How Automation Will Alter the Jobs Landscape

In the coming workplace revolution, the desire and ability to learn new skills to stay relevant and remain employable will be the great equalizer. Where do you fit in?

January 27, 2017 – Rarely a day goes by without news of digitization, artificial intelligence and virtual reality impacting the workplace. Business leaders, politicians and economists want to quantify technology’s impact on employment — but no one knows for sure what the outcome will be.

Plenty has been written predicting the future: more jobs, different jobs, less jobs, temp jobs, even no jobs. But few prognosticators are telling us that they we will need new skills and we will need to hone them more often to stay employable for jobs we may not even have heard of yet. Talk about the proverbial sticky wicket.

According to ManpowerGroup’s new report, ‘The Skills Revolution,’ one in five employers (19 percent) expect technological disruption to increase jobs as they adapt to the future of work and six in 10 employers (64 percent) expect to maintain headcount if people have the right skills and are prepared to learn, apply and adapt. The report polled 18,000 employers across all sectors in 43 countries.

Automation Will Change Every Job

This past year, America’s job market made remarkable gains. After years of lackluster pay growth and an anemic economic recovery, jobs turned a corner in 2016. So what can we expect for 2017? A new report has revealed the five biggest jobs trends to watch for this year. Among the predictions: automation will start to affect all jobs in 2017 and will transform the modern workplace ….. Here’s some further reading from Hunt Scanlon Media.

Five Job Trends to Watch This Year
Futurists have been warning about automation destroying jobs for as long as machines have been around. While large-scale job losses due to automation are unlikely, everyone’s job will change in some way and big advances in automation will change our daily work.

“In this skills revolution, learnability – the desire and ability to learn new skills to stay relevant and remain employable – will be the great equalizer,” said Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup chairman and chief executive officer. “The rise in populism and the polarization of the workforce continues to play out in front of our eyes.”

It’s time to take immediate action to upskill and reskill employees to address the gaps between the haves and the have nots – those that have the right skills and those that are at risk of being left behind, said Mr. Prising. “We also need to draw in those that are not fully participating in the workforce. That’s what we mean by the emergence of a ‘skills revolution.'”

Faster and Different: Skills Disruption Like Never Before 

Up to 45 percent of the tasks people are paid to do each day could be automated with current technology. Of course we have all adapted to the evolution of the labor market before — from tellers to customer service representatives, typists to word processors and personal assistants. Disrupting, destroying, redistributing and recreating work is nothing new.

The difference now is the life cycle of skills is shorter than ever and change is happening at an unprecedented scale. The impact may be hyper-inflated today, but as the cost and complexity of implementing technology falls, the pace is set to accelerate.

Short Term: The Future of Work Is Bright 

New technologies can be expensive and require people with specialist skills, so employers are still hesitant to say hello automation, goodbye workers. In the short term, the future of work is bright. Most employers expect automation and the adjustment to digitization to bring a net gain for employment. Eighty-three percent intend to maintain or increase their headcount and upskill their people in the next two years. Only 12 percent of employers plan to decrease headcount as a result of automation.

Employers are anticipating change. Three out of four business leaders believe automation will require new skills over the next couple of years. We cannot slow the rate of technological advance, but employers can invest in their employees’ skills so people and organizations can remain relevant.

Where Will Digitization Increase or Decrease Headcount?

In Demand: Which Jobs, What Skills?

Skills and talent matter even more in a ‘skills revolution.’ Skills cycles are shorter than ever and 65 percent of the jobs Gen Z will perform do not even exist yet.

People working in IT and customer facing roles should feel optimistic: those employers anticipate the greatest increases in headcount. Rapid growth in demand is also expected across almost all industries and geographies for data analysts required to make sense of big data, and for specialized sales representatives to commercialize digitized offerings. In HR too, headcount is set to increase in the short term as they steer companies through this period of adjustment.

Constant Currency: Skills Adjacency, Agility and Learnability 

In the ‘skills revolution,’ the value we place on different skills will change. Digitization and growth in skilled work will bring opportunities, as long as organizations and individuals are ready. Technology will replace both cognitive and manual routineu tasks so people can take on non-routine tasks and more fulfilling roles. Creativity, emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility are skills that will tap human potential and allow people to augment robots, rather than be replaced by them. People will increasingly find they need to upskill and diversify into new areas. Skills adjacency, agility and learnability will be crucial.

Across OECD countries, jobs requiring higher levels of skills proficiency are growing fastest. Industries most affected will disproportionately impact some workers more than others: low skilled, low learners and women. Roles in sales, business & financial operations and office & administration are all under threat from automation, and these tend to have higher proportions of women. Industries which expect jobs growth, including architecture, engineering, computer and mathematical roles, tend to have a lower participation of women. If the current trajectory continues women could face three million job losses and only half a million gains, more than five jobs lost for every job gained.

For people, employability — the ability to gain and maintain a desired job — no longer depends on what you already know, but on what you are likely to learn. Those organizations that can blend the right combination of people, skills and technology are those that will win.

Future Proofing: Humans Augmenting Robots 

The future of work will require different skills and employers will need to focus on reskilling and upskilling people more than ever before to address today’s talent shortages and anticipate the demands of tomorrow. Almost three-quarters are investing in internal training to keep skills up to date, 44 percent are recruiting additional skillsets rather than replacing and more than a third are easing the transformation by bringing in contractors or third parties to transfer expert skills to their own workforce. We should not underestimate the value of human connection. Transformation of work in the machine age need not be a battle of human versus robot.

Responsive and Responsible Leadership: The Time is Now 

The ‘skills revolution’ requires a new mindset for both employers trying to develop a workforce with the right skillsets, and for individuals seeking to advance their careers. Education initiatives to strengthen the talent pipeline are important but are not the only answer and may take many years to bear fruit. Businesses have a role to play to enhance people’s lives and be an important part of the solution. Now is the time for leaders and individuals to be responsible and responsive.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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