PLEI Perspectives: How the "Future of Work" Will Affect Pharmacy

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers May 2015

New behaviors, technology, and the interconnectedness of the world will catalyze changes for all businesses, including pharmacies.

More than 100 key opinion leaders in human resources converged in Las Vegas in March 2015, not to gamble, but to explore how the future of work may look. “The Future of Work 2015” tackled the reasons why businesses will need to radically change how they operate and modify the way they recruit, train, and develop their employees.

A major takeaway from the meeting was this: neither the majority of past business practices nor many of the practices used today will ensure future business success. Indeed, a business in any industry can face premature death if it cannot retool the manner in which it treats its most valuable assets: its employees and customers.

What was covered in the meeting, and why should you drop whatever it is you are working on to pay attention to this article? Let’s begin with 5 key areas that Jacob Morgan, a futurist and author who spoke at the event, believes are critical:

1. New behaviors shaped by social technologies will begin entering our organizations. The fundamental lives of students, employees, and patients are quite different than they were 5 years ago. Whether we like it or not, we share more and more personal information with the world, information can help connect us to others or isolate us. The hyperconnected nature of our world is expected to experience exponential changes between now and 2050, making the dramatic shifts we have lived over the past few years seem mild.

2. New technologies will monitor us 24/7 and allow us to collaborate with one another like never before. Although some may think that continuous monitoring of physical activity, eating, leisure time, medication use, and other parts of our lives sounds a bit like Big Brother, others think this will enable us to objectively assess what prevents us from becoming healthier and more productive. Collaboration platforms like Jive, Yammer, Mango Apps, tibbr, Citrix, Clarizen, Bunchball, SAP Jam, and many others are changing the way businesses conduct performance evaluations (shifting from annual reviews to real-time, colleague- and customer-driven Zagat-like rankings), learning and development, and many other aspects of business.

3. Younger workforces will drive our world. Whereas Morgan specifically calls out the Millennial Generation, other folks speak more broadly about the “Gen-Z Effect,” or how the artificial barriers of previously defined generations (Baby Boomers, for example) will be dissolved and leave us with a completely new workforce blended in age, attitude, and abilities. Granted, Millennials will compose almost 70% to 75% of the workforce by 2020, and nearly 64% of US executives will be eligible to retire between now and then (with the vast majority of managerial roles being filled by those same Millennials). With ages of retirement increasing, people living longer, and mental and physical health being maintained into later years of life, this new era will include a complex mix of workers of various ages, demographics, talents, and passions, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

4. The mobility of employees will become more important. The number of employees who commute to an office and work 9 am to 5 pm in a cubicle may be decreasing, and the future will usher in additional remote work practices. For example, an increasing number of companies do not require their employees to come into the office at all, do not have set vacation policies because employees can take as much time off as they need whenever they want, and offer a bring-your-own-device approach instead of mandating company-provided devices. In some businesses, certain employees are allowed to choose whatever project interests them. Other companies have done away with dictatorial mandates that flow from a reporting manager to an employee because the manager role doesn’t exist within the organization.

5. The interconnectedness of the world will give businesses the ability to operate anywhere. The historical boundaries of time, country, currency, culture, communication, and talent will no longer present any real barriers to the future workforce. The ability to do business anywhere with virtually any customer base will be the standard, not the exception. The ability to tap into the ever-growing population of freelance and “co-working” employees will allow companies to rapidly pick and choose the most appropriate talent needed for ultra-short duration projects: there will be no hiring, no firing, and no health care or infrastructure costs—only pure talent access. By 2020, it is estimated that 40% of the US workforce will be working as freelancers, temp workers, or contractors. This amounts to nearly 60 million people in the United States alone!

If these radical changes do not challenge the “business as usual” mentality and approach enough for you, perhaps a few more examples will. Concentrating on education for a moment, the traditional approach of high school, graduation, college, graduation, internship, first job, then promotions is likely to be abandoned in the next few years. Future students will do everything they can to avoid racking up more than $35,000 in undergraduate student loans (the average debt of US students graduating from college in 2013) and incurring $100,000 to obtain a master of business administration, because the vast majority of information taught in those curricula is available online for free and can more easily be combined to tailor a unique learning suite that matches the passions and strengths of each individual.

Course curricula that neglect to develop the intuitive and emotional skill sets of enrollees, focusing instead on technical and analytical understanding, will become obsolete before the next generation or two of current enrollees graduate. Traditional college educations are, thus, likely to be completely scrapped or transformed into something unrecognizable. Many believe that this is exactly what is needed to better prepare the next generation of workers for the brave new world they will inhabit.

Finally, the ways in which businesses attract, train, develop, and retain top talent need to be substantially altered so that an organization stands a chance of developing a corporate memory or becoming a stronger entity. In most future job interviews, the potential employee will be evaluating the fit of the company to their passions and interests, and not the other way around. Businesses had better sell themselves as being the best source of employee cultivation, allowing employees to gain needed experiences. Employees in the future may expect to be cultivated mentally and physically, tended to spiritually and emotionally, and allowed the freedom to self-actualize in a way completely unique to them.

The impact of these changes on the future of pharmacy will be staggering and is even more critical when we factor in an additional element: pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and other health care personnel are experiencing mental and physical stress levels that rival those in other professions traditionally viewed as highly stressful, such as firefighting, police work, and emergency medicine. Our effectiveness as health care providers is being seriously compromised by our own inability to master our stress. Not only are we suffering, but our patients are suffering. Neither we nor they are likely to put up with that reality in the future.

What can we do to turn the tide or to use the trends outlined here to our advantage? Thankfully, many things can be done, including educating ourselves and beginning a brutally honest dialogue about what is broken and needs fixing in pharmacy and what needs to begin anew. The purpose of this article was to simply raise these issues. In the next few installments, we will continue and deepen the dialogue. We hope you will join in by adding your own insight, information, and voice.

Gary Keil, PhD, RPh, serves the Pharmacy Leadership & Education Institute as a board member; acts as national program codirector at Beautiful Mind Strong Body Center, LLC; and is the co-owner of Evolutionary Health.

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