Post-pandemic we saw a seismic shift in working patterns, with remote and hybrid working becoming widely accepted, says Jamal Elmellas.
But this is just the start of what could prove to be the biggest upheaval in the way we work since the industrial revolution, causing us to radically rethink not just where we work but why and how.
The Great Resignation is reputed to have had a devastating effect, with 830,000 leaving the workforce between 2019-2022. Given that 76 percent of these were over 50, it caused little surprise when the UK government stepped in with a raft of measures to coax these older workers back into the labour market. These, coupled with the cost of living crisis, could well see a reversal of sorts.
However, will there be the jobs available for them to go to? Rising costs have also seen companies retrench in the Great Layoff. While the retail sector never really recovered from supply chain issues caused by the pandemic its since been joined by tech behemoths such as Amazon, Salesforce, Microsoft and Tesla in making thousands redundant. Even their banks, such as Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, were unable to fight the tide, further hampering any prospect of economic recovery.
Less is more
On the plus side we’ve seen experiments with the four-day working week heralded a success. From June to December 2022, 60 UK companies took part in the trial of which 90 percent said they intend to continue with the practice and 18 percent committing to adopt it permanently. Why? Because it significantly boosted staff morale, did not compromise productivity and reduced burnout. As a concept, it’s also gaining ground globally, with Belgium making it legally possible for workers to request to work full time four days a week and a US survey revealing two thirds of Americans would prefer to work longer hours for four days.
Workers do seem to have become more likely to vote with their feet. The 2023 Salary Guide UK, 58 percent of employers expect staff to leave seeking more pay due to wages plateauing and high inflation and there remains a very real deficit of talent in certain tech sectors. This means demand has stayed high, enabling those with particular skillsets to seek more lucrative employment. In cybersecurity, for instance, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport revised its estimates from 10,000 to an annual shortfall of 14,100 new entrants last year while the ISC(2) Cybersecurity Workforce Study found the workforce gap ie of available skilled candidates had increased 73.4 percent in 2022. Small wonder then that the authors of the salary guide report many are ignoring salary guides and are pulling out all the stops to secure talent.
But perhaps the biggest game changer of them all is the emergence of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI). These Large Language Models (LLMs) such as Open AI’s ChatGPT launched in November and since followed by Google Bard and Microsoft’s Bing AI and GitHub’s CoPilot. All have caused shockwaves due to their ability to learn and carry out creative tasks in seconds which were previously the preserve of humans. These LLMs are able to tap into various internet sources and have already demonstrated their abilities such as by effortlessly passing law and business exams.
The general consensus is that AI and automation will augment humans in their jobs initially by drafting documents and writing and checking code, freeing us up to focus on human-to-human tasks. And adoption is already underway, albeit somewhat surreptitiously. A recent survey of professionals found 27% were using ChatGPT of which 68% were doing so without informing their employer, suggesting use is increasing with or without the knowledge of IT and HR.
Automatic for the people
It is likely that AI will fast track many of the language-based processes we have today. In HR and recruitment, for example, it could be used to automate the production of job descriptions, questions for candidates and even filter their answers using conversational interfaces. In a purely HR context, it may well be used to compose or cross reference policies or to intuit the perceptions of the company by analysing what’s being said about it online by its workers.
Yet there will undoubtedly come a time when the technology supplants the human operator in some professions, from IT to media to law and accounting, resulting in a substantial transformation of the jobs market. When that happens, it will be our human powers that come to the fore. Our ability to strategise, infer, innovate and we’ll need to apply our ethical and emotional moral codes to check, regulate and govern the output of this AI.
In the long term, this means concerns over early retirees, redundancies and skills shortages could all prove to be moot. Because, just as the pandemic demolished the construct of the 9-5 office job, so the advent of AI will demolish our current job descriptions. Expect the remit of your job to become broader, with AI becoming your assistant, and your role to become more physical or more human-oriented. Ironically, we could well find that this technological revolution makes us less like automatons and puts us back in touch with our human selves.
Jamal Elmellas is Chief Operating Officer at Focus-on-Security.
Jamal Elmellas is Chief Operating Officer at Focus on Security, the cyber security recruitment agency, where he is responsible for delivering an effective and efficient selection and recruitment service. He has specific expertise in and is adept at designing and delivering secure, scalable and functional ICT services.
Prior to joining Focus on Security, Jamal built a successful Security consultancy and undertook the role of CTO. He was responsible for delivering secure ICT services for both government and private sectors. He has also fulfilled the role of Lead Security Architect and Assurance practitioner within sensitive government departments and blue organisations.
Jamal has almost 20 years’ experience in the field and is an ex CLAS consultant, Cisco and Checkpoint certified practitioner.