The industry of the future: how Japan is managing longer careers
2030–2040. What will tomorrow’s workforce look like? One thing is certain: longer careers will force employees to retire later and later, and staff will be working alongside younger generations who will continue to enter the labor market. This issue – which is the subject of the ‘Operator of the Future’ strategic analysis carried out by Foncsi – raises the questions of how to manage these extended careers, how organizations will evolve, and what skills and knowledge will be needed by the industry of the future.
Dounia Tazi, Director of Operations at Icsi and expert member of Foncsi’s ‘Operator of the Future’ strategic analysis group shares her thoughts.
| Foncsi is currently conducting a research program that is focused on the operator of the future. What are the key themes and why is Icsi involved? |
DT. We need to think about what the industry of tomorrow will look like, and the safety issues that will be raised by changes to organizations between 2030 and 2040, in particular in high-risk industries. Demographic change, long careers, the mix of generations in companies, new technologies, the ever-expanding role of digital solutions, the management of skills and knowledge, are just some of the many subjects that we need to think about. Icsi supports its members at the strategic level, and what safety will look like in the future is one of their concerns. Our members’ questions provide input to the research program, and we contribute our experience from the field.
Focus on the ‘Operator of the Future’ strategic analysis
Led by Caroline Kamaté, research program manager at Foncsi, the ‘Operator of the Future’ analysis was launched in May 2019. The research program and look ahead is marked by several milestones:
- Following a literature review and identification of the leading academic experts in the domain, an international research seminar was held in late 2020.
- A forward-look workshop on future railway safety was organized at the beginning of 2021 with leading figures from the railway industry.
- An industrial seminar was held in July 2021 to present the initial results of the analysis, and to compare the views of academics and industrialists.
- An academic book is in preparation, which will be published by Springer in the coming months.
| In particular, you are collaborating with the University of Niigata in Japan on the question of long careers Why did you chooser this topic? |
Our focus is driven by changing demographics. In Japan, long careers are already a reality, and it is estimated that Europe will follow suit by 2030–2040. Therefore, we consider it interesting to explore the way in which Japan is currently managing the issue.
We are working closely with Akira Tosé, associate professor at Niigata University. He has conducted numerous interviews with experts in Japan, and he presented his findings at the international ‘Operator of the future’ strategic analysis academic seminar. We are currently co-writing a chapter for the next Foncsi book, to be published by Springer early next year.
| Can you give us some food for thought? |
In the workplace, the cohabitation of several generations poses a problem in terms of career management. Historically, in our societies the top positions in the hierarchy are held by people who are aged over 50. If these people stay in their positions until they are 70, the generations below them will no longer be able to progress. We will have generations who are senior in terms of skills, but who will not be able to become managers. This will paralyze organizations, as we are already seeing happening in Japan.
One of the avenues that is being pursued is to enhance the social value of professions that specialize in passing on skills and knowledge: trainers, technical experts, internal specialists, independent experts, etc. In Japan, the generation aged 60–70 is increasingly being directed towards these professions, so that they can pass on their know-how and experience to their younger colleagues. Becoming a manager is no longer an end in itself.
| So, what can we say are the skills that tomorrow’s industry really needs? |
Skills’ management is a real challenge. In order to prepare for these new types of jobs, companies need to develop new training courses. Currently, in Japan, these training courses are offered to people from the age of 30 or 40. But this brings with it two other challenges. Firstly, the younger generation need to accept being trained by the older generation. Secondly, we have to identify the practices that have to be passed on from generation to generation. Obviously, there are practices that, while they were acceptable at one time, are no longer acceptable 20 years later.
Another challenge is to train older employees in digital skills, as they may be less at ease with new technologies such as remote control, automation, etc. We also need to adapt workstations to make them more accessible for older employees, and take this parameter into account in how work is organized, for example by avoiding staggered working hours. These actions will, of course, have an impact on what the workplace looks like.
The last, but fundamental point for the industry is the need to remember the most serious accidents, and ensure that this experience is shared with peers and colleagues. It’s true that there are fewer and fewer serious or major accidents, but we must not assume that there won’t be any more. This collective memory relies on the contribution of the organization’s oldest employees.
Icsi–Japan: a shared history that dates back over 10 years
In 2011, Icsi welcomed Akira Tosé, who was, at the time, a student at Keio University, for an end-of-study internship on the theme of safety culture.
In 2013, Keio University and Icsi conducted a comparative study of their respective safety culture diagnostics, based on both questionnaires and interviews. A Japanese company was asked to complete both questionnaires, and the analysis revealed that there was 98% agreement between the results.
In 2019, Icsi invited Akira Tosé, who had risen to the rank of associate professor at Niigata University, to participate as an expert in Foncsi’s ‘Operator of the Future’ strategic analysis.
| To find out more|
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