The rise of innovation and technology in our world continues unchecked and – at times – can instil more than a little uncertainty about the future. Oftentimes, it’s hard to fathom a bridge between ‘now’ and ‘then’, as technology evolves so incredibly quickly.
And although this scenario speaks in broad terms, it’s actually one of the biggest stress points for organisations as they look to the future, not only from a whole-of-business standpoint, but especially in respect of talent: finding, (re)engaging and keeping talent – and having the right model to achieve the optimum (and changing) talent supply with business demand.
Understanding technology is a critical first step, and being lateral enough to consider that even the most radical or advanced technologies could play a role in your future business, is a close second.
So today, just one month out from the Emerging Workforce Summit, where these issues will be covered in-depth by some of the industry’s greatest minds, we’re going to look at the innovations and technologies that will play an important role in bridging today’s working environment with the future of work. Change can be scary. But also very exciting.
Firstly, take a look at the technological changes, and impact on industry, the world has experienced over recent times, from the World Economic Forum. This provides a interesting snapshot of where we’ve come from…
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
You’ve heard the fear mongering about technology replacing humans in the future workforce: what’s perhaps less understood is that AI and Machine Learning have the capacity to not only vastly improve processes, productivity and performance, but also to lean upon human thinking and the potential of human ideas to make the future workplace incredibly dynamic.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI):
When you think of AI, you’ll likely think of the ‘smart’ stuff in your life: devices, homes, even the prompts from automated chat bots with your telco provider (thanks Telstra).
So despite the potential for massive improvements in process efficiencies, McKinsey reports that around only five percent of occupations could be fully automated (based on current technology). Hence, the AI bridge to the future of work, certainly shows greater productivity and process efficiencies in many occupations that can be enhanced by automation. So whether you’re a plumber, a CEO or a stock broker, AI will work alongside you, in an evolving context.
MACHINE LEARNING (ML):
A sub-set of AI, ML will have the capacity to enhance jobs, not necessarily replace them. ML (according to Wikipedia) is the study of algorithms and statistical models, that computer systems use to effectively perform a specific task without using explicit instructions, relying on patterns and inference instead.
So in the context of the future of work, ML will have a supreme role in what’s called ‘transformational intelligence’ – providing an enhanced lens for people managers on, for example, how all categories of workers are engaged, qualitative insight into workforce output, skills gaps, and predictive talent requirements. Tasks that can be automated through intelligent decision making will, according to MIT, mostly result in the reorganising of jobs, rather than the replacement of jobs with machines.
ML will build intelligence over time, and enable managers to be true data professionals, and enhance their ability to make quality decisions.
The elephant in most boardrooms, there’s an innate fear that robots are coming to take over the workforce. They won’t (well, not en masse, maybe in some unskilled jobs). But like AI, they’re likely to primarily enhance and improve the workforce. The great outcome here, will be the elimination of time pressures induced from menial or admin tasks, for more strategic thinking.
What’s unknown about robots, is whether there will be transformation in their ability to deliver critical and creative thinking. We fathom a ‘watch this space’ on that one. What’s exciting is the improvement on productivity from robotics, and the positive (with much potential yet to be realised) impact on the economies of many countries.
However, there’s the flipside. According to a Pew Research Centre study, amongst this positivity, is the aforementioned fear:
“…half of these experts (48 percent) envision a future in which robots and digital agents [will] have displaced significant numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers—with many expressing concern that this will lead to vast increases in income inequality, masses of people who are effectively unemployable, and breakdowns in the social order.”
The study can be found in full, here.
Yet, treated with caution and implemented strategically, robotics WILL deliver for the workforce, and global economies: a theme in the findings from a recent Ardent Partners study, authored by Christopher J Dwyer…
The State of Contingent Workforce Management 2017-2018 research study finds that:
- Nearly 70% of enterprises believe that robotics will enable more resources within their workforce to focus on strategic activities and potential business growth opportunities
- Sixty-seven percent (67%) of businesses state that robotics […] will assist them in eradicating manual tasks and tactical operations within their workforce
- Fifty-nine percent (59%) of enterprises believe that robotics will boost the creative and design-led skillsets of its workforce.
So now what? Is the bridge to the future of work a bridge too far? Can business be brave (and perhaps radical) enough to shift culture and thinking so as to transform for the sake, not of relevancy, but survival? We think so. One thing that the digital revolution has taught all of the major economies across the globe is adaptability. In this next technological era it’s clear that business needs the willingness to not merely accept, but embrace, change.
What’s your view? How is your business poised to build a bridge to the future of work? Tell us in the comments!
CREDIT: We’d like to credit one of our #EWS speakers, the preeminent contingent workforce industry identity, Christopher J Dwyer of Ardent Partners. Chris’ recent report, The State of Contingent Workforce Management, greatly assisted us in our research for this article.