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Forecasting the Future of Work

The German American Business Association presented an outstanding panel discussion titled “How Automation will enhance your company's Human Capital” on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 in Silicon Valley.

Despite the breezy title, the expert speakers covered a gamut of serious issues that will have very significant impacts on the Future of Work, as well as the future of technology, society, and the economy.

Speakers included: Nan Weitzman, Global Head of Talent at HP Inc.; John Younger, CEO of HireMojo; Yvonne Keene , XaaS Business/Digital Transformation Leader at Deloitte; and Vanessa Mason, Research Director for the Future50 program at Institute for The Future. The panel Moderator was Maaike Doyer, Future of Work Expert, Strategy Designer & CFO at Business Models Inc.

Their remarks and discussion are summarized below.

Abstract thinking on the future of work has three 3 main components:

· Who is going to be doing the work? -> How far will the rise of the gig economy reach?

· What forms will work take? -> How will AI and bots transform work?

· Where will work be done? -> How is the work space changing?

All three components together comprise the future of work.

Finally, consider the Why of work? If profit is the only ‘why’, this will pose severe problems for society.

At HP and very large companies the emphasis for hiring and management is becoming less about how individuals fit into fixed roles, and much more about their capabilities. They are going to start to knock down the guardrails between defined roles.

For individual workers, your career will not be ‘up or down’ – it’s going to be more like a climbing wall. You may not have all the capabilities for a new role, but you’ll learn those you need as you adapt.

In the Future of Work – where are the good jobs going to be? What are helping and impeding adaptation to the new world of work. What are the spillover effects going to be? We can foresee the disparities between the 25 or cities where all of the big changes are going to accrue, and the rest. Everyone else is going to be left behind. e.g. Upstate New York is experiencing a huge brain drain, that is likely to accelerate. It’s going to be messy.

When are we arrived at the future? The future never arrives; there is no static destination. There are a wide range of possibilities. Workforces are getting older. The effects are quite predictable. Also small innovations that have large effect over time, such as in robotics and AI, have yet to have major visible impacts. Rather see what is changing in our day to day routines. What are the small decisions that we are making today that will have long term impacts?

When does it start? Here and now, but at no particular fixed point in time. For instance, 35% of jobs are already being automated. Younger people entering the workforce are already coming up with completely different ways of thinking and working.

What can we predict will come? We know for example, that automated driving will almost certainly replace most drivers in their jobs. What is the natural evolution of roles that are set to be automated? What other impacts will be coming?

How can we all adapt? We know that a lifelong aggressive learning mindset is essential to keeping ahead.

Most workers fall into one of three categories:

· Drive change: Change agents

· Ride change: Observers

· Resist change

Work favors the people who learn fast when it comes to technology. There are four fundamental drives expressed at work: to acquire, protect, bond, and learn. Curious people will adapt, the non-curious will be in trouble. New grads should have the education and trained skills they bring, but also soft skills like the art of storytelling, along with hard skills like data management.

A focus on skills needed for the future workplace brings the following points of discussion.

We need different skills: curiosity, art of storytelling, data analysis, open to growth mindset - acceptance of failures, setbacks and general ambiguity are implied in this. Drive, curiosity, and ethics are features. Curiosity is a proxy for humility and raw IQ, combined with clear quantitative thinking and analysis. Collaboration and communication are also going to be key skills

Successful individuals will focus on clarity of direction, rather than having necessarily the exact right answer. The nature of the actual task is going to change very much, requiring much more breadth of collaboration and formal teamwork. But managers and expert don’t understand teams very well, especially those that form agilely. These team are comfortable working with nearly constant ambiguity. They know that they are not going to be living in a world of certainty. Rather it best to be clear about your aims, and how to cope with failure and what to do to recover. Resilience is a key feature.

How will the recruitment process change, as one of the few functions that has not changed much in the past 60 years?

Of the six steps in the recruiting process, screening and sorting is the area at which humans are worst, and yet we consistently spend the majority of our time performing these tasks, rather than the interpersonal, non-machine skills of nurturing and guiding candidates and managers through the recruiting and hiring process.

The good news is that algorithms can determine what qualities a high performing individual in the workplace should have. These qualities can be abstracted and put into an AI program to sort and screen candidates. Human HR and recruiting managers can then actually focus more on selling the role and onboarding.

Recruiting and hiring is enormously complex: all the information layers have to be negotiated, with 25 or 26 variables that have to align well in order for someone to get a job. Onboarding a new hire is absolutely key and underrecognized – at the new hire the work just begins. To fight confirmation bias written into the hiring AI algorithms, the panel recommends deploying technology to find unconventional sources of talent.

For candidates, the process will become less of the experience of sending a resume into a black hole, as employers deploy tech that assesses capabilities rather than relying on a brute resume-matching process. It will become a much more scientific process for surfacing particular profiles which are suitable matches become the new hire.

Future oriented employees should always lead with this question: what will it take to replace you in your current job by automation or re-ordering your role?

In the course of their careers, some employees stay too long in the same role or company and should find ways to leave rather than regard their employment with the company as a permanent, lifelong arrangement. Companies should be comfortable with employees going out to another company to seek professional growth, and then make a path to return available for them.

What should organizations and individuals do to adapt to the future of work?

Employers should require ongoing learning, pay for training, hold employees accountable for adopting new skills, and fully support their efforts to do so.

Employees need to be regularly asking themselves: what could we do differently as a team and as an individual to address our core tasks? What are the skills of the future for me and my company? Management must provide a vehicle for implementing answers to those questions that you have asked people to pose.

We are in the 4th industrial revolution, the pace of change has changed. Small changes have outsize impact now. All the experts on the future of work agreed that we are in the midst of unprecedented, rapid transformations that require fundamental shifts in mindset among workers and employers alike.

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