The Future of Work and the Shape of Future Skills
The paradigm shift we recently identified, largely driven by what we called ‘the 3As’ of AI, Automation and Analytics, continues to reshape the nature of work. Depending on how you look at it, these ‘3As’ predict a wonderful life of leisure where robots do all the work and we sit back and relax, or they will take away all our jobs and with them our livelihoods. The reality is, of course, not quite so simple.
These ‘3As’ herald the biggest change in the way we work since the industrial revolution of the 19th century, creating a future of work that will be complex and dynamic. The type of work we do will be altered as well as how our work and workplaces will be organized, affecting how we secure work, how we work with others and what we actually do ‘at work’.
Even who does the work is changing – human, robot, or co-bot. The division of labour between humans, machine and AI is shifting quickly. By 2025, it is expected to shift to 48% human, 52% machine or algorithm.(1)
While the impact will be greater for some industries and some types of jobs than others, for businesses and workers alike the onward march of AI, Automation and Analytics cannot be ignored. Over the next decade, millions of workers will switch occupational categories, and correspondingly our skills requirements for the future will shift.
While a skills shift is nothing new in the evolution of work, in general automation and AI are expected to accelerate the pace of the skills shift. According to the World Economic Forum in a 2018 report, between 2018 and 2022 we can expect to see the proportion of core skills to do a job that will remain the same at 58%, meaning that there will be an average shift in workplace skills of about 42%.(2)
While basic cognitive skills such as data input and some manual skills will decline, however, demand for physical and manual skills will remain as the largest category of workforce skills (in terms of time spent) in many countries even in 2030 and will be different in different sectors and in different countries.(3) In general, though, lower skills jobs are more likely to be more adversely affected, while higher skills jobs perhaps less so.
In addition to the concerns of workers and potential workers in the face of this changed landscape, employers are concerned that they lack the skills for automation adoption. PwC’s 21st CEO Survey found ‘availability of key skills’ as one of the top 5 threats identified by CEOs.(4) And with good reason. While there may be many opportunities in this 4th industrial revolution, there are fears that the workforce may not be able to keep up.
More Jobs to do than People to do Them
As of June 2018, there were 6.66 million unfilled jobs in the US while there were 6.58 million individuals seeking employment. More jobs than people; sounds like a picture-perfect world for job seekers, but the reality is more complex. There are indications that there is a gap between the skills required for some of these jobs and those who are looking for jobs, with severe shortages in specific areas and wider shortages in some types of skills.(5)
While much has been said and written about meeting the needs of Millennials, and, more recently, Gen Z-ers in the workforce, the reality is that a significant proportion of the workforce is older than either of these cohorts.(6) The shortening shelf-life of skills is true for all workers, of all ages, and continuing to invest in learning is a must for all.
Filling the Gap
For organizations fearing that a skills gap in their workforce will affect their organisation’s performance, there are a number of options – retrain, redeploy, hire, release, and contract – each with its own set of benefits and challenges.
Overall, efforts for reskilling in most countries, both public and private, are not at the level, scale and quality needed to address the talent war and skills mismatch, according to the WEF.(7) Governments, educators and employers alike need to look for ways to reach workers more effectively with skills and training initiatives.
This is a significant moment for workplace learning. Work in the decades ahead may no longer mean what it used to, but learning will no longer be the same either. Learning organisations must adapt, change and work to a model of agility to help their businesses survive, perform and succeed in this next wave of the fourth industrial revolution.
Intuition’s series Trends 2019: The Future of Workplace Learning looks at the most significant emerging digital learning trends and what Learning and Talent Development needs to do to survive and thrive in this changed workplace and learning landscape.
 McKinsey Global Institute (May 2018) Skill Shift: Automation and the Future of the Workforce