The Future of Work
The Future of Work

Digital transformation, hybrid working, and automation are current topics in the world of civilian employment. Clive Lowe, Deputy Director of Employment at the OA, explores how best to future-proof your military skill set against this changing backdrop…

When I ask my colleagues and associates about the future of work, their immediate response is to query what this means. Is it the change in employer-employee relationships and day-to-day working arrangements as a result of Covid; or is this a philosophical question such as ‘what is the purpose of work’; or is it about changes in roles and working practices due to the new technological age? In a post-Covid, post-Brexit age where digital technologies are transforming how we work, it is all of these.

Employer / employee

Due to the Pandemic, the UK Jobs market experienced its largest fall in employment in over 30 years but as the Covid-19 vaccination programme rolled out, employer optimism returned. Employers, who put recruiting on hold during the pandemic, are now competing head-to-head for skilled talent in a finite and limited market.

Covid and its impact changed employer-employee relationships; developments which might have taken years to materialise occurred overnight. It changed the way we work and think and created opportunities for some organisations (such as the packaging, warehousing and logistics industries) but significant problems for others (witness the demise of household names such as Jessops, Paperchase and Debenhams).

For job seekers, it has become a buyers’ market, at least for the next 12 – 18 months; job seekers and employees now have choice and are in a strong position to negotiate enhanced salaries, better work-life arrangements and other benefits.  Who would have predicted a candidate driven market just a year ago?

The purpose of work

The employment market has seen dramatic changes in the past decade.  Against the backdrop of Brexit, there are now fewer workers entering the UK from Europe and a shortage of HGV vehicle drivers is partly blamed on this.  At the same time, there has been a sharper focus on diversity and inclusivity in the workplace as employers recognise the value and strengths of individuals and what they deliver, different mind-sets, training and ways of thinking.

The introduction of Artificial Intelligence, automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) now enables remote working and provides us with far greater mobility than ever before.  There are advantages as well as disadvantages to this as more experienced workers relish the freedom it brings, but with younger workers potentially missing out on mentoring opportunities in the workplace and fewer opportunities to socialise with colleagues after work.

But as we move into the digital age of automation with the prospect of large numbers of people ‘not employed’ the philosophical question becomes ever more important.

We are just at the beginning of the change from a serviced based to a digital economy and who knows where a digital based economy with AI, IoT, superfast computers, and automation will eventually lead? Whilst time and intellectual property have a value, human factors, such as a feeling of purpose and fulfilment, and a feeling of worth, cannot be ignored. Robotics may make us redundant, but we still need purpose and meaning in our lives and work provides this.

Impact of the digital age

Society began to move from a manufacturing to a service-based economy after the Second World War. Now services account for 69% of total world GDP and in high income countries such as the UK, services, on average, account for 74% of GDP.

Whilst the change to a digital economy is taking place at an eye watering pace we are still only at the beginning of a transformational journey, and as such, it’s not possible to predict where it will lead. But digital won’t solve some of the important issues for mankind such as scarcity of resources, water, food, mineral resources, and climate change.

During the Pandemic, most organisations changed to a wholly digital way of working enabling us to access information and opportunities from anywhere in the world. By working remotely, job seekers are now no longer constrained by geography and can apply for jobs over a far wider area.

However, Covid is not the cause of change, which was taking place anyway, but it has accelerated it. Western democratic capitalist principles are now under threat. The Middle Eastern model of authoritarian rule with capitalist principles, is increasingly apparent in large states like China, Russia and India. Whilst China has a strategic focus, the West has become more fragmented (Brexit) and whilst it is focussed on woke and carbon neutral issues (not a great outcome for oil rich ME states and Russia who can be expected to develop protectionist policies), social equality, AI and automation will take over.

How does this impact the job seeker?

There are jobs today which will no longer exist in 5 to 10 years’ time (door-to-door salesmen and travel agents are obvious examples), but there are numerous future opportunities that may not even be apparent today (in health and pharma, and in digital industries such as AaaS Automation-as-a-service and Cloud technology).

Despite the Pandemic set-back some sectors are performing well, IT, Financial & Professional Services, pharma, and logistics and warehouse due to the rise in online shopping. But the UK still has critical skills shortages in key sectors such as construction, manufacturing and digital.


Whilst the Covid pandemic was not the catalyst, it accelerated the change from a service based to digital economy and agile and adaptable industries flourished whilst others declined. Some work opportunities today may not exist in 10 years’ time while new opportunities for job seekers will arise. Successful job seekers will be those who can respond quickly to change and gain the skills which might otherwise have not been thought necessary, whilst soft skills like management and planning remain highly valued. 

If you’d like to talk to one of our expert career consultants about ways to future-proof your skill set then book a consultation.

"Whilst the Covid pandemic was not the catalyst, it accelerated the change from a service based to digital economy and agile and adaptable industries flourished whilst others declined."

In a changing workplace future-proof your career by following our simple steps to prepare yourself for transition by gaining skills for the as yet undefined jobs of the future.

Become, and remain tech-savvy

Digital technology is now a part of everyday life, and you need to get to grips with it. Start with the basics and learn different packages; use books and make use of free online videos; ask people how they learnt and take their advice; practice when given the opportunity and make time to attend the many courses available from the OA, the CTP and The Forces Employment Charity (RFEA). Check out Tech Vets – the not-for-profit organisation helping veterans find careers in the cyber and technology sectors.

Broaden your transferrable skills

As a Service leaver, you have gained more skills than most civilians and you will take these skills with you into civilian roles; problem-solving, the ability to lead, critical thinking, teamwork. To boost your confidence, try listing the skills you have mastered and then identify those skills you know employers need. Consider how you will master the new skills you have identified.

Network, Network, Network

Leaving military life often means going it alone. Networking with colleagues, associates and friends, and even with people you don’t already know, will support you as you build your new civilian life and can help you establish new business contacts as well. Don’t underestimate the power of networking and do remember that most people are only too happy to provide advice and guidance when asked.

Adopt a broad and open mind-set

You may hear this often but the key to staying optimistic about new ways of working is your ability to ‘embrace adaptability’. This means staying ahead of recent changes, pro-actively learning new skills and taking a flexible approach to that job move. It’s about challenging your thinking to look beyond simply getting a job to thinking how I can succeed in that job.

Build your success journal

Don’t panic. We’re not adopting a ‘new-age’ mantra; but we are suggesting you take time-out to develop a journal of your achievements and how you got there. It’s more than an aid to memory – it’s a confidence boost to your skill set, and at the same time a great way of reminding yourself how capable you are. And it’s good to read ahead of that next crucial interview.

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