We are at the early stages of the 4th industrial revolution. Unlike the previous industrial revolutions, the current one is not changing what we do, but rather, is changing us, according to Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The opportunities in the new world of work are boundless yet largely depend on the ability of all stakeholders to adapt education and training systems, employment arrangements, as well as business approaches to developing skills.
The 2018 edition of the Future of Jobs Report published by the WEF tapped into the knowledge of Chief Human Resources Officers, who reflected on the latest trends in employment, skills and human capital investments across industries and geographies.
The technological advancement is already augmenting the current jobs and wholly new tasks are being created, yet at the same time certain work tasks are no longer going to exist and the number of workers required will be reduced. In order to successfully respond to the transition, it is indispensable that “businesses take an active role in supporting their existing workforces through reskilling and upskilling, that individuals take a proactive approach to their own lifelong learning and that governments create an enabling environment.”
Let us have a look at some of the trends shaping the future of jobs in the next 5 years.
- Work distribution between humans, machines and algorithms is changing fast
It is undeniable that the technological breakthroughs are shifting the borders between the work tasks performed by humans and those performed by robots and algorithms. We should not expect a raise in the use of humanoid robots, but over the period 2018-2020 the number of stationary robots, non-humanoid land robots and fully automated aerial drones will increase to an extent nearing commercialization. The trend of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms will also continue to rise. “In 2018, an average of 71% of total task hours across the 12 industries covered in the report are performed by humans, compared to 29% by machines. By 2022 this average is expected to have shifted to 58% task hours performed by humans and 42% by machines,” revealed the Future of Jobs Report. Information and data processing or information search will be performed by machines to a larger extent than it is today. Even tasks such as communicating, coordinating and developing will begin to be automated.
- Positive job outlook
“Within the set of companies surveyed, representing over 15 million workers in total, current estimates would suggest a decline of 0.98 million jobs and a gain of 1.74 million jobs,” states the WEF Report. There are two main trends in the workforce transformation: first, there will be a decline in some roles as tasks within these roles will become automated or redundant. Secondly, the adoption of innovative technologies will foster growth in new services and products that will bring along new tasks and jobs.
Researchers in the Report further explain: “One set of estimates indicates that 75 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines, while 133 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms.”
What are the professions that are on rise? Those occupations include roles such as Data Analysts and Scientists, Software and Applications Developers and E-commerce and Social Media Specialists. Job roles in which softs skills play a key role are also expected to grow, namely Customer Service Workers, Sales and Marketing Professionals, Training and Development Specialists as well as Innovation Managers.
- Employment types are changing
Automation will lead to some reduction of full-time workforce; on the other hand it will create new roles in companies. Businesses are set to expand their use of external employees or contractors who would do task-specialized work and many intend to change the manner of engaging their employees–they want to offer more flexibility, work with staff remotely and decentralize their operations to certain extent. Enterprises are bound to change the existing settings and flexibly introduce new productivity-enhancing roles. Physical offices are already becoming obsolete and companies nowadays adapt by utilizing remote staffing beyond the actual work stations.
- New tasks call for new skills
The Future of Jobs Report indicates that by 2022, “no less than 54% of all employees will require significant re- and upskilling”. The significant required skills involve analytical thinking and innovation as well as active learning and learning strategies. The aptitude in new technologies constitutes however only a part of the skills needed for the 2022 job transformation. The purely “human” skills such as creativity, critical thinking or negotiation will retain their value, as will flexibility, emotional intelligence and leadership. How will companies tackle the skills gap? Three strategies are foreseen to manage the skills gap: wholly new staff already possessing the skills compatible with new technologies will be hired; companies will try to automate certain work tasks completely or retrain the current employees. The re-skilling efforts will be primarily aimed at employees in key roles and frontline roles.
- Lifelong learning
A major shift in the required workforce skills is expected over the 2018-2020 period driving employees to adopt the appropriate skills in order to thrive in their future workplaces.
Companies are set to enhance the learning environment and foster active participation of their employees. A sound in-company lifelong learning system should enable employees to get retrained–according to the Report “on average, employees will need 101 days of retraining and upskilling in the period up to 2022.”
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World Economic Forum. (2018). The Future of Jobs Report 2018. Retrieved from: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2018.pdf