Technological advancements and the workforce of the future
What will the workforce of the future look like? It’s something every employer and employee would love to know.
Of course, nobody can precisely predict what changes will affect the workforce across the United Kingdom, or on a global scale. This is particularly true in the world of digital and technology where advancements are continually reshaping the landscape. However, by following the evolution of technology, it’s possible to predict where things are heading.
How technology will affect the workforce
There are many questions to answer when it comes to the workforce of the future. What jobs will or won’t be around? What new roles will emerge that need to be filled? What new skills will employees need? But most importantly, how can businesses best prepare for the challenges ahead?
To answer these questions, it’s vital to determine which technological advancements will have a major impact on the workforce in the next few decades. It’s also important to remember that these changes won’t just affect the technology workforce. Everybody, in every industry, must recognise how quickly the world is changing, and understand the potential impact.
1. AI and machine learning
The idea that robots could do tasks traditionally done by humans once seemed far-fetched. But it is now a question of "when", not "if".
Contrary to what science fiction movies tell us, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and machine learning could eliminate inefficient processes and create new positions in which people and automated processes work in collaboration. While many CEOs are already exploring the benefits of automation, most confirmed they still plan to increase their number of employees in the next 12 months. Similarly, employees are feeling positive about the future of the workforce, an upward trend since 2014. This suggests a future in which humans and machines work alongside each other.
So how will the rise of robotics affect businesses and employees?
In the near future, it's likely that manual and repetitive tasks will be increasingly performed by machines. In saying this, more complex processes that can't be easily automated – such as creativity, abstract thinking, interpersonal communication and emotional intelligence – will become more desirable.
These are the skills that will make employees of the future valuable. For businesses, it's important to identify candidates who possess these skills. As an employee, developing these skills is critical to remain a valued member of the workforce.
2. Data analytics
Data analytics is closely linked to AI and machine learning. Both involve transforming and inspecting data to optimise processes. However, unlike robotics, data analytics is already in practice. For example, it is used by retailers to target customers and by recruiters to screen job applicants.
Big data is an area of data analytics that has seen growth over the past five years and permeates all sectors.
In 1993, only 3% of the world's information was stored digitally. Today, it's over 90%. However it's not the amount of data stored that is important. It's what businesses do with it – how they collect data, turn it into information and then into actionable insights. It is these insights that inform business leaders and, in turn, impact business growth.
Reliance on data is growing rapidly, notably in people, HR or talent analytics – the use of data to make insightful decisions about current or employees. Currently, employers gather data about their employees from performance reviews and engagement surveys.
In the next few decades, however, predictive analysis will increase the amount of data collected by businesses about their employees. It will soon be possible for employers to more accurately predict employee risk, fit and performance, and streamline operations accordingly. It is an area businesses will continue to invest in, and we will soon see new products and technological innovations designed to support and compliment the high performance teams of the future.
For employees, the rise of big data means employers will have the ability to gather information on everything from daily performance to general health.
Data analysis will also become a more desirable skill than it is today. While not everyone will have the ability or wont to work with data, understanding the basics will be beneficial to job-seekers. It also has the potential to become an essential skill in the same way computer competency grew in the 1990s.
3. The internet of things
The internet of things (IoT) refers to the ability of everyday objects to connect to the internet and send or receive data. For example, fridges that can text you when you need milk. As more 'things' become connected to the internet – over 20 billion by 2020 – businesses, and their workforces, will need to change the way they operate in response.
The rise of smart devices is increasing synergy between employees and technology. For example, IoT devices are already making it possible to control blood pressure at home. In time, this could extend to taking blood samples at home or smart beds that monitor health and wellbeing.
These devices won't eliminate the need for medical professionals. Instead, they will increase demand for employees who understand the technology. Doctors and nurses may be replaced with data analysts and software engineers who use information gathered from patients to identify disease. Additionally, the constant connectivity of IoT devices will increase the need for software development professionals who can push out updates as soon as an issue is identified.
IoT devices will also improve working conditions in industries where safety is a key concern. For example, fatigue-monitoring can identify when truck drivers are at-risk of falling asleep at the wheel. Increased safety improves productivity, making this technology a worthwhile investment for businesses.
FinTech businesses have succeeded because they are able to meet customer needs quickly and efficiently. Over 30% of global consumers use two or more FinTech services, while 80% of consumers are aware of FinTech, an increase of more than 20% from 2016.
The technological shift in finance was largely driven internally, with employees demanding better tools to complete their work faster and more accurately, for example algorithmic and high-frequency trading. This demonstrates that employees recognise technology as an asset – an attitude that will ensure long-term success for both the workforce and businesses.
FinTech solutions that make it easier to transfer money between countries are also playing a role in the rise of the gig economy. This could lead to an increase in contract positions and new payment models, using blockchain technology as an alternative to traditional financial services models.
With the financial damage of cybercrime predicted to reach the trillions by 2030, it’s impossible to overstate how important cybersecurity will become over the next few decades. Today, the most common attacks are big breaches or the deployment of ransomware. However, as we move to a more connected future, attacks will impact businesses and anyone with an internet-enabled device in their home. With the ever growing rise of the IoT ecosystem, attacks will become increasingly prevalent.
This means cybersecurity must be the prime concern for businesses producing smart products. With more information stored digitally, a failure to proactively and preventatively invest in cybersecurity has the potential to cripple a business. As this isn’t yet a job for AI, the current demand for cybersecurity professionals is likely to continue for the next 12 months.
Impact on recruitment
How the recruitment process can become automated, and to what extent, is an area of interest in the recruitment industry.
Talent Engage – a digital portal for contractors – is already making its mark on the future of the contingent workforce. Talent is currently investigating if AI can be used with chatbots and how analytics can be used to examine an interpret information on our database.
These tools will increase the importance of relationships between recruiters and job-seekers, and even passive “non-active” candidates. This means there will be a greater focus on the need for soft skills and relationship skills when reviewing a job-seeker’s compatibility with a business’s corporate culture.
Rather than eliminating the human workforce, these advancements simply suggest a future in which personal skills will be necessary and automated technology will be beneficial. Ultimately, this will lead to improved candidate placement and faster recruitment processes.
Interestingly, much of the research surrounding the workforce of the future indicates the growing importance of corporate social conscience. Even as we move towards an automated, data-driven future, it is important for businesses to retain a heart and a human touch.
For employees, performing a role that makes a difference is an important career driver. There is increasing demanding for businesses to improve their values, with a focus on environmental responsibility and diversity, and building a deeper connection to their community and workforce.
Again, Talent is leading the pack in this area. Talent RISE is working to reduce youth unemployment and our programs and initiatives ensure our staff are recognised, included and valued.
The final word
While the rise of AI and machine learning might change the way we work, it won’t eliminate jobs. Instead, this technology will reduce human focus on administrative tasks. It will allow employees to work smarter and apply a different set of skills to achieve better outcomes in a more connected way.
However, job-seekers will need to upskill and cross-skill to remain relevant. Creative problem solving, data analytics and cybersecurity skills will be increasingly valued by employers in the coming years.
To plan for the future, it’s vital to act quickly to offset the rapid pace of advancement. And to avoid being left behind, as has been the case for many traditional banking structures in comparison to FinTech and payment businesses. Whether this means stockpiling talent or offering in-house training to ensure these skills are available, is dependent on each business’s industry and ability. However, there’s no doubt it is necessary to ensure long-term success.
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