It’s all about the holograms

Focus2040 student competition offers glimpse of working world in decades to come

Have you ever wondered what the working world will look like in the future?

It’s something that never really crossed my mind over my career. That’s because, until recently, change seemed to occur in workplaces gradually and without much fervor.

But as the pace of change in technology has accelerated in recent decades, change now happens constantly. With the future only nano-seconds away, thinking about and planning for the future is much more realistic and necessary than in days of yore.

Over the past six years, university students from across Canada have been invited to participate in a competition facilitated by McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business, in association with the Strategic Capability Network. Its goal? To best define the world of work in the year 2040.

The competition leverages the value of an industry-academic affiliation to deliver experiential learning. The winners receive monetary rewards and internships by sponsoring companies, including Ford and WestJet.

The 2015 Focus2040 competition was held last month at the Burlington Convention Centre in Burlington, Ont.

There were 10 finalists this year — consisting of six pairs and four individuals from various universities. They were given 20 minutes to present to a judging panel, and then fielded questions from the 10 judges.

Themes for 2015

Though all the presentations have a different theme, there seems to be one common thread that runs through each presentation each year, and this year it was the use of holograms. If you can’t show up for a meeting in 2040 your hologram is there as you sit in your living room or beach front chair from anywhere in the world.

I can’t begin to share all the concepts extolled by the 10 teams, but here are some of the highlights of what gen-Yers envision the workplace to be like 25 years from now:

Technological changes

  • holographic technology for lectures, starting in high school
  • smartchip technology under your skin. Your alarm clock is in the chip under you skin
  • personalized tablets with no outside websites
  • Automatic translation when speaking to someone from another country who doesn’t speak your language
  • Contact lenses will connect you to people you are to meet with
  • You will wear a head set that produces holograms

Other general workplace trends

  • more regulations, more cultural changes
  • more women in the workplace
  • creativity parties to get the juices flowing
  • flat versus hierarchical structures
  • social responsibility will be a mandatory part of your education
  • corporate social responsibility, making a difference and helping others you work with, is the future
  • work from home up to three days a week. No job titles
  • routine jobs will be automated
  • speaking many languages and possess global experience to get ahead and remain employed in anything than a low level job
  • projects will prevail and you will get to pick the ones you want to do as long as they match your skill set
  • the amount of work you put out will determine your salary
  • because of less face time with colleagues people have poorer communication skills
  • a new grading system will mark you on what you learn from your mistakes not just what you accomplish
  • HR departments will be a scouting service

One team foresaw the jobs that will remain are in health care, teaching and the arts. Jobs that will disappear include taxi/ bus drivers and surgeons, except for those who are highly specialized. New jobs will be in robotics, engineering, programming and geriatrics.

2015 winners

First place: Stacy Drohomyrecky and Ashlyn Didero, second year MBA students from McMaster University in Hamilton.

Second place: Abid Sharifi and Faghya Shafiq, third year BBA students from York University in Toronto.

Third place: Nicole Dubé and Marla Grady, first year MBA students from Saint Mary's University in Halifax.

Colleen Clarke, of Colleen Clarke & Associates, is a corporate trainer, workplace coach and career specialist. The Strategic Capability Network ( brings HR and OD professionals together in monthly meetings and workshops to hear about strategic capabilities that maximize business success.

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