Our workplace is changing, providing rich opportunities for the companies driving this disruption
In the 1960s American cartoon series The Jetsons tried to imagine how we would live in the future. George Jetson, father, would commute to work in a flying car while Rosie the robot would help Mrs Jetson to clean the house. The producers did not anticipate the social revolution that saw a massive increase in female participation in the workforce. However, some of their predictions turned out to be spot on, from flat screen TVs to smart watches and drones. Others have yet to happen, lucky George Jetson for instance only had to work nine hours a week.
So, what will the workforce of the future look like? Just like in the Jetsons, technology will drive fundamental change to the way we work, providing opportunities for companies that help to drive that change. Developments in algorithms and artificial intelligence are already transforming our lives today, and in the process disrupting entire industries, helping us to find cheap flights, recommending films to watch, even helping us to monitor our health. Our work environment is similarly ripe for disruption.
The UK’s buoyant jobs market means a war for talent, and employers increasingly must entice workers with better pay and more perks. Surveys consistently show that millennials and Generation Zers- those aged 18-27- in particular, have come to expect flexible and remote working as a given. For parents and retirees, flexible and remote working can make it easier to continue working on a schedule that suits their lifestyle and commitments. In sectors facing skills shortages this can help to ease acute pressures.
Take healthcare for example. The NHS struggles to recruit and train enough doctors, nurses and healthcare specialists to meet the growing demands of an ageing population. Experts estimate the health service could have a 350,000 personnel shortfall by 2030. One acute shortage is in radiologists to cope with the growing demand for x-rays and CT scans. Technology is providing a solution. ECI recently invested in 4Ways, which provides round-the-clock teleradiology services to NHS Trusts. 4Ways partners with radiologists who prefer to work from home or out of hours, on a schedule that suits their individual lifestyle. Faster internet speeds and greater bandwidth enables the transmission of radiological patient images to practitioners’ private homes, enabling fast, reliable diagnosis and supporting better healthcare outcomes.
While working alone may be a choice for some workers, for others it is a necessity. From midwives and carers to farm workers, policemen and telephone engineers, there are an estimated eight million lone workers across the UK, many of whom work in conditions that expose them to potential danger. That in turn places a legal and moral obligation on their employers to keep them safe. Once again, technology is providing a solution. GPS personal safety devices allow workers to raise the alarm when in danger, alerting emergency services and the police when necessary.
More technology boosts demand for more technologists
JPMorgan, the world’s biggest bank, now calls itself a technology company. The firm employs over 50,000 so-called technologists to help design, develop and maintain its IT systems, trading platforms and financial products. Like other Wall Street banks, JPMorgan is in a war for talent with Silicon Valley tech giants for the STEM graduates that will help drive its growth into the future. Once again, there are rich opportunities for specialist companies who can help banks to win this war for talent, by outsourcing recruitment and training. For aspiring graduates who eschew the typical 9-to-5, office-based career, third party recruiters for the financial services industries offer variety and cutting-edge experience, parachuting highly-trained graduates into specific projects around the world.
The importance of culture
For all the focus on technology and the way it is disrupting the modern workplace, there is one facet of working life whose importance remains unchanged: a company’s culture. Research shows that companies with strong values and a strong culture that employees buy into will tend to have happier workers, lower staff turnover, and stronger growth. It’s no surprise that two of our portfolio companies, Moneypenny and B2B price comparison website Make it Cheaper, have both been feted by the Sunday Times as two of the best companies to work for, precisely because of their strong cultures. It’s no surprise that they, too, have been ranked as two of the UK’s fastest growing companies.
Disruption to the workplace will inevitably impact on some jobs but it will also create new opportunities. ECI will continue to have a keen interest in backing companies that are helping to transform the way we work and helping their clients to become more profitable and focused. ECI believes that the right culture and environment is critical to performance as evidenced by the current success of businesses like Moneypenny and Make It Cheaper and previously CarTrawler and Citation where the culture of these firms is genuinely market leading.