update future of work

In June, the board and management of Energy Australia announced it would establish a $20m fund to help prepare its employees for the impact of rapid automation. Managing director Catherine Tanna said the company would allocate one per cent of its after-tax profits to the fund once the business hit its hurdle return rate.

This is one example of the range of initiatives announced by a group of businesses as part of the Future of Work program developed by B Team Australasia. The regional leadership group was formed in late 2018, aligned with the ambitions of B Team co-founders Sir Richard Branson and Jochen Zeitz, former CEO of sportswear brand Puma.

The members of B Team Australasia include CEOs and directors of businesses such as Mirvac, MLC and Scentre Group, as well as Sam Mostyn, chair of Citibank Australia and Ann Sherry AO FAICD, chair of Carnival Australia.

B Team co-chair David Gonski AC FAICDLife told the forum that the extent of the usage and effect of AI is evolving rapidly. “We believe it is time for business to establish some principles of best practice,” he said.

“The working environment is going to change quite dramatically,” Tanna told the forum. “We understand some changes quite well where roles disappear but the more challenging and interesting part is where tasks within roles today are no longer required… People need to be upskilled and the jobs will be more interesting.”

She added CEOs shouldn’t forget the great perspective employees can offer, learned from working on the frontline. “Getting our business in shape for a radically different world is a two-way partnership with our people.

I’m not sure it can be done, or done effectively, without them.”

The B Team has identified five Future of Work Principles, which its organisations have agreed to commit to and which it hopes will spark further discussion:

  • Strategically plan for technology – Devise a strategic plan for the development and use of technology and the impacts on people within an organisation.
  • Create career-growth opportunities – Create individual growth opportunities for team members with specific targets to transition them into their future careers, either internally, between organisations, or externally.
  • Focus on the whole person – If there is no longer a position available within the business for a team member because of technological disruption, fully support them in preparing for their next challenge, taking into account all aspects of their wellbeing, not only from a skill and remuneration perspective.
  • Establish support networks – Assist in creating a network of employees experienced in advising others through the process and making the transition easier.
  • Be publicly accountable – Report publicly on what has been done in seeking to ensure all stakeholders have been dealt with respectfully and with dignity, encouraging others.

The B Team is seeking feedback by the end of 2019. Further information at bteam.org