The Future of Work – It’s Going to Be A Fun Ride
Can you imagine a world in which top talent is so scarce the most skillful workers hire personal agents to manage their careers? Are you prepared for that future?
What has changed with the COVID-19 Pandemic?
To start to answer these questions, I think one must start with the COVID-19 question and how it has already changed the employment landscape in so many ways. To begin with, the concept of remote work and work from home have become a way of life for many due to the Pandemic. With the rise of collaborative technology platforms such as Slack, Teams, OneDrive and Google Docs the previous thought that teams must sit side-by-side or, at least, house in the same building to collaborate on projects simply isn’t the case anymore. Combine the use of these platforms with the enhancements made with video conferencing platforms and you have a recipe for a fully-functioning remote team – a team who has proven more effective and efficient since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Recently Apple chief executive officer (CEO) Tim Cook said he's been impressed by employees' ability to operate remotely and predicted that some new work habits will remain after the pandemic.
Outside of how COVID-19 has changed the way we work and how we collaborate, what other forces will help to shape what work will look like in the future? What functions might vanish and be replaced by automation, outsourcing, and self-organizing teams?
Automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning have, and will continue to be, heavy influencers of how we work and what work will remain with humans and not be outsourced to a robot workforce entirely (joking). While AI will certainly displace some jobs, such displacement has occurred long before AI was on the scene. In the past century, we’ve seen the diminishment of some roles and the emergent of other roles as society has changed. According to an article on wired.com, rather than replacing workers, AI can be a tool to help employees work better. A call center employee, for instance, can get instant intelligence about what their caller needs and do their work faster and better. In addition to helping existing businesses, AI can create new ones. Within the same wired.com article, it referenced an Accenture report discussing that it will likely take a decade or so until AI technologies become the norm. While that provides plenty of lead time for the transition, few companies are actually taking action now to train their workers.
So, we have the workplace changes caused by COVID-19, we have the impact of automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning… what else?
I think the most impactful force on the future of work will be the actual talent, or lack thereof. In five years, could in-demand future skills command the highest rewards?
A survey done by ManpowerGroup in February of 2020 found that the talent shortage in the United States has more than tripled in the past decade, with 69 percent of employers struggling to fill positions, up from just 14 percent in 2010. As the employment landscape continues to evolve, the top ten hardest to fill roles in the U.S. are changing fast with five new entries this year - IT, engineering, accounting and finance, construction and customer support professionals. Technology skills are now the second hardest to find, reflecting today's new reality that all companies are IT companies in some form or fashion.
Recognizing that there is a growing talent shortage within several of the above-mentioned skill sets, the need to develop programs to either skill, reskill or upskill workers is paramount. According to Randstad, a Netherland’s based, global staffing organization, it’s estimated that France will require 80,000 more IT and electronics workers than will be available by 2020, while the US will have to deal with having 250,000 fewer data scientists than it needs. In the UK, 23 percent of people lack basic digital skills despite the fact that they are required for around 90 percent of all new jobs. So, what’s the answer? According to the same Randstad article, employers might consider training their existing hires into the skill sets they most need. This approach would require the employer to hire for what an employee could do and could learn. The other options, reskilling and upskilling, are ways to engage your current workforce and teach them new skills, to help both you and them to advance their careers and stay with you even though their skill sets have grown.
All in all, when we look at what the work landscape is today and how that landscape has changed within the last 6-months from COIVD-19, it is exciting to think about all of the things mentioned in this blog. How will robots and AI help to enhance our jobs tomorrow? How will employers embrace creating the workforce of tomorrow through reskilling and upskilling? What will the Future of Work look like – one thing is for sure; it is going to be a fun ride!