80 is the new 60 when it comes to work and retirement

What will the future of work look like for you?

What would you say if you were told that you will probably live to 100 and need to work until you are at least 80 years old? 

If you scoff at the above scenario, you might just be in denial, according to Lynda Gratton, author of The Key - How Corporations Succeed by Solving the World's Toughest Problems.

Gratton, whose numerous awards include being voted “Most Influential Strategic Thinker” by HR magazine in 2011, undertakes research on the impact of societal change on corporate practices and leadership at the London Business School, where she is Professor of Management Practice.

According to Gratton, who will be a keynote speaker at the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) National Convention on 3-5 August 2016, the key work-life trends you should be aware of are:

1. Plan to work into your 80s – yes, your 80s. If you want to retire on 50 per cent of your income and save less than 20 per cent of your salary, this will be inevitable. Don’t believe government projections; you will need to work much longer than you think (whether this is a gift or a curse has a lot to do with your life). Longevity and the accompanying issues (in particular, those it will create for government and corporations) will be one of the defining preoccupations of your life.

2. Focus on your intangible assets – as our working lives change and we work for much longer, you’ll need to build your intangible assets, such as networks, friendships and skills. In addition, transferrable skills will be crucial as industries undergo important structural changes. 

Professional Development: Self-improvement for lifelong success: working towards self-improvement will have a positive impact in both your personal and professional life. Learn how to organise and manage yourself to maximise your productivity, and achieve your lifelong goals.

3. Prepare for transformation – the notion of the traditional three-phase life – education, work and retirement – is increasingly becoming outdated. The idea that we can condense our life milestones (education, job, family) into the first half of our life and then retire in the second half is not reflective of our longer life. If you are going to keep working you will need to undertake education at different stages of your life and be prepared to continually adapt to a rapidly changing workforce throughout your career. 

4. Think hard about your skills – the capacity to transform yourself and your skills throughout your life will be absolutely crucial. There will be a major change in the types of jobs available; some jobs will become redundant because of the increase in AI (artificial intelligence), including routine skilled jobs (driverless cars, for example, may become the norm). IBM’s Watson, the AI program, is trained across many different industries. Watson has, for example, nearly every medical diagnostic paper related to oncology, so even the work of doctors will be impacted. This is not to say that doctors will be replaced, but they will be impacted. Non-routine jobs requiring creativity, cognitive complexity and analytics will be the best to focus on as these require humans, not machines.

5. Balance work and home – Charles Handy coined the term “portfolio life” in his 1989 book, The Age of Unreason. The portfolio life refers to one that has less delineation between work, family and interests. Gratton refers to the energy cycle between work and home and suggests that it needs to be a positive rather than “caustic” cycle, given the length of a working life. The relationship between the corporation and the individual has moved from parent-child to adult-adult, and it will be up to the individual (adult) to create the life they desire, as longevity means a longer working life.

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