The emerging contours of the new world of work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution are rapidly becoming reality for millions of workers and companies around the globe. The inherent opportunities for economic prosperity, societal progress and individual flourishing in this new world of work are enormous. To realize them depends crucially on all concerned stakeholders’ ability to instigate reform in skill development systems, labor market policies, employment arrangements and existing social contracts. Catalyzing positive outcomes and a future of good work for all will require bold leadership and an entrepreneurial spirit, as well as an agile mindset of lifelong learning from employees.
Trends to Pay Attention To
As technological and social forces are transforming how work gets done, who does it, and even what work looks like, Human Resources departments are tasked to rethink their purpose, design principles and delivery methods.
In an effort to understand how organizations can rethink their approaches in the face of the evolution of work and in partnership with World Economic Forum, we tapped into the wisdom of crowds by asking leading thinkers to identify what they think are the most important driving forces shaping the work-related realities of tomorrow.
Our analysis indicates that the future of work requires investment in a number of developing trends:
- Accelerating technology and robotics adoption: By 2022, it is reported that 85% of organizations are likely or very likely to have expanded their adoption of user and entity big-data analytics. Similarly, large proportions of companies are likely or very likely to have expanded their adoption of technologies such as the internet of things and app- and web-enabled markets, and to make extensive use of cloud computing. Conversely, robot adoption rates diverge significantly across sectors, with 37% to 23% of companies planning this investment, depending on industry. Along with business, HR departments should be thinking about how to offload manual and static work through digitalization.
- Changing geography of production, distribution and value chains: By 2022, 59% of employers expect that they will have significantly modified how they produce and distribute by changing the composition of their value chain and nearly half expect to have modified their geographical base of operations. When determining job location decisions, companies overwhelmingly prioritize the availability of skilled local talent as their foremost consideration, with 74% of respondents providing this factor as their key consideration. Along with business, HR departments should be engaged in workforce planning and rethinking their traditional talent sourcing and acquisition strategies.
- Changing employment types: Nearly 50% of companies expect that automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022, based on the job profiles of their employee base today. However, 38% of businesses surveyed expect to extend their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles, and more than a quarter expect automation to lead to the creation of new roles in their enterprise. Along with business, HR departments should be investigating their current role and operations structures to fit future needs.
- Growing skills instability: Given the wave of new technologies, trends disrupting business models and the changing division of labor between workers and machines transforming current job profiles, the vast majority of employers surveyed for this report expect that, by 2022, the skills required to perform most jobs will have shifted significantly. Global average skills stability—the proportion of core skills required to perform a job that will remain the same—is expected to be about 58%, meaning an average shift of 42% in required workforce skills over the 2018–2022 period. Along with business, HR departments should be initiating and investing in collaborative partnerships in primary and continued education.
- Shifting human-machine task frontier: Companies expect a significant shift in the frontier between humans and machines when it comes to existing work tasks between 2018 and 2022. 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. Along with business, HR departments should be visioning how to best design an integrated human-machine experience. Further, they should be invested in thinking through their current work experience offering in transition.
- Emerging in-demand roles: Among the range of established roles that are set to experience increasing demand in the period up to 2022 are roles that are significantly based on and enhanced by the use of technology such as Data Analysts and Scientists, Software and Applications Developers, and Ecommerce and Social Media Specialists. Also expected to grow are roles that leverage distinctively ‘human’ skills, such as Customer Service Workers, Sales and Marketing Professionals, Training and Development, People and Culture, and Organizational Development Specialists as well as Innovation Managers. As the focus of in-demand future roles shift to core human skills, along with business, HR departments should be considering how to grow capacity and introduce new attributes.
How Is Human Resources Preparing for and Leading Discussions?
To prevent an undesirable, lose-lose scenario— technological change accompanied by talent shortages, mass unemployment and growing inequality—it is critical that businesses take an active role in supporting the work and workplace experience.
Businesses can invest in the global workforces through reskilling and upskilling, take a proactive approach to lifelong learning and enable environments that support holistic human experience. Human Resources can certainly lead the way in this transformation; however, it must ‘upscale’ its own capabilities first.
To do this, it is imperative HR Leaders engage in a dialogue around these four specific questions:
- Who is HR? Considering the historic evolution of our function, who are we today and who we need to be tomorrow in support of our businesses?
- What is leadership? Considering the historic ownership of leadership philosophy, are we ready to re-introduce the original terms of leadership and pave the way by living its honest value(s)?
- What is culture and who owns it? Considering the current gaps in our traditional business models, how do we better understand what constitutes culture and take ownership back?
- How do we empower our employees? Considering the power of language and practice over our workforce, how do we re-imagine our employee empowerment practices both outside in and inside-out?
Workplace transformations are no longer an aspect of the distant future. By the virtue of our mission and in collaborations with a number of accredited institutions, we invite 21st century leaders to engage in a regenerative process and 21st century organizations to take advantage of a rapidly closing window to create a new future of good work for all.
The views of the author of this article do not necessarily represent the views of Gradifi. We make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained here. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax or financial advisors to understand the tax, financial and legal consequences of any strategies mentioned in this article.