Behind the Scenes

The Future of Work

The World Economic Forum has identified four megatrends for the future of work. Here’s how they apply to the business-events industry.

Each June, when we publish the results of our Annual Salary Survey, our thoughts turn to workplace trends. It was that in mind that I spoke with The Conference Board Executive Vice President Rebecca Ray, Ph.D., who shared what’s top of mind for global business executives, according to her organization’s recent study. Shortly after that, I came across “4 Mega-Trends for the Future of Work,” a post written by Paolo Gallo, senior advisor to the World Economic Forum (WEC) chairman. I was struck by how closely the future workers Gallo envisioned matched the concerns of the global leaders who participated in The Conference Board’s survey.

The top trend in the post and top concern among execs in the study is the rise of the contingent worker. In the U.S., according to WEC, 94 percent of the new jobs created from 2005 to 2015 fell into the self-employed category — without the safety net of insurance, medical coverage, social security, and paid vacation. For me, it was a reminder of how many independent planners forego those benefits to build their own business — and in industry terms, how business events will have to up their ROI in a gig economy where registrants are paying their own way.

The second WEC trend speaks to a concern that Rebecca also voiced: longer life expectancy. WEC sees this as requiring a mindset shift — we all need to realize “that we have a life of continuous learning ahead of us,” Gallo writes. As people continue to seek out ways to remain professionally relevant as they age, the business-events industry future looks bright — providing we can continue to provide meaningful ways for people of all ages to connect with and learn from others.

Industry leaders said they’re worried it will become increasingly challenging to meet the need for highly skilled workers. That dovetails with Gallo’s third trend — the explosion of new professions, requiring experts in AI, IoT, cybersecurity, machine learning, robotics, and other advanced technologies. That’s more good news for events that can prove themselves as the best means of education and community building in these burgeoning fields.

Last, but not least: women. “I’m convinced that the future belongs to women,” Gallo writes. “Why? Because they tend to possess the human characteristics that will give them the advantage in the new jobs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Like the capacity for collaboration (instead of competition), empathy, creativity, listening, and learning.”

While they didn’t make them gender-specific, these are precisely the qualities the C-Suite identified as being critical for leaders during a digital transformation. Event organizers designing rich and valuable experiences for their participants possess those qualities — collaboration, creativity, and learning — in spades.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.