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A futurologist’s perspective: The disruptive factors that will shape the future workplace

Predicting the future is something we’d all like to be able to do – particularly when it comes to this week’s winning lottery numbers – but for many of us, it seems an impossible task. However, there are those whose job it is to do just that.

At our Summer Utilities Forum, we heard from Dean van Leeuwen, a futurologist who uses scientific methods to explore how current society could evolve and change in the future. He shared his belief that if you understand the forces of change then you can create the future.

But what are these forces of change, and how could they affect your business and your role in the future? We take a look at the key drivers of change and how they are reshaping the world of work…

  1. Demography

The world’s population is set to change dramatically in the coming years. People are living longer, healthier and more productive lives, meaning that the average retirement age will rise. As birth rates decrease, issues could arise as we could reach a point where there’s not enough young tax payers to support the older population.

This could push the retirement age up further, as older people find that they can’t afford to retire and they’re healthy enough to continue working. At the other end of the spectrum, young people are entering the workforce with new expectations from their roles – millennials now see work/life balance as the most important factor in a job. With senior leaders not retiring until later on in life, and younger workers placing more importance on a healthy work/life balance, businesses could find that there’s division between the generations in the workplace.

  1. Shifting societal values

As our population changes, we can expect society’s values to change as well. Each new generation comes with new attitudes, new values and new ways of doing things. In recent years, for example, the rise of social media has caused many businesses to adapt the way they communicate with their customers; with a stronger voice, customers expect businesses to respond to them quickly.

While it’s difficult to predict exactly how society’s values will change in the future, we can confidently assume that they will change, and businesses will need to respond to these changes.

  1. Institutional change

In times of political and economic uncertainty, industries often find that the old ‘rules’ for success no longer hold true, and they need to make changes in order to flourish. Industries in the UK are currently experiencing great uncertainty, and this is likely to prompt many businesses to adapt the way they operate.

Whether a company chooses to change their internal structure, their attitude to risk, or the way they produce profit, it’s necessary for businesses to respond to external factors in order to remain viable.

  1. Technology

As we continue to make technological advances, it’s logical that we’ll make big leaps in areas like medicine, robotics and energy. We’re already seeing the UK’s energy grid become smarter, with tech devices like smart meters becoming increasingly popular and growing investment in innovative energy solutions like battery storage projects.

We’re also becoming increasingly connected – in fact, the Internet of Things (IoT) is growing so rapidly that by 2020, billions of ‘things’ will be connected. Businesses should be able to increase their efficiency as they will be able to gather data from their connected devices, process that data in real time and use it to immediate and valuable effect.

  1. Energy and environment

Sustainability has become an essential part of every businesses’ strategy, because whatever industry you’re in, energy is vital, and it’s a finite resource. And, as renewable energy becomes cheaper and more accessible it will have a huge impact on every part of society – including your business.

Solar panels and wind turbines are now common sights for many of us, and in the future we’re set to see increasingly innovative green solutions. At the Summer Utilities Forum, Dean told us about the Iter project in France, which involves engineers and scientists working to construct a mini-star. This star will create smaller, controlled nuclear fusion reactions, which are the same type of reactions that happen in the sun. With operations set to begin in the 2020s, scientists say that if this solution is a success then it could provide us with pollution-free cheap energy for millions of years, which would completely change our energy landscape.

While uncertainty is always challenging for a business, change can be exciting. We’ll never be able to predict the future entirely, but by monitoring the changes that are happening in the wider world – from energy to technology – your business can stay ahead of the curve and ensure that you remain competitive.

At Inenco, we’re always looking to help businesses to adapt to the ever-changing energy environment. That’s why we’re creating our Future Utilities Manager report, to find out how the roles of business utilities professionals are likely to change in the future and prepare people in these roles for upcoming changes. Pre-register for the report today to ensure that you receive your free copy on the day it’s released.