5 things I learned at the World of Work Conference

The World of Work Conference: Reimagined was recently held by Henley Business School, where influential people from some of the World’s top companies came together to explore the future of the workforce. Companies like Microsoft and Siemens spoke and ran workshops to help delegates understand how the workforce could be impacted by flexibility and technology. Here’s what we learned from the various speakers and sessions.

1. A selfie-taking robot is impressive!

Throughout the breaks at the conference, there was a robot roaming around. Not just any run-of-the-mill robot, but one that takes your selfie. You stood in front of Lilly (the robot) whilst it took your picture, with the ability to email or text a picture to you. It was very impressive and a great use of AI for a bit of fun, but also shows what robots may be able to do for selfie-taking in future.

2. The future of fortune cookies is in AI-generated ones.

Dr Naeema Pasha, Director of Henley Careers, gave a short introduction to the conference, named ‘all careers are now in chaos’, and handed out what looked like a normal fortune cookie. However, the fortune was actually generated using Artificial Intelligence (AI), which makes for a very unique fortune! The future of fortunes is going to be embedded in AI, with the ability to generate an outlook for someone to put within a cookie.

3. Flexible working isn’t as popular as you might think.

A breakout session was run by Siemens, who were talking about flexible working. It was a very insightful workshop with delegates asking some interesting questions. One of the audience in the workshop said that younger people with entry-level jobs, such as interns, aren’t very big of flexible working.

This is because their manager may be working-from-home, so can’t give them any assistance which is vital to their development. So although flexible working is seen to be the future of work, it may not be as well-received as you might think.

4. There’s more to do than just achieving gender equality

As the conference was named ‘WoW 2030’, a panel session focused on what the future of work will look like in 2030. This was in particular reference to gender equality, where panellist Hanna Naima McCloskey mentioned that “we need to tackle the root causes of inequality, and to design inclusion into all areas of businesses”.

The panel also discussed how good intentions from businesses need to turn into mechanisms with which to implement more gender equality, such as not having a wholly white and male board environment. The main takeaway from the panel was that words are just not enough, and gender equality can be achieved by everyone working together in workplaces.

5. Technology can benefit and not hinder the workplace

AI was a big topic at WoW this year, with Richard Potter, Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft showing us just how it can be used for good and not to take over the World. Potter mentioned how AI can bring “an inclusive benefit to society”, adding that it may “enable changes in workplace culture” to be able to adopt more innovative technology, particularly with the skills gap that is apparent in the UK. The main learning from his presentation was that AI does have benefits in and beyond the workplace, with accessibility to AI and other technology right on your doorstep.

The conference was very eye-opening, with speakers showing how different strategies of workplaces and companies can benefit their employees, customers and stakeholders.

Issues like gender equality in the workplace were given a spotlight, as we need to move towards a more inclusive and flexible workforce that can inspire everyone in 2030.

Written by Amy Jones

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