Have you considered – "What is work for?"

Members of the Employee Ownership Association recently attended an inspiring talk by Naomi Climer CBE, Co-Chair of the Institute for the Future of Work (IFoW) at the annual Robert Oakeshott lecture, hosted by Cass Business School.

Naomi’s lecture looked at the impact of automation and AI on the concept of work as we enter the fourth Industrial Revolution. Her view was that these changes should not be seen as leading to a dystopian future, but rather an opportunity to enhance and improve jobs, and to enable workers to upskill and embrace lifelong learning, ultimately leading to greater empowerment for employees. Embracing technology should be welcomed as a way to improved productivity and better work opportunities for all.

Crucially, we need to remember that an economy should exist to serve society, rather than the other way around. The dystopian elements that are widely feared can be avoided if people are put first, treated fairly, and given the opportunity to continuously learn and develop.

If you consider the research carried out on employee owned companies (The Ownership Dividend) is just one example), many of these aspects are familiar touchstones in the employee owned sector. Employee owned businesses commonly enjoy and encourage higher employee engagement and motivation, focus on fairness at work and encourage and reward innovation, all of which can help increase productivity – including resilience in challenging economic downturns.

The concepts espoused by the IFoW have much in common with the principles of wider employee ownership. For companies wanting to find out more, a good first start is The Good Work Charter on the IFoW website.