As our world changes, things like Coronavirus start to shape our world into a more automated, work-at-home, connect-through-video-conference lifestyle. I have people asking me about where I see automated solutions in traditional engagement areas, like lobbies, visitor centers or other high traffic areas. The facts are there will be several shifts that I can see, one is a tendency to rely on automated services like home delivery and online media models. Second, when we do go to areas, we will start to move toward interacting with technology rather than a human being. Note this is already very popular with anyone under 30 years of age, currently. With other concerns now with health and overall media coverage, we will also see another shift and that is how the workforce that manages these areas uses technology. We have been put on a fast track and countries like China will be leading this cause out of necessity. However, this is all inevitable either way. We are going to continue to automate our industries and touchpoints. This will not only provide new opportunities to engage, but also to expand that fact that it doesn’t all have to be bad. We can still connect human-know-how and intelligence, and I am not talking just about AI.
Here are some things to consider and some more details I have researched that might be interesting as this shift becomes more and more apparent. As well, I took research specifically about the changing workforce as these technologies take hold.
- In any industry if you are not looking at ways to automate and provide 24×7 service, you will be behind your competition. Augmenting staff with technology has persisted since the industrial revolution but now we can personalize this customer-facing experience through technology.
- Products you will want to consider
- Interactive screens/kiosks in areas where guests need and want instant information. Providing ways to allow the customer how they want to engage and easily share information to mobile, while providing tools to engage in brand and experience as they choose.
- Mobile: Not a responsive website, but a tool that will allow you to engage with travelers and consumers. PWA can connect them with upcoming offerings, products, details, notifications and this will be light and easy on their device (See PWA solutions).
- Digital ways to connect.
- Integrated video conferencing to allow travelers guests or customers to connect instantly to an expert or advisor. This solution can live on either of the solutions above.
- Digital Signage may also have new possibilities as you look to inspire and direct travelers and customers to areas and increase their knowledge of the great things to do
- Workplace tools.
- Providing new ways for workers to engage with AI and connect them to a vision of automation. Training them for the future of how they can drive value with interactive solutions..
- Learning new technology providing new opportunities for your employees to understand their role in updating and managing technology. This includes content and ways to drive value in a virtual world.
- CRM, CMS and PoS systems are a good starting point to get them used to engage with backend systems so they can understand the relation of this data to touch and engagement of your traveler and customer.
- Rethink the organization. I have put more detail below per my research that I thought might be valuable. After all, this isn’t just about technology this is about a shift in how employees and workers will have to prepare for the future.
The Changing Workforce Study
The more things change the more they stay the same, what is happening is no less than what happened in the industrial revolution, the adoption of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will mark an acceleration over the shifts of even the recent past. The need for some skills, such as technological as well as social and emotional skills, will rise, even as the demand for others, including physical and manual skills, will fall. These changes will require workers everywhere to deepen their existing skill sets or acquire new ones. Companies, too, will need to rethink how work is organized within their organizations.
This briefing, part of our ongoing research on the impact of technology on the economy, business, and society, quantifies time spent on 25 core workplace skills today and in the future for five European countries—France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom—and the United States and examines the implications of those shifts.
- How will demand for workforce skills change with automation?
- Shifting skill requirements in five sectors.
- How will organizations adapt?
- Building the workforce of the future.
How will demand for workforce skills change with automation?
Over the next ten to 15 years, the adoption of automation and AI technologies will transform the workplace as people increasingly interact with ever-smarter machines. These technologies, and that human-machine interaction, will bring numerous benefits in the form of higher productivity, GDP growth, improved corporate performance, and new prosperity, but they will also change the skills required of human workers.
To measure skill shifts from automation and AI, we modeled skill shifts going forward to 2030—and found that they accelerated. 1).
All technological skills, both advanced and basic, will see a substantial growth in demand. Advanced technologies require people who understand how they work and can innovate, develop, and adapt them. Our research suggests that through 2030, the time spent using advanced technological skills will increase by 50 percent in the United States and by 41 percent in Europe. We expect the fastest rise in the need for advanced IT and programming skills, which could grow as much as 90 percent between 2016 and 2030. People with these skills will inevitably be a minority. However, there is also a significant need for everyone to develop basic digital skills for the new age of automation. We find that among 25 skills we analyzed, basic digital skills are the second-fastest-growing category, increasing by 69 percent in the United States and by 65 percent in Europe.
The need for finely tuned social and emotional skills will rapidly grow. Accompanying the adoption of advanced technologies into the workplace will be an increase in the need for workers with finely tuned social and emotional skills—skills that machines are a long way from mastering. In aggregate, between 2016 and 2030, demand for social and emotional skills will grow across all industries by 26 percent in the United States and by 22 percent in Europe. While some of these skills, such as empathy, are innate, others, such as advanced communication, can be honed and taught. The rise in demand for entrepreneurship and initiative taking will be the fastest growing in this category, with a 33 percent increase in the United States and a 32 percent rise in Europe. The need for leadership and managing others will also grow strongly.
There will be a shift in demand toward higher cognitive skills. Our research also finds a shift from activities that require only basic cognitive skills to those that use higher cognitive skills. Demand for higher cognitive skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, decision making, and complex information processing, will grow through 2030, by 19 percent in the United States and by 14 percent in Europe, from sizable bases today. However, work activities that require only basic cognitive skills, such as basic literacy and numeracy, will decline as automation advances. Basic data-input and -processing skills will be particularly affected by automation, falling by 19 percent in the United States and by 23 percent in Europe in the 2016 to 2030 period. The decline will be in nearly all sectors as machines increasingly take over straightforward data-input tasks.
The need for most physical and manual skills will decline, but they will remain the largest category of workforce skills. The demand for physical and manual skills has been declining for 15 to 20 years, and this decline will continue with automation. Between 2016 and 2030, demand for these skills will fall by 11 percent overall in the United States and by 16 percent overall in Europe. The mix of physical and manual skills required in occupations will change depending on the extent to which work activities can be automated. For example, operating vehicles or stocking and packaging products are more susceptible to automation than are assisting patients in a hospital or some types of cleaning. Physical and manual skills will nonetheless continue to be the single largest category of skills (measured by time spent), shrinking from 31 percent of workers’ time in 2016 to 25 percent in 2030 across the United States and Western Europe.
Our survey shows that the functions that are already the most automated are experiencing the largest skill mismatches. These functions include data analytics; IT, mobile, and web design; and research and development (Exhibit 2). This finding holds true across almost all sectors, with the notable exception of manufacturing, in which skill mismatches are expected to be largest in production and manufacturing operations.
Smart automation and AI will continue to reshape the revenue and margins of retailers as self-checkout machines replace cashiers, robots restock shelves, machine learning improves prediction of customer demand, and sensors help inventory management.
The share of predictable manual jobs, such as driving, packing, and shelf stocking, will substantially decline. Jobs that remain will tend to be concentrated in customer service, management, and technology deployment and maintenance. Demand for all physical and manual skills and for basic data input and processing will decline, while growth will be strong in demand for interpersonal skills, creativity, and empathy. Advanced IT skills and programming alongside complex information processing skills will also see a surge in demand.
How will organizations adapt?
To harness the new technologies to their full effect, companies will need to retool their corporate structures and their approaches to work. That change will require redesigned business processes and a new focus on the talent they have—and the talent they need.
Indeed, more than 17 percent expect their workforces on both sides of the Atlantic to grow. The composition of jobs and skills will shift, however. Some jobs will shrink after automation, while others will expand. And about 6 percent of companies foresee an overall decline in the size of their European and US workforces.
Our findings suggest that organizations will change in five key areas—mindset, organizational setup, work-activity allocation, workforce composition, and C-suite and HR understanding and functions.
Companies will undergo a mind-set shift
A key to companies’ future success will be in providing continuous learning options and instilling a culture of lifelong learning throughout the organization. In our survey, this cultural change was ranked by companies across most sectors as the change most needed for developing the workforce of the future.
Basic organizational setup will change, with a strong shift toward cross-functional and team-based work and an emphasis on agility.
More than one in five survey respondents said that introducing more agile ways of working will be a high-priority organizational change, and a similar proportion described more cross-functional collaboration as a key going forward. Unlike traditional hierarchies, which are mainly designed for stability, agile organizations are designed for both stability and dynamism. They typically consist of a network of teams and are notable for rapid learning and fast decision cycles.
Allocation of work activities will be altered, with work being “unbundled” and “rebundled”
Altering work allocation will allow companies to make the most effective use of different qualification levels in their workforce. In our survey, 40 percent of companies describing themselves as extensive adopters of automation and AI expect to shift tasks currently performed by high-skill workers to lower-skill ones. Unbundling and rebundling work raise company efficiency and can also create a new set of middle skill, “new-collar” jobs. For example, registered nurses and physician assistants now do some of the tasks that primary care physicians once carried out, such as administering vaccinations and examining patients with routine illnesses.
Workforce composition will shift
More work will be done by freelancers and other contractors, a shift that will boost the emerging “gig” or “sharing” economy. In our survey, greater use of various types of freelancers and temporary workers is one of the top organizational changes; 61 percent of respondents expect to hire more temporary employees.
Changes will occur in C-suite and HR areas
In our survey, 19 percent of respondents said their top executives lacked sufficient understanding of technologies to lead the organization through the adoption of automation and AI. In addition, HR will need to change as technology alters the way organizations work as well as the size and nature of the workforce. Nearly all business leaders we surveyed (88 percent) said they believe HR functions will need to adapt at least moderately.
Building the workforce of the future
Companies will need to choose from the following five main types of action as they build their future workforce:
- Retraining. Retraining involves raising the skill capacity of current employees by teaching them new or qualitatively different skills and hiring entry-level.
- Redeployment. Companies can redeploy workers with specific skills to make better use of the skill capacity already available to them. They can do this by unbundling the tasks within a job and then rebundling them in different ways, by shifting parts of the workforce to other tasks that are of higher importance or to other entities, or by redesigning work processes.
- Hiring. Acquiring individuals or entire teams of people with required skill sets is another option—although the supply of talent in the market might be insufficient for all companies to pursue this strategy. The total cost of hiring might be lower than some of the other options, including retraining, depending on the skills needed.
- Contracting. Companies can deploy skills brought in from outside the organization; for example, they can use contractors, freelancers, and temporary workers from staffing agencies.
- Releasing. Releasing employees might be necessary in some companies, particularly those in industries that are not growing very rapidly and in which automation can substitute for labor in a significant way. Often, this strategy can be accomplished by reducing or freezing new hiring while allowing normal attrition and retirement to proceed or by reducing the work hours of some employees.
Skill shift: Automation and the future of the workforce
For now, many companies tend to think in isolation about their retraining programs. For example, in our survey, only 37 percent of respondents considered it important to build partnerships with educational institutions for effective retraining, compared with 47 percent who planned to perform retraining internally. At the same time, a range of higher-education institutions and other experts have called for universities, colleges, and other educators to play a more active role in filling the needs of the labor market, including by increasing data-science and other high-tech courses.
Industry associations and organized labor
Working together as social partners, associations and unions have traditionally played central roles in training efforts in several European countries. Both sets of stakeholders have potentially significant roles to play in addressing shortages of certain skills and retraining in the automation era.
Policy makers will need to clarify the roles of individuals, companies, and state agencies. Examples of such action include revamping labor agencies; several European countries, including Germany, have changed the way their national labor agencies operate by shifting public-employment policy from “passive” (unemployment compensation) to “active” (employment agencies becoming job centers that manage and facilitate retraining of the unemployed). Other initiatives include boosting mobility by moving to portable benefits, which are not tied to a particular job or company and are owned by workers.
Not-for-profit organizations and foundations
Not for profits have the flexibility to develop innovative approaches to issues relating to skills, and some have been testing novel approaches. Markle, for example, is piloting a program called Skillful that aims to help workers without a college degree upgrade and market their skills.
Skills are a key challenge of this era
A well-trained workforce equipped with the skills required to adopt automation and AI technologies will ensure that our economies enjoy strengthened productivity growth and that the talents of all workers are harnessed. Failure to address the demands of shifting skills could exacerbate social tensions and lead to rising skill-and-wage bifurcation. The ability to ensure the former scenario—and ward off the latter—will depend in large part on how well the workforce is trained and how adaptable companies and workers will prove to be in the face of multiple new challenges from automation adoption.
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