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Future of work: 5 Principles for Sustainable Workforce Transitions

Friday, January 4, 2019

Graduates exiting university will have around 15 jobs in their lifetime, at the same time, a large number of routine and repetitive occupations will be disrupted by technological advancements. These changes will require to rethink employment through the lens of continuous workforce transitions.

Companies and sectors nailing this process will take a competitive advantage in the war for talent by becoming the employer of choice for continuous careers. This article lays out five principles that can help to get the journey going - (5 minutes read).

1. Revisited social contract

The rise of the gig economy, need for continuous training as well as the shortcomings of current educations systems, require us to rethink the roles and responsibilities of the state, companies and individuals.

In the midst of these evolutions, each party needs to reflect on their new responsibilities across the handling of social protection, training and employment. 

Companies will for example need to assume a larger role in ensuring the continuous upskilling of existing workforce. A&T has already grasped this and are investing massively in the learning and development for existing staff.  

2. Techno-social balanced employment & competition policies

For automation & AI to have a positive effect on job creation, employment and competition policies need to support innovation of tasks and human augmentation, in contrast to cost-cutting and elimination of headcount.

While national governments explore notions of Robotax’, companies on their side can innovate occupations for sustainable job creation. Boxed, is a wonderful example of a company gone fully in with automation, without laying off a single worker, regardless of their skills or occupation.

3. Responsible business transformation

Responsible business transformation goes far beyond the challenge of automation. In response, Corporate Digital Responsibility (CDR) is standing out as a new direction, ensuring responsible business conduct in a digital age. CSR Europe and its members have set up an initial framework to steer business actions forward in three key areas:

  1. Digitalisation: Ensuring employee inclusion & well-being
  2. Data: Fostering privacy & employee engagement
  3. Automation &AI: Keeping people at the center

Click here to learn more about CSR Europe work on Corporate Digital Responsibility.

4. Continuous training & learning

Life-long learning is a buzz-word... unfortunately still so. Because in the near future, learning will need to become an unquestioned daily activity for every person. As such, we need to ensure that training and learning processes are incorporated into the DNA of our institution and organisations.

To visualise this transition, Heather McGowan, has presented the paradigm shift as follows: 

More information on Heather McGowan, visit Future is learning.

While companies can set up new training progammes, every individual needs to also reflect on their career and continuous training journey across life stages and assume part of the shared responsibility.

5. Flexible safety nets

Finally, but not least, there is a need to revisit current social protection systems to support people in between jobs, ensuring their inclusion in the labour markets. This is especially important for low-skilled / income occupations whereby work transitions can be harder to realise.

While social protection is a traditional responsibility of governments, companies can also take up the role in providing support beyond minimum legal requirements in times of restructuration’s. A good example of this is the Nokia Bridge programme (2012-13) that was made available available to 18.000 employees across 13 countries – helping them to find a new jobs, offering training for new profession, or helping entrepreneurs set up their own companies.


Life-long job transitions will be at the heart of future of work. The difficulty of managing this challenge lies in the number of interactions between engaged stakeholders as presented in this article. Companies will notably be required to continuously rethink the boundaries of their responsibility, in line with policy makers and the civil society. However, questions remain on who will take the lead in steering the actions ahead across companies, stakeholders and the people.

We certainly will.

Take part in CSR Europe’s pilot project on workforce transitions

Workforce transitions is high on CSR Europe's agenda.

CSR Europe and its national partners are beginning a scoping a future cross-company action in France, Italy, Spain & Poland, with options to expand to UK or Germany. We are currently gathering interested companies to take part in a pilot project to test and implement new HR measures to support the work transitions of low skilled/income workers.

If you wish to learn more about our actions and take part in the project, please contact: Tommi Raivio tr(at)csreurope(dot)org.

For further information, visit our Future of Work web page.