Imagining a future of difficulties and opportunity


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Cover art by Laura Villanueva

Imagining the future of work is no easy task. Times are rapidly changing, and technology has quickened that pace even further. A new generation has taken over, injecting a diversity of values and perspectives over the workplace of today, as well as offering up new solutions to age-old problems. Meanwhile, new standards are constantly being expected of today’s companies, triggered by looming global issues such as climate change and the advent of the fourth Industrial Revolution.

But this was the goal of the fourth leg of SparkUp’s Spark Series for this year, this time held at the Dizon Auditorium of the University of Asia and the Pacific last March 27. Gathering industry experts to talk about relevant topics in building tomorrow’s workplace, from the coming of Generation Z, technological innovation, to climate change.

Bianca EleisseEyales, associate consultant at Acumen Strategy Consultants, kicked off the discussions, presenting insightful research on the newest generation of workers — the Gen Z, or those born between 1996 to 2014. According to Acumen’s ‘Decoding Digital Generations Study’, Gen Z is characterized by a mindset that is mature, empowered, and one that seeks authenticity.

Having grown up in times of great socio-political turmoil and impending natural calamity, Gen Z-ers are hyper-aware of society’s issues and are more motivated than their predecessors towards finding meaningful solutions to such issues. Moreover, many people from this generation seek stability, financial security, and purpose in the careers they choose to pursue. Being champions of change, Gen Z seeks to bring an emphasis toward accountability, responsibility, ethical reputation, and positivity into the workplace.

“We find that Gen Z have experienced a lot of socio-political issues and natural disasters, but also the optimization and the rising dominance of social media. Because of this, technology plays an inherent part of their concept of being,” Ms. Eyales said.

The world of the new generation, she added, is one of hyperspeed and connectivity, brought about by technological innovation, and so Gen Z has little tolerance for inefficiency or outdated practices when it comes to the workplace.

The discussion on technology and disruptions in the workplace continues in the second session. Bryan Makasiar, senior product manager for FinTech at UnionBank, spoke on the current and historical landscape of financial technology in the Philippines, and how might technology affect the future of established industries like banking.

FinTech, as it is now commonly known, are technologies used and applied in the financial services sector, chiefly used by financial institutions themselves on the back end of their businesses. But the rise of companies like PayMaya, DragonPay, and even technologies like cryptocurrencies are raising questions about the declining role of banks in the digital age.

But such technologies do not necessarily pose any threats to banks. Mr. Makasiar proposed that, instead of competing with FinTechs, banks in the digital age should seek to adopt them and collaborate with them to offer better financial solutions and services to their clients.

The rise of disruptors like Uber, AirBnB, and Netflix, he pointed out, was not because of the technology they offered, but of the convenience and overall better service these disruptors introduced to their respective industries.

“Technology by itself is not a disruptor. It’s not being customer-centric that’s the biggest threat to any business,” he said.

Speaking on the topic of future threats, Miguel de Vera, head of strategic initiatives at Energy Development Corp. (EDC), in his session, shed some light on what may be the biggest threat to business facing the present: climate change.

Mr. de Vera talked about the destructive capacity of climate change on a country like the Philippines and the urgent need for clean, renewable energy to replace the country’s use of fossil fuels, which contribute huge amounts of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.

“We’re here today to talk about your future and the future workforce. If you ask me, there’s no use talking about the future workforce when our worsening climate, may be due to our poor choices when it comes to electric power, doesn’t guarantee that we will have a liveable world tomorrow,” he said.

With the new opportunities emerging in the workplace of today, Mr. de Vera urged future workers to pursue ethical and meaningful careers that involve improving the country’s economic, environmental, and societal impact.

Cooperation and collaboration will be key in facing tomorrow. But with the rapidly changing times, it is easier said than done. Ken Lerona, head of marketing and corporate communications at Entrego, concluded the forum by speaking on one of the most pressing concerns facing new and old workers alike. How do you bridge a gap of multiple generations?

Mr. Lerona spoke on the varying differences between Gen Z-ers and those that came before them, the millennials and the baby boomers. But more importantly, he touched on their similarities, and how these different generations can find common ground despite varying age gaps. Intergenerational reciprocity, or mutual compassion and respect towards one generation with another, is the answer.

“It’s a two-way street. To bridge the generation gap, we have to learn how to understand each other and to respect each other. We have to remember this: no generation is better than the other,” Mr. Lerona said.

The Spark Series 2019 at the University of Asia and the Pacific was presented by BusinessWorld and Energy Development Corporation, together with Acumen Strategy Consultants and J. Legaspi Computer Graphics (JLCG), in partnership with University of Asia and the Pacific, with media partners Philippine Star and ONE News, and organization partner Enterprise Management Association.