The future of work – Harnessing the power of people and technology

March 10, 2020

Many industries are facing a future where technology innovation is at the forefront of company strategy to maximize productivity in ways that haven’t been possible before. For instance, in the manufacturing industry, a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute highlights the importance of upskilling current employees and supporting programs that prepare the emerging workforce. Without continuing education initiatives and skills training across demographic groups, education levels, and geography, the report found that automation and other technological changes could leave millions of workers behind. That is why companies must start looking at alternatives to traditional educational structures, and at the same time empower employees with the tools to improve and transform with this new reality.

Embracing technology that enables a model where there are no silos of data or obstacles to visibility through artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, analytics, and mobility tools brings new opportunities and risks.

We’re in the middle of the 4th industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) where humans and machines are working in tandem. Technology allows real-time access to analytics which gives employees more agility to meet strategic objectives. However, the types of skills that employees need to possess are rapidly evolving, and it seems increasingly difficult for the workforce to keep pace.

At the end of the day, it’s all about what really happens after initiating creative and innovative business programs.

  • Employees expect transparency and control over their schedule and career.
  • Companies need people with transferable skills and ambidexterity who are highly adaptable to the new skills needed as business models are disrupted.
  • Employers should develop and maintain learning programs to skill up the workforce.

What lies ahead is not a sudden robot takeover but a period of ongoing, and perhaps accelerated, change in how work is organized and the mix of jobs in the economy. Even as some jobs decline, the economy will continue to create others—and technology will give rise to new occupations. Workers will need to adapt as machines take over routine and some physical tasks and as demand grows for work involving socioemotional, creative, technological, and higher cognitive skills. Employers will need to manage large-scale workforce transformations that could involve redefining business processes and workforce needs, retraining and moving some people into new roles, and creating programs for continuous learning.

The future is one where interconnected people, machines and systems communicate, share data, and respond to input from customers, supply chain partners, and subcontractors across the globe. To do this efficiently, the workforce must be reskilled to facilitate the operations of these new technological advances.

As technology takes on manual or repetitive tasks, it frees up space for skills that are uniquely human, often called “soft” skills. A recent World Economic Forum study found human skills such as critical thinking, creativity and originality, attention to detail, problem-solving, and people management are expected to see an outsized increase in demand relative to their current prominence. Companies need workers that can demonstrate these skills as well as the digital skills necessary to work alongside automation.

To learn more, check out this on-demand webinar, hosted by Human Capital Institute, where I share more about how organizations are addressing the challenges faced with managing complex and diverse workforces that embrace technology innovation.

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