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Do you know what your job will be in 10, 15, or 20 years? How will new technology and shifting requirements change how you work? What does the workplace of the future look like? As with any predicting, the best that can be done is make educated guesses based on today’s trends and how they may play out in the months and years to come. But State of Ohio bargaining unit employees can prepare themselves — both to meet their own personal goals of employment and to adapt to the changing workplace — by using their UET benefit to advance their careers and secure their employment in the future.
What is safe to say is that it will be different from today’s workplace. Change is a sure thing, both in private and public employment. Technology will most certainly play a huge role in that change, whether through robotics or artificial intelligence (AI) or the tools used to communicate and process information. Some state agencies are already using new technology to better meet citizens’ needs.
Because so much of that change is outside of any individual's control, what you can manage will be your reaction to — and more importantly preparation for — those innovations and how the world of work looks in the future. So, what is happening currently in the workplace, how will that look in the future, and what can State of Ohio workers do about it?
What’s been happening in the workplace
Nationally, unemployment today is very low and the economy has been steadily improving in the nearly two decades since the 2001 recession. However, the industries that are growing the most (healthcare and service jobs) often have low wages. According to Policy Matters Ohio, a non-partisan policy research institute, Ohio is one of the few states that as of July 2017 had fewer jobs than prior to the recession. The industry that took the hardest hit is manufacturing, which has lost more than 35 percent of its jobs since 2001.
This trend of fewer jobs and slow job growth applies to public sector employment as well. Ohio has 15,600 fewer public workers today than 17 years ago, according to Policy Matters Ohio. This organization points out that these are jobs that need to be filled as “public sector workers can help deliver education, higher education, transit, health care, infrastructure maintenance and more.” A vibrant public sector means a healthy private sector.
What the future brings
Technology and innovation continue to change the workplace. There are new jobs that did not exist a few years ago (mobile app developers, for example) and others that are fading away. Even state agencies have new job titles and others that have become outdated. As technology creates new innovations, the rate of this change has increased in recent years. The Ohio State University professor Ned Hill is quoted in a recent Ohio State News article projecting that automation and 3D printing will speed up the process of businesses bringing new products to market.
Another innovation that is creeping into the workplace is artificial intelligence. “Chatbots,” automated, but personalized, communication between software and human users, simplify access to information. They have applications in the world of work both as a way to interface with customers online as well as within the business with its employees.
The workplace of the future will use these technologies -- and others that are yet to be developed -- to create a more flexible and more fluid environment. Employees may no longer conduct their work in a traditional office from 9-to-5. They also won’t remain with the same state agency for their lifetime as both the employee and place of employment evolve.
Because of these constant changes, workers will need to evolve their skills over the course of their career, Hill said. He suggested that a traditional college like OSU can assist with that by “Making the university more flexible so older adults continue their education. And that education may not be accumulating degrees. It may be adding technical certificates.” Eligible state bargaining unit employees can do either by using their UET benefits to pay for the workshop, class, or training event.
How to prepare for the workplace of the future
As workplaces and jobs change, so must the employees who will fill those roles. They must be responsible for their own career development and personal brand -- how they are perceived by their boss and co-workers. It is a completely new mindset of how to position yourself as an employee who is able to continuously improve to meet and solve the next challenge the workplace will face. This flexibility will offer benefits but require effort and initiative on the part of the employee.
Pat McLagan with the Association for Talent Development suggested that employees think of themselves as a “bundle of evolving capabilities rather than a job title.” A good reason for this is that employees will be managed more by results in the future, according to Alison Maitland, author of Future Work: Changing Organizational Culture for the New World of Work. As Corporate/Executive Writer Robin Madell titled her article on FlexJobs: "Results Oriented: Work is What You Get Done, Not Where You Are.”
Therefore, it will be necessary for employees “to manage themselves within a larger workflow picture…as they work remotely and on multiple teams,” as McLagan put it: “Your technical and specialist requirements are changing rapidly too, so these skills need continual upgrading.” This is where UET can help eligible state bargaining unit employees by providing financial assistance benefits to defray the cost of education, training and professional development.
Staying flexible and evolving as work requires an employee to achieve results means that employees will be continually improving to achieve employment security. One of the greatest skills for an employee today adapting to the workplace of tomorrow is the ability to learn. This may even require them learning how to learn first.
This type of learning is different from what many are used to: Rather than gathering or memorizing information, the employee of the future will need to be adept at evaluating, assessing and creating.
As Stephen Sawchuk wrote in Education Week last October (2017): “Futurists increasingly predict a rapidly changing workplace in which employees will be required to update their learning frequently, and on short notice. Employers, then say, will want flexible, adaptable workers who can pick up new content and technologies quickly and efficiently.”
The best way to improve employees’ ability to acquire new knowledge may be more challenging to determine. The good news, Sawchuk reported, is the core abilities of mathematics and reading will still be required, no matter the job title. And as employees develop their personal brand, the old-fashioned qualities of work ethic and working well with others will always be in style.
That’s good news for State of Ohio workers, because they are known for their hard work and customer-focused values that enrich the lives of the citizens of the state. Even better news is that eligible state bargaining unit employees have UET as a tool to help them achieve their employment and educational goals. We know that change is constant and our workplaces will not look the same in the future: Now is the time to use UET to fund your enrollment in a class or workshop — or even completing a degree program — to prepare for tomorrow. If you are not quite sure how this information about changing workplaces applies to you or what additional schooling might be best for you, UET provides access to online career exploration tools to help you explore your skills and interests and clarify or set new career goals. The unknown can be scary, but UET is here to ensure that none of us face it alone or unprepared.
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