The Future of Work .. What Should We Expect?
The COVID-19 crisis has cast its shadows over the lives of millions of working professionals around the world. As governments forced lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus, the crisis was felt by every industry, and the effect was disastrous for some of them. Economies shrank, unemployment rose, and millions lost their jobs, while the rest had the options of either to go through the experience of working from home or fight the pandemic on the front lines.
But we have to say that the crisis has left us with many valuable lessons to learn too. It highlighted the importance of technology in every aspect of our lives, changed the way we think of jobs, and forced us to rethink the essential skills needed to build a successful career in the future.
Whether you are a working professional, a job seeker, or a fresh graduate, you would probably have some concerns about your career prospects amidst the current global economic crisis. We worked on addressing a few of them through this story which features interviews with experts in the fields of economics, human resources, and futures research.
|Sheikh Jassim Al Thani
Senior Assistant General Manager
Chief Human Capital Officer
Our youth are ready for the challenge
In light of the precautionary measures that were imposed by the State of Qatar during the early months of the COVID-19 crisis, many businesses successfully applied a work-from-home policy, but the process was not free of challenges.
The crisis also cast a shadow on the labor market and decreased employment rates, which left fresh graduates and job seekers with many questions that need answers. We spoke with Sheikh Jassim Al Thani, Senior AGM – Chief Human Capital Officer at Commercial Bank (CBQ), to get his opinion on Commercial Bank’s “work-from-home” experience during the pandemic, and his advice to employees and job seekers in the time of COVID-19.
Despite applying a work-from-home policy for most of its employees during the crisis, Commercial Bank continued to provide its services at the highest level, thanks to its well-established digital foundations and infrastructure. The Bank’s set of innovative strategies and procedures also contributed to its culmination of several awards during the year 2020, which included the “Excellence in Leadership” award in the Middle East by Euromoney, and “Innovation in Digital Banking” award in the Middle East by The Banker.
Sheikh Jassim believes that organizations can achieve good results through the work-from-home process if the tools, connectivity, and private space are available, provided that there is commitment from both sides. He gives the following advice to any employee seeking an ideal work-from-home performance: “Apply self-discipline and set the mood. Wear your business appropriate outfit, as well as start and finish on the normal working hours. I would also recommend doing a0 check-in and a check-out by the end of the day with your leader or call for a meeting. If you have finished the task you have in hand, ask for more and deliver more! Hold this as a trusted relation and deliver as much as you can. Let your performance speak for you and you will learn while delivering excellence.”
Although the COVID-19 crisis has slowed down the recruitment process in most businesses, Sheikh Jassim believes that the current generation of graduates is ready for the challenge, as he says: “The new generation who is digitally savvy is more prepared and equipped than we think. In fact, the world has changed, and businesses need to reshape and adapt to meet the gowning demand conveniently and safely. This capacity requires a lot of digital space development, and the new generation is there and ready.”
Fresh graduates are facing a dilemma, asking questions like: what will happen after I apply for a job? Will they interview me virtually? What kind of skills are needed at this stage? Sheikh Jassim believes that remote interviews and virtual meetings with job seekers can serve the purpose of correctly identifying and assessing job applicants. At the same time, he considers “learning agility” as one of the most essential characteristics to look for in any job candidate. “We can describe learning agility as knowing what to do in a situation where you do not normally know what to do. It is the ability and willingness to learn from experience and then apply that learning to perform successfully in the new situations!” he explained.
Sheikh Jassim offers the following advice to fresh graduates who hope to achieve success in any career: “Own your experience, be the leader in your field and never stop learning. When you are looking for a job or for a change in your career path, always choose the experience makers and not the highest payers!”
|Dr. Al-Anoud Al-Maadeed
Assistant Professor of Economics
Qatar faces the crisis with a solid economy
As most countries around the globe imposed strict lockdown to contain the deadly coronavirus pandemic and ease the pressure on their health care systems, their economies were severely hit. International trade saw a sharp fall, and certain industries like airlines and tourism suffered massive shocks.
Last June, the World Bank forecast that the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will go down by 5.2 percent, which may indicate the worst global recession in decades. In Qatar, the impact of the crisis was less severe compared to many other countries, thanks to the effective management of the crisis by the country’s leadership. Avoiding full closures for extended periods of time while implementing strict precautionary and preventive measures was crucial for the economy, especially for the small and medium enterprises supported by local government scheme. It was clear that the experience gained by the country through dealing with the blockade since 2017 played a significant role in dealing effectively with the COVID-19 crisis.
“The crisis caused by the unjust blockade has strengthened Qatar’s economic independence and reinforced its independent role in the international and economic forums. Government entities became more flexible and more capable of adapting and dealing with emergencies. We have seen this clearly as the country mitigated the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Dr. Al-Anoud Al-Maadeed, Assistant Professor of Economics at Qatar University.
Following the blockade, the State of Qatar focused on developing its agricultural and industrial sectors to achieve self-sufficiency, and to increase its strategic reserve to meet the country’s needs throughout the crisis. During 2018 and 2019, investments in the agricultural sector increased by 120%, while the Agricultural GDP reached a record 390 million Qatari riyals in July 2020. “These figures are a strong indication that Qatar has adopted new policies that aim at supporting local agricultural production. The current crisis highlighted the importance of investing in this sector. The increase in Agricultural GDP levels during the COVID-19 crisis is also an indication that investments in this sector will continue to grow, because investors and businessmen have witnessed the benefits of investing in these sovereign sectors,” she said.
Qatar’s industrial sector had also achieved remarkable growth after the blockade, with the total investments in the sector reaching 262 billion riyals by the end of 2019, a 3.5 percent increase compared to 2018. Studies suggest that education plays a significant role in stabilizing and developing the local economy. There are many reasons for this: it contributes to the introduction of advanced technologies in the mechanisms and facilities of the economy, to the increase of human capital productivity, and to the equitable distribution of national income. “Without qualified national manpower, it will not be possible to achieve economic growth, so we need to focus on education and training,” she said.
“At the same time, we also need to keep developing the sectors that contribute to self-sufficiency and stabilize local consumption, like agriculture and medical sectors. Further development of the country’s infrastructure will also lead to an increase in local investments in all major sectors like agriculture, industry, service, and education.”
Dr. Al-Anoud believes that students should not let the current crisis stand in the way of their career ambitions, and advises them to continue planning for their future in line with their aspirations, while considering the local market needs of the workforce and businesses. “The long-term effect of this crisis will be limited, and the world will overcome it sooner or later. It will be a thing of the past, but it would be essential for us to find a way to cope with any similar crisis in the future,” she concluded.
|Mr. Jerome Glenn
Futurist & The Millennium Project Founder
A new future for jobs
The COVID-19 crisis highlighted the deep connection between work and technology. Imagine our work-life if we had to face the deadly pandemic without technology; the consequences could have been disastrous. Millions could have lost their jobs instead of working from home via the Internet, whereas many industries would have suffered more significant losses if not for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics. But a discussion about the impact of technology on work should not be limited to the benefits that we have gained from it during the crisis, simply because its projected future impact will entirely change our understanding of the concept of work.
Over the upcoming decades, some jobs might disappear, and new ones will appear because of technology which will also impact the way most of the other jobs are being practiced.
“Some may think that international trade and substitution of jobs will be the main causes of unemployment in the future, but in reality, studies suggest that most of the unemployment will stem from technology-based automation that does not require human intervention,” said Mr. Jerome Glenn, founder of The Millennium Project, a global futures research think tank that focuses on researching and analyzing the challenges facing humanity to work on finding solutions that help in building a better future for the next generations.
“The main issue will not be with Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) that can replace humans in performing some tasks, because that is predictable anyway. ANI is a single purpose software like driving a truck, diagnosing a disease, or interviewing a human being! The number of truck drives made unemployed by ANI can be predicted by what times and where; and hence, prepared for. The real threat will be posed by Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) after 10 to 20 years from now. It is an advanced form of AI where machines and software can address novel problems in novel ways similar to how we do. This means they will be able to perform more complex tasks in the future, like coordinating international economic development. When AGI will combine with other emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), many jobs will suffer, or even disappear,” he added.
The Millennium Project has worked on a three-year international study of strategies that address the future transition of work and technology. It resulted in a comprehensive report entitled “Work/Technology 2050: Scenarios and Actions.” It predicts three possible scenarios for the future of work thirty years from now, and also suggests 93 actions that can help governments, business, education, arts & media, and the science and technology communities prepare for the impact of technology on work. “There is no way everyone will agree with all 93 actions, but the more these will be implemented, the smoother the transition will be to the next age. We still have time to work together and find solutions. The current crisis might be an opportunity to stop and think carefully and invent a fabulous future.”
Mr. Glenn advises those who need to take crucial career-related decisions during these uncertain times not to let the current crisis affect their decisions. He says: “Always follow your passion. If you listen to interviews with successful people in any field, the most common thing you will hear is that they followed their passion. The world is becoming more connected than ever before, and people around the world are becoming more educated, and the internet provides unlimited opportunities to find markets for your passion rather than local non-existent jobs.”
“If you are interested in a particular field and find yourself capable of excelling in it, you can gradually develop it even if it was just a hobby. It might take some time from you, but do not worry, this is normal. When you are ready to use your skill, look at the world as one big market for what you can excel in, instead of looking for a particular job around the corner. I know it might sound like a strange advice for some, but think carefully. If you achieve this, you will earn a living out of being yourself.”
But Mr. Glenn believes that building generations who can view the concept of work in this way requires introducing radical changes in the education systems as he explains: “We are teaching students to look for a job, follow a leader, and work hard for promotions, ignoring the fact that every student has his or her own potential and unique personality. We are all different from one another.”
“We need a different orientation to education. It should help students understand self-actualization, know themselves better, and identify their interests and strengths. Teachers should help students develop and evolve in what they do best. They should help them look at the world as a potential market for their skills,” Mr. Glenn concluded.
For more information about the “Work/Technology 2050: Scenarios and Actions” report, published by The Millennium Project: Click Here