Artificial intelligence, machine learning and an expanding gig economy have cast the certainties of our working lives into doubt. So what does the future of work hold, and how can we adapt to it?
MBA students at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford tackled these uncertainties as part of the Global Opportunities and Threats: Oxford (GOTO) programme, and their studies culminated in a summit on 15 March. Six shortlisted teams presented their projects in a bid to win a £2,500 cash prize, donated by event sponsor Ricoh Europe.
‘GOTO is a platform that spans the entirety of our school including programmes, personnel, faculty and indeed the wider University, and it includes both a digital platform as a well as tutorials with faculty,’ explained Jonathan Trevor, Associate Professor of Management Practice and content leader of the Future of Work GOTO programme. ‘We believe it to be a differentiating and distinct component of our MBA that provides a fantastic opportunity for thought leadership and networking.’
As well as the student presentations, the keynote speaker, Thorben Albrecht, German Permanent State Secretary for Labour and Social Affairs, shared his insights on a variety of future of work related public policy and social issues.
The winning proposal, An ageing population and its impact on the future of work, was put forward by MBAs Gillian Benjamin, Allegra Day, Thomas Meinke, Pranay Meshram, Danilo Pusceddu and Mike Zhang.
‘Our solution is a career transition programme for employees who are nearing retirement age. Businesses would purchase it for their employees, who then come on a structured part-time programme to explore and test options for retirement,’ explained Gillian. ‘It’s really about de-risking retirement for individuals, helping them confidently take the next step after full-time work. We believe this will create greater transparency and better succession planning for the companies.’
‘The pension system has undergone huge changes. We’ve moved from a system of defined benefits, where you receive a set amount each month, to a system in which your lump sum pension is placed in capital markets. What we are seeing is a massive transfer in investment risk from companies to individuals themselves. This means our pensions are less predictable and more volatile, creating increasing anxiety for people in their older years,’ she said. ‘People may want to continue working in some way for financial reasons, to give back, or simply to maintain the sense of connection and community. We believe much more can be done to connect people to the right opportunities.’
Gillian described how the concept was inspired by the experience of helping her mother through retirement. ‘I became really interested in the problems it creates and their potential solutions. When an idea comes from a place that is deeply personal, it inspires you push it much further,’ she said.
Since competing at the GOTO summit, Gillian and Allegra have taken the proposal forward into their entrepreneurial project, and they intend to make the concept a reality after they finish their MBA. ‘Winning GOTO was an extremely powerful validator,’ said Gillian, ‘it is also giving us the opportunity to engage with some of the top corporates in the world. Having access to their HR departments to understand their needs, while we are still in an early stage of product development, will be invaluable.’
The GOTO platform is a repository for content relating to the global-scale topics investigated by the students, faculty and alumni involved in the project.