker is now almost 23% of an employee’s salary.

So we do want (and need) our employees to add value.  And we need our staff to have the attitude and financial nouse to know that if they don’t add value then why would we employ them?

NB: Eagles are now being trained to catch drones who pose problems around airports and cities.

Ann Andrews CSP

Further reading:

If you DO employ staff and want those people to add more value to your business – check out this e-book by Dr Norman Chorn:

‘Why Can’t My People Be More Strategic

If you don’t yet employ staff and would rather outsource the various tasks you don’t want to do yourself, but don’t yet know much about ‘outsourcing’, check out:

Deloitte’s Global Outsourcing Survey – 2016.

I don’t want to discourage businesses from taking on staff – it’s quite a scary thought that most humans can be replaced by machines; I never want to see that happen but I do know from 30 years in HR the ‘cost’ of having staff.  According to the average extra cost, across the world, to businesses in social security and other “taxes” of employing a worker is now almost 23% of an employee’s salary.

So we do want (and need) our employees to add value.

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