Although technological changes are coming quickly, the truth is that we’re still a long way from fully automated businesses, even if technological advances have come at the expense of many jobs. For the foreseeable future, people will continue to play a part in designing, marketing, and servicing the technology that is running the world.
As the labor market tightens, the disengaged will vote with both their production and their feet. If companies want to continue growing, whether it’s a ride-sharing app or a financial firm, they’ll need to figure out how to recruit talent from a group that has strict ideals for what they expect out of a job. The heads, hearts, and guts of these new workers will demand that they choose work on purpose.
This isn’t theoretical. Some of the largest, most innovative companies are proof of how higher meaning can rewrite the rules of business. Zappos sells shoes. But what makes it such a success is its unprecedented customer service and its emphasis on giving back. Patagonia sells outdoor clothing. But its larger purpose is sustainability and employee engagement (it's little wonder that when Patagonia started, it wanted to have the best on-site childcare center). Starbucks sells coffee, but its mission is to create a culture of warmth. The "what" isn’t what’s exciting about these companies. It’s the "how" and "why" that makes them incredible places to work. Outsourcing and automation are not the only stories of how capitalism is being redefined.
The social entrepreneurship movement represented by the companies like Zappos and Patagonia is real, and it attracts people looking for engaging work.