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Cleaning in the Digital World - the time for action is now2nd of November 2016
We are today at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Developments in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and 3D printing are all growing. And smart systems will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change. These disruptive changes to business models will profoundly affect the employment landscape over the coming years. That’s according to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEC) on The Future of Jobs.
This article is from ECJ's new Cleaning in the Digital World special supplement.
Disruptive changes to business models will have a profound impact on the employment landscape over the coming years, says the World Economic Forum (WEC) report entitled The Future of Jobs. Many of the major drivers of transformation currently affecting global industries are expected to have significant impact on jobs – ranging from significant job creation to job displacement, and from heightened labour productivity to widening skills gaps.
In many industries and countries the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate. By one popular estimate, 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.
In such a rapidly evolving employment landscape, the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the effect on employment is increasingly critical for businesses, governments and individuals.
We are currently at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Developments in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and 3D printing are all growing. And smart systems will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change. These disruptive changes to business models will profoundly affect the employment landscape over the coming years.
The WEC’s research covered chief human resources officers (CHROs) in the largest employers around the world. They were asked about new and emerging job categories and functions they expect to become critically important to their industry by the year 2020. Two job types stand out.
The first are data analysts, which companies expect will help them make sense and derive insights from the torrent of data generated by technological disruptions. The second are specialised sales representatives, as practically every industry will need to become skilled in commercialising and explaining their offerings to clients – either due to the innovate technical nature of the products themselves or because of new client targets with which the company is not yet familiar, or both.
Drivers of change
In terms of the drivers of change, changing nature of work and flexible working are top in the demographic and socioeconomic category at 44 per cent. Next was the growing middle class in emerging markets, at 23 per cent. Also mentioned were climate change, ageing societies, rapid urbanisation and consumer ethics. The key technological driver is mobile internet and cloud technology, at 34 per cent. Second was processing power and Big Data, at 26 per cent. Internet of Things, sharing economy, artificial intelligence, robotics and 3D printing are also factors.
In this new environment business model change often translates to skill set disruption almost simultaneously. Respondents reported a tangible impact of many of these disruptions on the adequacy of employees’ existing skill sets can already be felt in a wide range of jobs and industries today.
Changes in skill sets
Even jobs that will shrink in number are simultaneously undergoing change in the skill sets required to do them. Across nearly all industries the impact of technological and other changes is shortening the shelf-life of employees’ existing skill sets. For example technological disruptions such as robotics and machine learning – rather than completely replacing existing occupations and job categories – are likely to substitute specific tasks previously carried out as part of these jobs, freeing workers up to focus on new tasks and leading to rapidly changing core skill sets in these occupations.
On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today. Overall, social skills such as persuasion, emotional intelligence and teaching others will be in higher demand across industries than narrow technical skills. In essence, technical skills will need to be supplemented with strong social and collaboration skills.
Several industries may find themselves in a scenario of positive employment demand for hard-to-recruit specialist occupations with simultaneous skills instability across many existing roles. At the same time workers in lower skilled roles may find themselves caught up in a vicious cycle where low skills stability means they could face redundancy without significant re- and upskilling even while disruptive change may erode employers’ incentives and the business case for investing in
The report found many business leaders are aware of the looming challenges but have been slow to act decisively. Just over two-thirds believe future workforce planning and change management features as a reasonably high or very high priority on the agenda of their company’s senior leadership. However many are also aware of the limitations to their current planning for disruptive change and its implication for the talent landscape.
A number of promising approaches appear under-used across almost all industries. For example, focus on making better use of the accumulated experience of older employees and building an ageless workforce barely register among proposed workforce strategies. There also seems to be varying openness to collaboration, whether within or across industries.
Recent discussions about the employment impact of disruptive change have often been polarised between those who foresee limitless opportunities in newly emerging job categories and prospects that improve workers’ productivity and liberate them from routine work, and those that foresee massive labour substitution and displacement of jobs. Both are possible.
Pace and scale of disruption
During previous industrial revolutions, it often took decades to build the training systems and labour market institutions needed to develop major new skill sets on a large scale. Giving the upcoming pace and scale of disruption brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, however, this is simply not an option. Without targeted action today to manage the near-term transition and build a workforce with future proof skills, governments will have to cope with ever-growing unemployment and inequality, and businesses with a shrinking consumer base.
The talent to manage, shape and lead the changes underway will be in short supply unless we take action today to develop it. It is therefore critical that broader and longer term changes to basic and lifelong education systems are complemented with specific, urgent and focused reskilling efforts in each industry