The Future of Work: How can business support an inclusive transition?

Happy to join everyone from Fossil Foundation. I’m Charles Tsai, Sr. Manager of Social Innovation Partnerships. We work with social innovators who are developing new ways to unleash the power of underserved youth around the world and prepare them to succeed in this time of rapid change.

As the world’s largest learning company, we are keenly aware that the world of work and education is changing. If we’re going to have a positive impact on the lives of learners, we need to better support employers, educators and students to ensure that the skills they acquire in school are the ones which will benefit them in life and work. That’s why we’re conducting research and helping to try and better understand what the future looks like and how we can be a trusted partner.

Our human capital is our biggest asset and is hugely valuable to make sure that individuals adapt to the new future of work. Intangible assets are going to become ever more vital.

There are 2 big issues businesses like Unilever are grappling with:
(1) Rapid technological advancements which are disrupting everything from consumer behavior to supply chain to the entire business model itself. For instance, we are increasingly being challenged in various market segments by much smaller companies that are able to make an impact due to the sheer power of technology and digitization.
(2) The half-life of skills & the human share (versus machine share) of labor is definitely reducing, the demand for human skills has not reduced. It’s just that we now need different skills.

In an environment like this, your people are fast becoming the only critical differentiating factor in a company’s ability to be successful. It is your people that will drive the change that you need in an organization, build the culture you need to thrive in a world of unprecedented change and be able to deliver the human skills needed to sustain your business. Therefore, how your people want to experience work and the workplace becomes really critical for companies to figure out.


Youth unemployment is a worrying issue, both from a societal and corporate point of view.
According to the ILO, in 2016 over 71 million young people around the world were unemployed and over 500 million were under-employed or in uncertain or precarious jobs.
And to put these figures into context, 40 million young people join the workforce every year.
At the same time, according to the WEF, 65% of children entering primary school today will have jobs that do not exist today.

This leads us to believe that, in many cases, traditional education no longer prepares young people for tomorrow’s world of work.

We understand that the challenge ahead of us is huge and if we want to succeed, as a business and as a society, we need to adapt to the rapidly evolving employment landscape. The ability to anticipate and prepare for the future skills requirements is increasingly relevant for business, governments and individuals.

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Getting workforce and skill development right is one of the biggest issues facing our nation today. We understand the importance of investing in our workforce and empowering them to advance their own careers through training and technology. It will take a different approach from employers, skills providers, educators and policymakers to ensure those in the workforce not only survive but thrive.

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A1: WBCSD has been scoping a new project on the Future of Work over the last year – and have found the primary focus is limited to how business can prepare the workforce for the future of work. This is of course a huge challenge in itself, but we want to talk about how business can shape the future of work for the better.

At WBCSD we work together to drive systems transformation - so in this case we are tackling the ‘system of work’. To achieve the scale of change necessary, we need to work towards a vision of what this means for the workforce, but also for business, labor markets and social support mechanisms.

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I agree Nathan. I think skills, education, re-skilling, networks…all these intangible assets are the most valuable asset we hold

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What a cool job title!

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Agreed. All jobs are all will be changed by AI. But not replaced. So the challenge is to give people the skills they need to work alongside new technologies.

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Spot on, Kitrhona. I believe this is a challenge that needs to be tackled by governments, organisations and society. Cross sector, pan-national. It’s a challenge for everyone with countries facing their own unique challenges

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Thanks! I have a sense of humour about it. I come from a family of dentists and I’ve worked as a barista, sawmill worker, band manager and journalist. I am living proof of the changing and disruptive nature of work.


A1: Futurist Ray Kurzweil has predicted that “universal basic income” will be widespread in 10 to 15 years. That may sound like good news. But what it really means is that many, if not most, people are not able to earn sufficient or steady income through work alone. This scenario has huge implications for all sectors. And we can’t even begin to imagine what it might mean for the 1.8 billion youth today, most of whom are living in developing countries. So yes, this is a social challenge that will need to be solved by all sectors working together.


I would agree with this. I think education needs to be more progressive.

And it needs to be more integrated with the world of work, earlier

We all see the prognostications about disruption and change in work-- which is coming, but we have to be thoughtful about what we are disrupting and changing towards. Employers have to be focused on more than just the next earnings report or reducing costs. You have to be willing to make a long-term investment.

We also have to be conscious that disruption is coming, but it might be staggered. Struck by the report that, “Walmart announces mass-hiring of truck drivers in Iowa at starting salaries—$87,500+—that exceed mean pay of accountants and financial analysts.”

It’s an interesting illustration about the challenges of futurism.

Totally aligned Giles and I think we have a role to play here as companies


Lots of great ideas. In this age of increasing information overload how does one plan to assess the best ones, particularly where they are outside our particular area of competence?

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For economic growth to have a long-lasting positive impact, it needs to be inclusive, allowing everyone to take part in growth opportunities. Technology can have benefits for everyone, but those who suffer job losses as a result of technology need to be compensated – retraining, networks, reputation, re-skilling, education, skills, knowledge, wellbeing – otherwise a country is going to be less well-off.

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As a sneak peek – our working vision looks something like this: