Automation, AI Impact: The Future of Work - InformationWeek

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5/30/2019
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Automation, AI Impact: The Future of Work

Automation and AI will replace some job tasks today, and the workforce and demand for skills will evolve for a new future.

One of the top questions asked at job interviews and during a performance reviews is, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"  But today, a bigger question is "What jobs will still exist in 5 to 10 years?" How can you know where you want to go if you don't know what will exist?

As artificial intelligence and automation threaten to replace many of the job functions that have been performed by humans -- from retail store checkout representatives to sales consultants to taxi or Uber drivers to application developers -- many of us are looking for where we will fit into the new economy. What skills will keep us employed and paid in a future that's dominated by AI and automation?

Neil Walker-Neveras sought to answer that question in the session, The Future of Work: Technology, Machines, and Humans, at Interop 2019. Walker-Neveras is managing director for Deloitte Consulting's human capital management practice. His first message? Don't panic.

Neil Walker-Neveras

Neil Walker-Neveras

"What do the headlines say? It's the end of work as we know it. Our jobs are going away. Robots are coming to steal our jobs," Walker-Neveras said during the session. "Our research suggests that the story is much more nuanced. We are rapidly moving into an interoperable world where humans and machines are coming together. It's parts of jobs. It's certain tasks.

Rather than the great job replacement, Walker-Neveras said the picture is more likely to be one of augmentation.

The workforce itself is changing, too, and maybe not how you might expect. Walker-Neveras said that Baby Boomers are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce. They are not retiring at nearly the anticipated rate as the economy has picked up. They are looking to work on a reduced schedule and to continue to give back.

While there's been an explosion of contingent work, that's not necessarily what people want to do full time.

"People are doing side jobs, but not necessarily wanting to work in the gig economy full time," Walker-Neveras said.

New jobs will be created as we move into this new economy. Consider all the jobs that didn't exist just 15 years ago -- social media manager, data scientist, podcast producer, mobile web developer, experience designers, AI-related jobs, cloud architect, SEO analyst, and more. Net new roles today include digital strategist, agile portfolio manager, cloud architect, and product security manager.

Image: vicky_81 - iStockphoto
Image: vicky_81 - iStockphoto

Walker-Neveras said that the demand for technology skills is expected to grow by 50% in the U.S. by 2030. Jobs with the largest skill mismatches are ones that are already the most automated, he said, such as IT, mobile, and web design; research and development; and data analytics.

To get ready for that new employment market, we all need to change how we think about the future of work. Walker-Neveras suggested the following framework of three areas of focus as we consider the changes to come:

  • What is the nature of work? How is it changing to achieve new business goals. What new skills will be required, and what new capabilities will be needed given the arrival of automation and augmentation.
  • Who can perform the work as it changes, and how will organizations close the skills gap? Will they tap into alternative talent pools. Will they "upskill"?
  • Where will the workplace be? Where must the work get done geographically? How can organizations maximize collaboration, productivity, and consistency with physical design and technologies?

For instance, Salesforce.com has expanded its major operations beyond its headquarters in San Francisco to Indianapolis and to Dallas.

In this new era of work, human skills will become more important, according to Walker-Neveras. They include curiosity, imagination, creativity, empathy, emotional intelligence, and social intelligence.

Traditional talent strategies won't work in the future job market, Walker-Neveras said.

"You can't hire your way into the future."

Instead, organizations need to make investments to train their workers in new skills. Then, hire only after you've found true gaps in skills and capabilities within your current workforce.

"Create an environment that inspires passion in your workforce," he said. "With passion, it's easier to reskill, upskill, and outskill."

Jessica Davis has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology at titles including IDG's Infoworld, Ziff Davis Enterprise's eWeek and Channel Insider, and Penton Technology's MSPmentor. She's passionate about the practical use of business intelligence, ... View Full Bio

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