Sarah Gebu (Mrs.)

Public Opinions!

Prepare for the Future of Work Book Series with Baptista: Is South Africa prepared and ready for the Future of Work?

How would work be for us all in the future? What will be the future role of our businesses in South Africa and the rest of Africa? What do you think could be some of the ways in which talents could be attracted by businesses in the future? Is South Africa prepared for the change?

One of the newest topics since 2017 leaving plenty of room for deliberation from various expects is on what impact automation technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will have on jobs, skills, and wages in the future. It appears the future of work leaves us with more questions than answers.

We’re having an interesting time in our history due to the concept of the future of work. This tête-à-tête comes up in almost every conversation whether with professionals, entrepreneurs, students, workers, CEO’s, and or policymakers. It’s the topic of the day. And typically, when this topic comes up, there are three or four issues embedded within it.

First is on the impact artificial intelligence and automation will have on work and jobs, and weather South Africa and the rest of Africa will have enough work and jobs left? Secondly, the changing models for work and work structure, involving around independent work, the gig economy, and what people sometimes refer to as fissure work—whether people work as outsourced services or not. Which of these kinds of evolved work models are going to become the future, and would people work effectively and sustainability earning living wages with enough support—in that kind of world or with more varied type of work as put forward by James Manyika, chairman and director of the McKinsey Global Institute.

Since the start of my career I’ve witnessed considerable changes in the way we work and how we manage our people. I’ve been lucky to work and experience some very different and contrasting industries, but I’ve generally found that whatever the nature of a business or organization, they are rarely immune to change.

And change is happening faster than ever, right across the globe: environmental pressures, population growth, massive advancements in technology, and significant shifts in the demographic of the workforce to name just a few. In step with these, people’s aspirations and desires for their work are also changing. Of course, this presents challenges, but many organizations also see it as a wonderful opportunity to create positive change and to start to build purpose-driven organizations that priorities people and planet alongside profit as put forward by Anna Gowdridge , Virgin Unite’s Head of People in the B -Team report.

The future of work suggests incomparable prospects, as well as substantial challenges. Globalization, technological progress and demographic change are having a thoughtful influence on society and labour markets. It is critical that strategies and policies are map up to help workers and society at large to manage the transition with the least possible disruption, while maximizing the potential benefits thereof.

There are new technologies emerging in our time and age contributing to helping us do our jobs much more efficiently and effectively now than before. For now, most workers are finding work to do through many online platforms which hitherto was not the case. Most organizations are getting mindful of the climate change discourse and are doing away with paper applications as much as possible. We are caring for the environment and following the climate change branding to the neglect of the main issues bedeviling our world today. I say the condition of the world now is a cause for change, know what time it is in history. Most job advertisements demand applicants to apply through an e-mail or online portal as against massive paper documents few years back. We are making some good progress.

We are learning great and better ways of collaborating with colleagues and families across the globe in new ways of doing things as these benefits are shared and enjoyed by everybody across the globe. These new ways of doing things is causing many to experience some negative effects of growing inequality in wages, opportunities and risks. These are worrying trends of what the ideal future of work looks like leaving room already for unresolved challenges and fear. The answer to our identified challenges and fear the future of work poses to the economy lays with our perspective and the lens at which we peruse the subject matter on the future of work and possible steps we take to address the future from today.

In seeking and contributing to a positive future of work, we looking forward to considering the future of workers or the future of work. The future of work addresses the future of work itself and that of workers as well.

Our perspectives and ideas about work and fostering solution-oriented conversations across sectors and countries will help us manage our expectations and fears of what the future of work holds for all of us. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), together we can build a better world of work for all through collaborative efforts.

In Ghana and in other parts of Africa, this collaborative effort is demonstrated already by the telecommunication, financial and service sectors just to mention but a few. We are in the digital age and this is welcoming news. Hitherto, most activities and transactions were conducted manually including but not limited to banking, payment for goods and services. With digitization coming our way most of our systems have been improved promoting efficiency and effectiveness to work systems and transactions across board. Massive technological advancement is shaping the way we work now and for the future. South Africa, are you ready and prepared for this wholistic change? Africa, are you ready for this change?

Mobile money payments interoperability has been a huge success for us in Ghana, and in some other African countries. This has enhanced transfer of money between mobile money accounts and bank accounts very successful and now customers can move money from their bank accounts to mobile money accounts as well. Africa’s next focus will be to venture into cross border arena, to enhance an effective and efficient payment system to support sub-regional and intra Africa one market trade especially now that Ghana plays host to the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) secretariat in Accra. We must consider making agric business the next cash cow for the continent as the arable lands are available, develop and operationalize the African currency and passport as well as working on owning more airlines to making travel affordable and less demanding. Traveling across some parts of Africa, it appears its money that is demanded at the brooders but not the checking of documents. The change must be felt across board as we advocate for a one market for the whole of Africa. What is your experience and trading traveling across Africa? Let’s hear from you.

The mobile phone is offering competitive advantage in our time. With just a mobile phone, an African depending on the model and functionality is able to operate his/her office from the comfort of the palm anywhere. We manage our office work on the mobile phone using it as a desktop computer or laptop, as an information gateway system as most news breaks first on our phones through various social media portals before hitting our television screens as news headlines.

Working in the future will mean a mastery use of these and much more work-related equipment digitized to offer efficiency and work effectiveness. But will this affect the way we work in South Africa and other parts of Africa? Yes, people’s desire for work and work processes and systems will change. Going forward, employees will demand more freedom and opportunities. The focus may be shifting from an employer market to an employee-focused market. Interestingly enough, that change may be slow-paced but will happen as per research.

This freedom and opportunity will promote the employee well-being. The employee well-being will drive engagement helping to manage individual, team and organizational performance, meaning and purpose, well designed jobs and an enabling environment. The engagement will assist manage stress issues as many can work remotely, cut down on long hours work as the rush hour traffic could be avoided amongst others. The concept of a permanent job may not exist anymore as many employees may prefer working on several projects and on contract with several employers at varied times for their income. That being said the future of work will address the future of leadership.

The future of leadership will see employees being given far more freedom and opportunity. The days of successful leaders being overly controlling are numbered as new ways of working means flexibility and empowerment will become central to businesses large and small.

By Mrs Sarah Gebu
My Opinion

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