“The future is sooner and stranger than you think.”
- Reid Hoffman (an American internet entrepreneur, venture capitalist and author. Hoffman was the Co-founder and Executive Chairman of LinkedIn)
Did you read the World Economic Forum report? It says that there will be a loss of around 7.1 million jobs by 2020, and a majority of it will be white-collar jobs.
Not just that, around 65% of children in schools would work in jobs that don’t even exist today – might sound bizarre, but well it is true!
Over 60% of millennials are expected to quit their current jobs by 2020 – they are interested in working for purpose beyond profit.
All this by 2020, which is almost two years from now – this is indeed the age of innovation and adaptation – the sheer pace of evolution in all quadrants of our being make things look more like science fiction and less like reality.
Technological advancements and demographic shifts are responsible for the labor market changing as we speak.
But haven’t we been talking about change being the only constant since time immemorial now? What are we heading towards? How is this time different? To this I would say, haven’t we seen cars getting summoned by smartphones, go zero to 60 in just three seconds and that too with no gas (heard of Tesla?); haven’t we seen for ourselves machines doing a lot of work that we used to do till now; learning almost all the sensory skills way faster than a new born baby? Yes, technological unemployment in this day and age is leading to less and less jobs and more and more automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
I would be way off the mark if I say that change is only because of technological disruptions. Lack of meaningful work is one of the biggest risks that we are grappling with today and trust me, we must not take this lightly. While 'purpose' might come across as a nebulous word, it has the power to transform businesses (and also in a larger scheme of things revolutionizing the society) by empowering individuals to challenge the conventions.
So, should we as employers be worried? No. I would rather say that change is always good news for evolution! Technology becoming an enabler and a disruptor in our business practices; millennials disrupting the workforce demographics (and psychographics); prices going down, productivity and quality going up – I would say, this is the era of cautious optimism.
As Aristotle profoundly articulated it “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation.” It really is the point of inflection for both the employers and the employees. The dichotomy of job displacement and job creation along with the widening skill gap are adding to the uncertainty in this VUCA world. The very idea of a job, with all its artifacts like job title, job description, and job grade is slated to go away.
Critical re-thinking about the future of jobs is quintessential with the objective to stimulate a discussion about how to open up the future more for the unknown and the unexplored.
Future is anything but in our hands but it is clear that it will not follow a universal linear trajectory. The paths, the pace and the approaches may differ, but what ultimately sails through is how aligned is the purpose of your workforce to the overall organizational purpose.
To this effect, the task at our hand is to create a 'new normal' for jobs with the endeavor of predicting the future opportunities and possibilities, anticipating the skill needs and continuous reskilling and adaptation (heard of freelance human brain designers?)
As the famous Russian saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” It’s true that digitally-anchored and AI-savvy work in this gig economy is essentially going to help us imagineer a bridge to the future.
As David Suzuki said, “The human brain had vast memory storage. It made us curious and very creative. Those were the characteristics that gave us an advantage – curiosity, creativity and memory. And that brain did something very special. It invented an idea called the future.”
On that somewhat hopeful and optimistic note, the same way we have found a solution to all problems, I am confident that we shall use this to chart a good course into the challenging, abundant economy that we're creating.
This article was published in The Economic Times on October 11, 2017.
Chief Executive Officer,
Aon Hewitt Consulting India