Jobs of the future – The new world of work where people are paid for their value rather than their time

| August 7, 2015

What are the trends shaping the future of jobs and what can we do to not be left behind? Sue Ellson says if you are willing to continually adapt and learn, you’ll reap the benefits.

If we go back in time, even just 30 years, the jobs we did then are very different to the jobs we do now.

Back then we were talking about the paperless office of the future, how computers would replace people and how there would not be enough young people in Australia to support the elderly.

Trends around now

Move forward to now and we can see that there are some distinct trends:

  • most jobs now require some level of digital literacy
  • more processes are being automated but the transition process requires human intervention
  • the people who are constantly updating their knowledge are always employable
  • rules, regulations and affirmative action programs have helped create a more diverse workforce and generated new ways of working and opportunities for previously disadvantaged groups (including people with a disability, people who identify as LGTBI, newly arrived migrants, older workers etc)
  • more types of employment are now utilised – more contractors, freelancers, pay on demand casual and part time employees as well as strategic alliances, outsourcing, offshoring etc

What does this mean for the workplace?

New workplace design

For a start, it can mean a different style of workplace where people bring their own devices, only have a ‘hot’ desk by appointment rather than a fixed desk, or work remotely. In many cases, it reduces the need to travel or lease huge premises.

New business processes

Technology has enabled quite small enterprises to generate a new way of working. For example, an accountant can now manipulate a range of simple data exported from a bookkeeping program and complete a suitable tax return in minutes rather than hours – so the old model of ‘pay by the hour’ for an accountant is no longer relevant – he/or she needs to charge by value rather than time.

Likewise, a website designer can charge thousands of dollars for a website when in theory, once they have certain systems set up, the process can be completed in hours, not days. However, they have had to acquire a range of knowledge and expertise to be able to do this, but the reality is, their hourly rate (for straight forward projects), could be several hundred dollars per hour.

New pricing models

Several business owners are now working on either a fixed price or package amount. A plumber can charge $xxx to fix a leaky toilet and then you can rest assured, regardless of how long it takes to fix it, the toilet will be fixed for this set price.

Coaches, consultants and advisers combine a range of hours and accessibility for a package amount rather than a distinct fee for service by time offering. Again, this helps the client budget the expense and rest easy knowing a price. It has also been suggested that if the client is paying top dollar, they are also more likely to take heed of the advice!

It can be quite hard to convince a client of a change from pricing to value. It can also be difficult for some people with superior skills to ‘charge’ for something that takes just a few moments to complete. How many times have you heard an IT professional suggest to ‘turn off and turn on your device?’

We are also moving to a ‘subscription economy.’ There are many services now that you can only purchase via an ongoing payment. This model has been around for quite a long time (health insurance) but it is now becoming more popular – think car sharing, cloud software, online training etc.

New customer expectations

Some clients are likely to question the value when a computer program does most of the work. But the accountant still needs to know what deductions can or cannot be claimed, how to allocate the various fields and design the most useful chart of accounts and reports and advise the client on the best future strategies for the client’s circumstances. This takes a constant commitment to keeping up to date with all of the latest industry news and technology. It is a bit like the surgeon who spends 6-10 years gaining the skills to do an operation in 20 minutes.

New workplace expectations

The change in technology and markets has also meant that many workplaces are now expected to complete more tasks with less people. It is not uncommon to find staff numbers reduced by more than 50% after a takeover, reorganisation or ‘change management’ program. This has created a lot of stress and uncertainty.

At the same time, a number of jobs are being sent offshore (think call centres) and the remaining staff may find that they have responsibility for supervising a global workforce. The salary, package and benefits may also be adjusted. I specifically remember being paid over $1,000 per day for training services during the 1990’s and the rate has dropped to as little as $50 per hour now.

New innovations, particularly from market leaders

Likewise, there is the challenge of constantly updating products to remain a market leader. We now have banks that allow us to withdraw money from an automatic teller machine using our phone (not even a card). They can also count and process notes and cheques for immediate deposits. This is likely to further reduce the number of bank tellers in branches.

Thanks to technology, large organisations are now becoming more adaptable and enterprising and in some respects, responding to market forces or market demand much faster than in the past.

Disruptive innovations and technologies

Then there are the new disruptive innovations and technologies that have created new markets and value networks. They also have the potential to wipe out previous markets.

Who would have believed 30 years ago that a social media website that has all of the content produced by users would be financially so successful? (Facebook) That another website that offers access to people’s spare bedroom could change the face of the accommodation market (AirBNB). Or all of the wonderful advancements in health and everyday products that have made us live longer or given us low cost access to international opportunities.

I am fortunate to have been part of both the ‘analogue’ and ‘digital’ worlds. I enjoy the benefits of understanding how things work and just using them for my purpose. This helps me discern what is valuable and what is not. For example, despite all of the benefits of an online calendar, I still find a paper diary more effective for my personal style (that is not to say I will not change in the future). Likewise, I have moved to cloud storage for my files, I regularly use a laptop for tasks and a mobile phone with apps. But only what is aligned with my purpose. These same innovations have occurred in the workplace.

In summary

Thanks to the plethora of advancements in our technological revolution, the future of work and living will require digital literacy and the ability to adapt and change to new circumstances.

Our current economy is moving from a payment for time model to a payment for value model. The well-educated will tap into the tools and techniques that align with their purpose or role.

The benefit is that we will have an even greater ability to live according to our values in life – because so many more choices are becoming available.

I foresee that the only people that will be ‘left behind’ are those that are not willing to continue learning and be discerning. The new world of work will have many new jobs in the future – so keep adapting and changing and enjoy the benefits!



  1. Mac

    October 13, 2015 at 6:32 am

    Offshore outsourcing

    Hi, I agree with you: the trend of working is now totally changed. A person can work as a freelancer or, as you said, offshore outsourcing is also very popular. These options are actually less expensive and give the more accurate results in a very less time.