How employees can future-proof their careers

Maggie StilwellThe workplace of the future presents career opportunities and flexibility, says EY’s Managing Partner for Talent in the UK & Ireland, Maggie Stilwell.

It is hard to imagine what the workplace of the future will actually look like and how technology will play its part. Although it’s easy to see how talk of robots and automation can spark concern over the potential negative impact on jobs; but what about the opportunities it will also create?

Change can bring about opportunity; for instance automation will perhaps take out the more mundane tasks and give employees the time and space to engage in more interesting work.

Future-proofing your career

If an employee thinks ahead and prepares, they can help to future-proof their career. For example, we expect that by 2020, creativity, cognitive flexibility, collaboration, complex problem solving and emotional intelligence will be the skills in high demand. We believe personal attributes, including self-reliance, self-development and self-promotion will also be attractive to employers.

As well as a shift in skills, we also expect to see shift in the way we work with the rise of the gig economy. Generally, more flexibility all round. Technology will no doubt help facilitate a more flexible workforce, with employees having more control over how, when and where they work. It is also fair to predict the number of contract workers used by employers will increase, and employees will be keen to secure more freedom as freelancers.

Sally Hemming, an Associate Director in EY’s Talent team, explains: “Flexibility will be an integral part of the workplace of the future. For me, the focus for employers will be on creating an environment where people can thrive, be at their best and develop the skills they need to achieve their ambitions.”

Advice for flexible workers

A shift in mind-set will also be required, not only by employers but also by employees. Sally adds:  “Flexible workers should never apologise for working flexibly, or feel they have to do extra to earn that right. If you’re providing a valuable service, you don’t have to justify how and when you’re doing it.”

Those who are working in an agile way, from more than one location or flexing their hours for example, can take confidence from future-proofing their skills. They can start, for instance, with developing their self-reliance and resilience – qualities identified as being in high demand in the workplace future. At EY we’ve put in place a programme called THRIVE, which helps our people to build such attributes, through coaching, seminars and webinars, and also focus on their own wellbeing.

Sally concludes: “If you can develop the skills to mastermind your own career and develop a truly flexible mind-set, you won’t just work better, you’ll feel better, and be more employable, whatever the future workplace looks like.”

For more insight on the future of work and the opportunities this can bring, visit

This article was supplied by EY, one of our Timewise partners.


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