The Future of the Workforce & The Workforce of the Future
The global community is constantly changing, and with it, the environment of—and the individuals occupying—the workforce. As tech and automation becomes more and more prevalent in the world, and the world undergoes more fast-paced changes, the workforce is being impacted as well. Emphasis is shifting to different skills, and various industries are experiencing new trends in their workforce developments. Read on to learn more details about what exactly is changing in today’s working world, and the causes behind these changes.
o Technology & Automation
First off, supply and demand will continue to increase, so production rates need to as well. With humans producing products, it becomes a slower, more time-consuming process than if machines were the ones in the production line. Companies choose either one or the other, but it is really the combination of man and machine that is unstoppable. As these machines are programmed to be faster, more durable, and smarter, we humans are also growing beside them. There is an increase in basic and advanced technological skills every day. People will need to start focusing on learning more advanced IT, because the basic skills won’t be enough. In the current working world, workers will need to develop more creative skills, as the basics of entering numbers and keeping statistics is now being rapidly taken over by machines. What people need to do now is become better decision makers, complex information processors, and critical thinkers who can step outside of the box.
o Skill Gaps & Evolving Skill Requirements
According to a recent survey by over 300 talent development professionals in the US, there are major changes evolving in workforce development. Changes are shown through market competition and skill gaps that might affect how future work forces operate. The Association for Talent Development’s Public Policy Advisory Group (ATD) found that 83% of the responders in the survey said that there are skill gaps in their company and expect a skills gap for future workers.
These skill gaps are affecting companies delivery services, customer service and potential growth of the company. What are the skill gaps most seen lacking? Soft skills such as communication, management styles and critical thinking are at the top. Ineffective leadership skills due to poor preparation for leadership positions has also been a sign for concern for companies. 47% of respondents to the survey expect a gap in “executive-level skills.”
Yes, there exists a skills gap in workforce development, but what are companies doing about it? Apparently, not enough. When comparing ATD’s survey in 2015, companies have decreased their internal training for employees and certification programs. The number of companies who offered offsite vendor training has also dropped, as well as the number of people who enroll in online courses. The government has also praised apprenticeships programs that train employees using on hand learning styles; however, few companies have invested in them. In order to take corrective action towards closing these gaps, companies must be willing to invest time and money for the sake of the company, and not just their employees.
"Megatrends" are forces reshaping the workforce—and the future world as a whole. From technological breakthroughs to economic shifts, these trends play a huge role in determining what the future workforce will look like. At the same time, the way the world responds to these megatrends also contributes to shaping the workforce of the future.
As previously discussed, ongoing advancements in technology are leading to more and more of the human workforce being taken over by automation and AI. While this can bring about many improvements and benefits to the workforce, especially in areas where manual labor is more difficult and dangerous, it can also create more obstacles. In addition to potentially taking opportunities from human workers, increased technology use also introduces potential social unrest. Not everyone benefits from technological advancements the same way, and some communities may not directly benefit at all. As a result, if these benefits are distributed inequitably and not shared at equal levels, tech and automation may result in systemically restricting certain communities while advantaging others, creating a bigger divide and more threat of upheaval and unrest.
According to data collected from the UN, around 4.9 billion people will live in urban areas by 2030, and by 2050 the number will only have increased—following current growth trends, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs predicts that around the amount of urban dwellers in the world will have increased by 72% by 2050. This steady increase in the global urban population will mean that cities will become even more important epicenters of innovation and advancement in the workforce, particularly when it comes to job creation—especially as it is paired with the rise in tech and automation in the workforce, and the surfacing of many new jobs as a result.
It’s important to also pay attention to which geographical regions and social classes are holding the power, especially when it comes to influence on the working world—much in the same way that urbanization plays a significant role in determining the areas of the world in which the workforce is the strongest. As a result, countries that are undergoing faster development and have larger working-age populations stand at an advantage. This does not necessarily mean that countries without a majority working-age population are at a significant disadvantage; if countries prioritize business and education, the younger generation can learn the skills necessary to inherit the workforce. However, developing countries are at the biggest disadvantage, especially as more and more jobs are swallowed up by technology. Countries without as much access to technology, education, and proper investment are at a higher risk for social unrest as a result of struggling to maintain a steady modern workforce.
More and more people are prioritizing stabilizing their working lives and having children later—which can mean a problematic growing gap between the current working generation and the younger generation, since there could be a situation where many working people are retiring before the younger generation has started working. However, many more people are also beginning to stay in the workforce for a longer period of time, especially since our life spans are getting longer. This means that people have to learn how to retain and refine their working skills to maintain for longer periods of time. Especially in fast-evolving industries such as tech, concepts like “re-tooling” are becoming increasingly important, and normalized. A necessary skill for people to have, particularly older workers, will be to be able to quickly pick up new skills and apply them. Meanwhile, some communities are experiencing more of a shortage in the workforce, when their populations have more of a gap between the working generation and their children. In these communities, the presence of tech and automation becomes even more important, so that necessary enhancements may be made to keep the communities’ productivity up.
Changes in the climate and resulting scarcities in certain areas and resources will inevitably impact the future world as a whole, not just the workforce. According to data collected by PwC, there is a prediction that demand for things like energy and water will rise by up to 50% and 40%, respectively, by the year 2030. As a result, the working world is currently prioritizing alternative energy sources and waste management. What does this mean for traditional energy industries? Relevant companies—and their employees—should expect significant restructuring within the industry. As new needs surface, such as the notable need to rethink energy use, engineering processes, and more, the global community’s response will serve as one determining factor in shaping the workforce of the future.
The future contains just as much excitement as it does uncertainty. Out of 10,029 members surveyed by PwC of the general population in China, Germany, India, the UK, and the US, 37% of respondents indicated that they were excited to see all the possibilities the future holds. However, with proper knowledge of how the pandemic and other current factors may contribute to shaping the workforce, we as job searchers, employees, and business owners will be able to better equip ourselves to prepare for the workforce of the future.