A young professional’s views on the decade aheadThursday, 13th February 2020
Matthews & Goodman graduate surveyor Emily Deavall reflects on the career challenges young professionals face in the 2020s.
Standing on the cusp of a new decade, I wonder what the Professional Services sector will look like in 10-years’ time and how the future will pan out for young professionals like me.
It’s becoming evident that newly qualified professionals might not be able to focus on individual specialisms in the future, as the whole sector continues to evolve towards a more ‘client-needs’ offer. That probably means we have to be more aware of and understand the wider issues, as well as the demands that our clients face and adapt what we do accordingly.
There are a number of ‘hot topics’ which will prove to have a significant bearing on the future of all young professionals. For me, these include:
Sustainability and the environment will be an even greater driver of policy making and contractual obligations in the future. This will be the single biggest difference between my generation and our predecessors, because environmental factors will change how we think, the strategic recommendations we make and how we perform our tasks.
In the property sector, no longer will ‘last minute fixes’ (such as simply changing to LED lighting) be sufficient to meet the increasingly stringent (environmental) legislation we surveyors have to contend with.
Another example specifically impacting the property sector, highlights the nature and rate of change precipitated by environmental factors. The notion of ‘green value premiums’ on rental and capital values is not new to us. However, perhaps future occupational and investor demands will focus more assiduously on energy efficiency and an asset’s EPC (Energy Performance Certificates) credentials. This will have an impact on rental benchmarks, projected running costs, ‘desirable’ lease lengths and corporate social obligations.
Whether you are an accountant or a lawyer, you will not have to look too hard to see how environmental-centric factors will change what you do and the advice you give.
Email and video conferencing are now old news, but let me again cite the property sector to highlight the growing adoption of technology. Drones are regularly deployed in property inspections: virtual reality is already used widely by developers to woo potential investors and occupiers: augmented reality is being considered more frequently in real estate marketing.
The increasing penetration of technology is forcing us to develop new skillsets, as well as adapt how we work. The question for all of us is, will technology help us or outperform us? Many argue that technology will eliminate mistakes stemming from human error – but who will be blamed when Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes a mistake?
Personally, I believe that technology will enhance and aid our operations, rather than threaten us. But our next biggest challenge will be thinking (ethically) about how to regulate and maintain these increasingly capable systems and how long they need to be tested in practice, before becoming ‘industry standard’. What will we learn from our advances?
There are of course huge benefits in deploying automated predictive systems which draw on historic data – but these are only as good as the quality and quantity of information they can draw on. For surveyors, the rise of ‘smart buildings’ has already changed how buildings are managed.
However, I was reading quite recently that there is push back against ‘Robo-advisors’ in the financial sector because, although automation and smart algorithms allow more people to benefit from low cost access to stockbroking advice, people still want to deal with people. Apparently, there is a growing demand for access to real people, for personal advice, when making critical financial decisions.
Reflecting on the Government’s proposed infrastructure plans, there appear to be huge opportunities in almost every corner of our respective markets. With public spending promises and projections receiving great scrutiny in the lead up to the forthcoming Budget announcement, it will be interesting to evaluate what impact more domestic investment will have on our infrastructure. Perhaps Generation Z professionals will be far more involved in the national infrastructure building strategy then we would have been, prior to Boris’s ‘levelling up’ plans.
Now that we know that “Brexit Has Been Done” (well, the 31st January deadline was met), perhaps the next question is will a new trade deal with Europe be finalised by the end of 2020?
Will Friday 13th December (the day after the recent election) be remembered as a turnkey date for business, our society, the future of my generation, our attraction to inward investors and our role in the world, or will the machinery of government and the limitations of our politicians render it another false dawn?
So, what will the next decade hold for Generation Z professionals and what will be demanded of us?
I hope that the need to focus on diversity (one of the biggest challenges our society faces), will fuel greater collaboration of ideas and generate real bottom line benefits. Diversity is more than just thinking about age, gender and race. It’s about background, mindset and cultural inclusivity. Our businesses should be more representative of the society we live and work in.
Equality of entry, with Apprenticeships emerging as a new and reputable route into our professions, will increase the diversity of talent– hopefully more women and people of different social and cultural backgrounds will be more attracted to all our sectors.
Our clients are ever-changing, as are their requirements. Perhaps we should drive change more holistically across the board – how we think (e.g. the environment), how we work (in an AI dominated world) and who we are (more diverse and representative). But one thing we must never change is our collective preoccupation with delivering a quality service and the transparency of our operations. This must always remain at the very heart of what we do as businesses and what we do as individuals.
Businesses, governments, legislation and regulation will not be the only drivers of change. We will be.