The End of Jobs, The Future of Work

An Interview with Jeff Wald


Given this past year, the future might seem daunting and unpredictable. But no matter how new and strange everything might feel, data and history can help us see into the future, and Jeff Ward joins the show today to guide us in those forecasts. 

Robots and automation threaten to displace millions of workers, but Jeff predicts there will be no net job loss. How is that possible? With remote work, on-demand labor, and many other changes that were accelerated in 2020, jobs as we know them are on the way out. But there will still be room for everyone in this new way of working, as long as businesses are willing to invest in the development of their labor force. 

On Ahead of the Curve: Normal 2.0, Joyce Gioia shares her forecast for 2021. She will share insights into the state of the global economy, the role of the employers of the future, and supporting multiple generations in the workplace.


Some jobs are on their way out, there are no two ways about it. Headlines will tell you that’s because of robots and automation, but Jeff Wald says not so fast. In fact, there will be no net job loss. But there’s a catch: all workers will become on-demand workers, leading to the end of jobs as we know them.

Jeff is the author of two books, including The End of Jobs: The Rise of On-Demand Workers and Agile Corporations, founder of Workmarket, and founder of the $10 Million Future of Work Prize. So, what’s the biggest challenge employers and workers face?

SEGMENT #2 – AHEAD OF THE CURVE with Joyce Gioia

On Ahead of the Curve: Normal 2.0, Joyce Gioia shares her 2021 forecast. 


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[13:05] “Being an entrepreneur is deep in our DNA. Getting up and going to clock in nine to five for someone else is a very new construct.”

[13:41] “I am predicting no net job losses. The job that is dying is that one office, one manager nine-to-five job.”

[18:44] “Any simple statement on the future of work belies the mass complexity that goes into labor resource planning.”

[26:15] “If we don’t provide retraining, reskilling, and support, we do so at our own societal peril.”

Podcast Notes

On-Demand Labor and the Death of Jobs [9:25]

On-demand labor is any labor resource for a company that is not an employee of the company. This includes vendors, freelancers, temps, and other kinds of workers, but not full- or part-time employees. Many people believe this kind of labor is the future of work, where companies don’t rely on employees, but rather on a workforce they can turn on and off as needed.

Jeff sees it differently. Since 2010 on-demand labor has grown by about 3%, which is certainly slow and steady growth, but it’s a far cry from the predictions of the past decade that held that on-demand labor would account for 50% of the labor market by 2020. In fact, there is no historical or contemporary data to suggest that on-demand labor will explode, and there is no clear path for companies to take to get there even if they wanted to.

But the future of work is one without jobs. Regular nine-to-five work is a new construct in human history and it is on the way out. Jobs, as we have them today, are a new construct. Historically, we have not organized society based on jobs. Instead, people had a portfolio of work they could pull from to provide for themselves and their families.

Mass Complexity of Labor Resource Planning [18:44]



Changes That Will Stick Around [21:11]

This past year brought a lot of changes. Some of these will snap back as we return to a more normal way of life in 2021, but others will stick around–for better or worse. Surprising no one, Jeff begins his prediction for changes that will stick with data and history.

Before the pandemic, remote work consisted of about 3% of the workforce. At the height of the pandemic, that number was 40%. Jeff predicts that 8% of the workforce will work remotely after the pandemic, which is 20% of the number of people who can work remotely. However, at least 32% of the labor force will have a flexible work schedule that allows for at least some remote work. 

This is a great thing. Remote and flexible workers are happier, more engaged, less stressed, less costly to the company, and they stick around longer. Not only this, but remote and flexible work opens up entire talent pools that were previously inaccessible to companies, which is great for employers and employees.

Challenges in the Future of Work [25:25]

The biggest challenge is retraining. More than 25 million people will be displaced from their jobs over the next twenty years. However, this can still result in no net job losses if companies take retraining seriously. 

Historically, we as humans have done a poor job of this. Each industrial revolution saw hordes of workers displaced with nowhere to go. If we don’t provide training and support, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes of the past.

In similar times of the past, we literally saw blood in the streets. Transitional periods are times of unrest and revolution, which is not good for societal stability. Without robust supports to help workers transition, this is the road we will be on. 

Ahead of the Curve: Normal 2.0 [34:02]

The global economy is in peril. With the vaccine delayed for months in many countries, many medium and small businesses will not be able to survive. The US may be saved from the worst of this if the vaccine can be effectively deployed on time, but there is still a risk of even more collapse to come unless there is robust support from the government. 

However, even though 2020 was tough for some and alright for others, there is still reason to be optimistic heading into 2021. For instance, manufacturing is likely to dip in Q1, but return strongly for the rest of the year, even through 2022. Additionally, there are more businesses that started than failed in this past year. At the end of the day, even locked down, countries are still functioning. 

The US workforce has five generations actively participating in it, which presents a huge challenge for employers. Younger workers may need to be trained on legacy technology and systems, while more experienced workers will need support to incorporate new technologies.

Employers also need to begin engaging frontline workers that the pandemic highlighted to understand what they need. Not only will this help keep employees engaged and feeling valued, it will also help companies guide future decisions.

Becoming an employer of choice will not be optional in the future. As talent pools open up through remote working opportunities, employees will have more choice than ever, meaning companies will have to compete for top talent across regions. 


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