The nature of work is changing, how will we adapt?

The nature of work is changing, how will we adapt?

New findings from our conversations with employers and core stakeholders have given us a lot to think about when it comes to designing and implementing the next phase of Robot Talks
Illustration of person sitting and working at desk with two monitors.
Jessica Thornton
January 19, 2018
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The Challenge

It seems that just about every week, there’s a new story about how our jobs are changing due to technology adoption in the workplace. Whether it’s the trucking industry experimenting with driverless vehicles, or a grocery store automating check-out, the narrative often focuses on how robots are here to take our jobs.

However, our research tells us that this is not exactly the case. Automation in the workforce is a reality, but the picture is more nuanced. While some jobs may be lost, it is likely that many will adapt to work with robots, instead of being lost altogether. In summary, the nature of work is changing, which means Ontario workers will need to adapt. The question is, how?

What we think…

Our most recent research project sets out to better understand the impacts of technological change on Ontario’s workforce so we can explore answers to this question. A component of this research is focused specifically on how Ontario workers are currently responding to job automation, and how this picture changes across sectors and communities.

In order to do this research well, it is critical that we talk to the people who will be impacted most, Ontario workers. Knowing this, we enlisted some help from citizen engagement specialist, Jane Farrow, to help us convene these conversations in communities across Ontario. With Jane’s help and her fantastic team, we have talked to 112 individual stakeholders from a variety of sectors and held 53 interviews and roundtable discussions in 35 communities since November 2017. And we’re only getting started.

The goal of these conversations is to not only understand how Ontario workers are adapting to the changing nature of work, but also the supports they need to adjust. By identifying these needs of Ontario workers, we hope to better position employers, educators, service providers and governments to respond. This information is critical to ensure no one gets left behind.

What we learned…

Based on conversations to date, we’ve compiled a summary report of what we’ve heard. Our next step is to hold follow up public workshops (see below) and stakeholder sessions to speak directly to workers and to find out what we’ve missed. This work will be compiled in a final summary report in March, and will inform our broader research report released the same month.


...there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What agricultural workers need to adapt in Alexandria may be very different from what mining workers need in Sudbury.

Since we’re unable to visit every community, we’ve also developed a survey so that any Ontarian can share their experiences with us. You are more than welcome to write to us with your comments as well. We want to hear from all Ontarians, to ensure we’ve captured the diversity of experiences and needs.

What our preliminary conversations have told us is that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What agricultural workers need to adapt in Alexandria may be very different from what mining workers need in Sudbury. By capturing this diversity of experiences in our research, we hope to inform the design of more tailored, effective supports.

We look forward to sharing our findings in the months to come.

The next phase of this study will run from January to March 2018. All Ontarians are welcome to participate and to contribute their insights via the online survey and at public workshops that are scheduled to be held in six Ontario communities:

  • Sudbury, ON – January 25, 2018
  • Woodstock, ON – January 29, 2018
  • Windsor, ON – January 30, 2018
  • Chatham, ON – January 31, 2018
  • London, ON – February 1, 2018
  • Kingston, ON – February 6, 2018

Additional details on locations and times available on our Robot Talks page.

For media enquiries, please contact Nina Rafeek Dow, Marketing + Communications Specialist at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.