People must come first in the workplace of the future, say Mersey digital entrepreneurs

Round table discussion on the future of work comes as think tank predicts technological advances could make many jobs in the Liverpool city region obsolete – but also create a host of new roles

Jo Morfee
Jo Morfee from Liverpool Girl Geeks, right, taking part in a ‘workplace of the future’ discussion


Earlier this week think tank Centre for Cities said advances in artificial intelligence and automation could see more than 140,000 Liverpool city region jobs disappear by 2030.

But it added that those same advances would also see the creation of new roles and it is that emerging and evolving workplace that was top of the agenda for a round table discussion in Liverpool.

A key consensus that came out of the session was that while the pace of technological innovation was exciting and offered huge opportunities for business, it was important to adopt a ‘people-first’ approach.

Brought together by the team behind the Business of Science Conference 2018, which takes place in Liverpool in May, and Grant Thornton, guests in the discussion included Jo Morfee from Liverpool Girl Geeks, Chris Eccles from ChargePoint Technology, Thinking Digital’s Herb Kim, Martin Sutton from tech scale up, Peak, and Jamil Khalil from Wakelet.

New generation

Constant change was highlighted as the new normal for businesses as the pace of digital disruption continues to accelerate and a new generation of workers enter the marketplace.

While these are factors that are creating challenges for some employers, it was agreed that they are also driving innovation in businesses that have models and processes which encourage the exchange of disruptive ideas and new ways of working of younger people, with the experience and knowledge of the older generations.

Flexible workspaces

Physical workspace has an important role to play and, over the past decade, demand for workspaces that are flexible, personalised and ‘more human focused’ has grown. But the philosophy needed to go further, it was agreed.

Jo Morfee explained: “Most of us want to work in a values-based business where we feel appreciated – not just as workers, but as human beings. Having a purpose and a clear set of values isn’t just for start ups.

“There are large, established companies out there who’ve succeeded in staying true to their values as they’ve scaled and this will help them to attract and retain the people they need to take them forward into the future.”

Purpose and values

For established businesses that lack a clear purpose and values, the shared view was that lessons can be learned by looking at the culture and leadership skills more typically associated with start up and scale up businesses.

Martin Peak, left, and Herb Kim
Martin Peak, left, and Herb Kim, taking part in the round table discussion


Herb Kim added: “The operational structures in established organisations were traditionally developed to manage behaviours. In order for businesses to thrive in the future, they need strong leadership, transparency and trust.

“These are all traits that scale ups and start ups, like Wakelet and Peak, have in abundance – big companies can learn a lot about leadership and management from them.”

Skills gap

Closing the discussion, Business of Science founder, Steve Bennett, said: “So much of the debate around the future of work is dominated by the digital skills gap and the impact of emerging technologies, such as AI, and yet what’s been overwhelmingly clear here is that the future of work depends on putting people – rather than technology – first.”

The Business of Science Conference 2018 takes place on Thursday, May 17, at the Hilton Liverpool City Centre. Click here for more information.

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