The working world of the future

How can companies prepare for it?

The demographic shift, changing customer needs and the digital transformation are having a big impact on companies. Digitalisation and its effects on the working world of the future need to be managed right away.

Digitalisation and demographics affect the future working world

According to studies and experts, digitalisation and the demographic shift are having a particularly big impact on the working world of the future. Digitalisation is leading to the automation of processes and work, as well as the networking of data and self-learning systems. The way humans and machines work together needs to be redefined and more digital and social skills are required. The topics of globalisation, urbanisation and sustainability are also coming increasingly to the fore and are fundamentally changing the way we work. And lastly, the demographic shift is creating a real “war for talents” and is forcing companies to drastically change the way they think. The demand for new talent is huge, but supply is limited.

These developments are closely connected to each other and are embedded in an overall system that is constantly changing due to growing competitive pressure, changing customer needs and new legal requirements. Many of the factors underpinning these trends are not new. But the speed and concurrence of these developments means handling changes in the working world is more complex than ever before.

The three most commonly mentioned mega trends affecting SBB’s working world

Multidisciplinary skills need to be enhanced

The extent to which these trends are affecting the working world varies depending on the country and industry. For some companies, the number of jobs may change greatly as a result. Technology and artificial intelligence will automate some job profiles, create new ones and change the focus of existing ones. Looking at the economy as a whole, digitalisation is not generally a danger to the overall number of jobs in Switzerland. However, significant shifts in the type and format of jobs are to be expected.

The situation looks different for the skills that will be needed in the future. For example, analytical understanding, creativity, innovation and multidisciplinary skills are becoming more relevant. Although the number of routine jobs is decreasing, the basic cognitive and physical skills they require will not completely disappear. Nevertheless, the focus is shifting to higher-level cognitive and analytical skills. The number of jobs requiring a high level of qualifications will grow, while those requiring medium to low skills will decrease.

The effects of digitalisation can be quantified

Alongside changes in the skills required, companies can also expect a quantitative impact on staff. On the one hand, capacity will be freed up by making full use of currently existing technology to automate and expand (meaning that certain tasks are supported by technology so that more capacity is released and efficiency increases). On the other hand, digitalisation and company-specific planning factors (e.g. increased need for staff by expanding products/services offered) will create new job profiles. Therefore, depending on the company and industry, digitalisation could lead to a decrease in headcount, a steady headcount or even an increase in staff. 

From a company perspective, digitalisation will affect a large part of its workforce as tasks and activities are automated, existing job profiles change and new positions are created. In particular, an increase in positions for highly qualified employees can be expected, alongside a decrease in medium or low-skilled positions. Specifically, skilled job profiles in the fields of IT (software, infrastructure, security, etc.) and data science (data analysts, data engineers, etc.) will gain in relevance over the next 15 years.

There are several ways to handle the changing working world

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to managing the changes in the working world. However, the following patterns and success factors can be seen in practice and provide an appropriate response to the challenges of digitalisation:

  • Define a skills-driven strategy: Define strategic and differentiating skills and competencies within the company. Upskilling staff is of particular importance here and all staff should have access to training and the opportunity to put their new skills into practice.
  • Put the customer first: Identify key moments that make the difference for customers. Staff should be equipped with information (e.g. provide customer feedback immediately), which leads to a greater feeling of responsibility.
  • Use new technologies: Embed innovative technologies into the overall strategy, meaning that, for example, the company works together with start-ups and partners and fact-based decision-making is supported.
  • Allow new ways of thinking: Continuous change is accepted and actively steered. Make a company-wide switch to agile collaboration and introduce reverse coaching (where the junior coaches the senior).

Based on qualitative and quantitative analyses as well as success factors, specific company measures can be derived so that it actively shapes the working world of the future. As well as the overall company perspective, the view of staff and management must also be taken into account and – where necessary – social partners should be included in the change process.

PwC’s approach to shaping the working world of the future

PwC sees shaping the working world of the future as a collaborative project, enabling companies to expand their own horizons and learn from best practices. Key players, including renowned representatives from the world of science (e.g. ETH) and internal networks such as PwC Luxembourg and PwC Germany, have joined forces in a cooperative partnership. This means that theoretical and practical points of view are being taken into consideration and important insights drawn for companies . As part of the overall development process, PwC is using pioneering tools and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to evaluate various scientific studies. To quantify the impact of technology on the workforce, PwC has deployed an AI-based tool called Faethm, the only WEF-approved platform for predicting the future of work. Using the information collected, concrete recommendations for measures can be defined so as to optimally address the opportunities and risks associated with digitisation from a company’s point of view.

Key takeaways

  • Digitalisation and the demographic shift are having a big impact on the working world of the future.
  • The total number of jobs in Switzerland does not in principle appear to be at risk, but companies are under pressure to act to equip staff with the skills needed for the future.
  • Digitalisation will affect some job profiles more than others and some will potentially no longer be needed. However, this effect will be partially offset by the demand for new, future-oriented profiles (including software developers, data engineers).
  • Companies need to address the changes in the working world right away, in close collaboration with staff, management and social partners.

Contact us

Gabriele D'Achille

Experte digitale Transformation und Head of Transportation and Logistics, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 76 64