S.E.T.H. says “show me the money” (or does he?)

Marshall's flax-mill, Holbeck, Leeds, interior...

Image via Wikipedia

In this series of posts (SETH), I’m outlining the forces that we need to consider in the future of work.  This post is about the economic forces, but not from an economist, just so we’re clear!  The fact that I’m writing about economics in a public forum is making me nervous.  If any economists read this, I’d really love some input…. So far, we’ve looked at the social component of the future of work.

Some of the economic trends or indicators that I think will shape the future of work are:

Globalization/Localization – some feel the globalization of work will continue and others see a counter-trend to localization.   It’s possible that both will happen and have different effects.

BRIC economy (or the global nature of our economy at the least) – this is a force when it comes to automation and redistribution of work – Dan Pink talked about this in A Whole New Mind.  Accountants and lawyers, architects and other professionals, look out, your job is moving to India/Malaysia/China – where it’ll be done cheaper and faster.  Remember economics 100, supply + demand.  This is it. 

Many of us saw Jeff Rubin at the last BC HRMA conference talk about peak-oil and the subsequent ripples – less shipping of goods, onshoring, localized manufacturing, etc.  This might mean the manufacturing jobs that Canada lost may come back, but we’ve lost the “white collar” work to technological automation.  But, will they be the same manufacturing jobs or not? 

Economic cycles – Recessions and depressions happen every 10 years or so.  Don’t pretend that this one was so different.  More protracted than expected, but it shouldn’t shock us.  The subsequent labour cycles of hiring and layoffs are also predictable.  We’ve seen many people in the contingent workforce, self-employment and micro-work increasing, although seems to be more reported in the US.  Canada has been less impacted but when it comes to the future of work, a more flexible workforce could sustain economic shrinkage.

It is also important to consider specific industries.  Some will face stiff competition, others will experience slow and steady growth.  However, the future of work might also see organizations following talent; perhaps this will mean a different type of offshoring.

The point is, HR folks need to be considering the economic climate as it relates to work.   It’s not just about knowing the unemployment rate for your area but considering the global shifts and trends that may or may not impact your industry/organization.  Outlook 2020 produced some very interesting perspectives, including this economic synthesis

Any economists out there willing to add their voices here?  Am I barking up the wrong tree or simply barking mad?  HR folks – how have you used economic trends?


Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.