PwC Report: An Imaginative, Incisive Take on Four Future Worlds of Work

For HR and business leaders to be as prepared as possible for the quickly changing world of work, they should seek to understand it. That’s why I was thrilled to run across “Workforce of the Future, The Competing Forces Shaping 2030,” published by PwC. As I’ve written before, we often talk about the future in very broad terms but rarely have the wherewithal to imagine exactly what it will look like, or the research to back up our ideas.

Drawing on research that began in 2007 and a specially commissioned survey of 10,000 people in China, Germany, India, the UK, and the U.S., PwC draws current trends to their logical conclusions to describe four different worlds of work. They also offer “no regrets” advice, with pointers for HR leaders, at the end of the paper.

As PwC writes, “Organisations are faced with an array of choices when looking at the future. This requires an understanding of the possibilities—both desired and undesired—to plan accordingly.”

So Many Worlds, So Many Suns

Here are the four different versions of the future PwC vividly describes:

  • Red World: Close to a high-tech Wild West, it’s a perfect incubator for innovation, but fights over intellectual property claims are frequent and protracted because regulation lags far behind technology.
  • Blue World: Corporations are more powerful than some nation states and the preference of the “haves” take precedence over the long-term good of the planet. Think “Blade Runner,” “Robocop,” or the 1980s.
  • Green World: Corporate responsibility is a business imperative, and trust is the currency that underpins employment.
  • Yellow World: Humans come first—so much so that there is a “Made by Me” mark of quality for products where no machines were involved in the production. People band together by skill, and artificial intelligenis relegated to dangerous or repetitive back-office tasks.

With faux news articles, product announcements, and first-person profiles of a typical worker in these alternate realities, the authors marry the facts-based method of business reporting with the imagination of science fiction to illustrate not just what’s possible, but what’s probable depending on the choices we, as business leaders and as citizens, make. They know that the future—the near-future, they remind us—will be a mix of all of these worlds, but which version becomes dominant is up to us.

When it comes to getting ready for whatever shape our brave new world will take, PwC writes, “Remember that your starting point matters as much as your destination; the best response may mean radical change, or perhaps just a few steps from where you are today. Your resulting strategy will inevitably mean a combination of obvious, ‘no regrets’ actions and the occasional, educated leap of faith.”

Source: Workforce of the future: The competing forces shaping 2030, PwC 2018