Workplace 2025: Where humans and machines coexist

The world is undergoing its biggest transformation ever. As emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) enter workplaces, human talent is grappling with an existential crisis.

Generations, new and old, are losing sleep over what and how human beings will stay relevant in a world of disruptions. Unfortunately, this is not only a concern in North America and Western Europe but will impact South Africa and the rest of Africa as well.

Augmented Humanity – a world where machines and humans coexist and enhance each other’s capability, is creating a new world of work. A world where traditional ways must be replaced by new paradigms for driving workplace efficiencies and effectiveness – both for humans as well as for machines.

The workplace, and workforce, of 2025 will have the following 4 characteristics that will form the core of socio-commercial enterprises:

1. Augmentation over Automation:

People and processes will get replaced by applications that enhance the doer’s capabilities. The traditional application of technology for automating work processes will be irrelevant. More and more emphasis will be on making the ‘Human Talent’ redundant for anything and everything that can be done by machines. Consequently, it is no longer just manual routine functions that will be taken over by machines but new technologies such as Machine Learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics (digital assistants) will replace even high-level roles such as lawyers and financial advisors with the ability to rapidly sift through data lakes of information to find solutions to problems. Organisations in South Africa are starting to use chatbots to filter through thousands of applicants for vacancies to find best-fit candidates and IoT to monitor health and safety issues in mines and for construction organisations.

2. Irrelevant generational differences:

Rapid learning and global exposure will nullify the generational differences. Diversity will be of passions and skills rather than demographics. The world will just have two types of people – employable in the augmented workplace or unemployable. Age, gender, ethnicity and other demographical data will be irrelevant for deciding role fitment of individuals. Millennials and Generations A to Z will all display similar socio-psychological behaviours, moulded by digitisation.

3. Perpetually evolving business models:

There will be no such thing as a stable period for any business. Product life cycles will be shorter and will often be cut before peak optimisation is achieved. Organisations will therefore need to achieve operational efficiencies with just ‘work in progress’.

4. Inverted Maslow’s Need Hierarchy:

Self-actualisation will be the single most important human need that will drive productive endeavours. Taking care of the so called ‘basic needs’ will be so effortless that their mention itself is likely to disappear. Therefore, individuals and organisations will need to transform themselves, embracing the new world of individual and cultural competencies.