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3 Dangerous ½ Truths (Lies) We Tell Ourselves About the Future of Work

Big Thinks March 2021 Tracy Levine, Forbes Coaches Council

60% of future jobs haven’t been developed yet and 40% of nursery-age children (kindergarteners) in schools today will need to be self-employed to have any form of income.

Robots are here. It is no longer a prediction for the future but a reality of today. Robots are already taking jobs in every industry and at every level. The pace of automation continues to accelerate as technology edges closer to emulating portions of human intelligence. Yet, in my coaching, I see people stubbornly hang onto old beliefs, theories, frameworks, and templates that are increasingly disconnected from the reality of rapid technology advancement. The following are the top dangerous 1/2 truths people tell themselves and others about the future of work.

Colleges were "founded at a time when industries needed workers with a relatively fixed set of skills and knowledge, it is losing its relevance in an era of innovation, disruption and constant change, where adaptability and learning agility are most needed."

The conventional view of many is that education provides a means by which anybody may obtain a high-paying job. This time-honored wisdom is being tested. Around 53% of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. The unemployment rate for recent college graduates exceeds that of the general population, and about 41% of recent college graduates are working in jobs that do not require a college degree.

As jobs disappeared in 2020, many students applied for MBA programs hoping to ride out a bad economy. While the economy has contributed to a tight job market, it is not the only reason jobs are hard to find. The automation of many jobs will continue. Artificial Intelligence (AI) already outperforms humans at entry-level jobs typically performed by graduates and is increasingly taking high quality jobs. College graduates will continue to compete for a shrinking number of jobs.

Does this mean college is not valuable? Not necessarily. Curriculum matters. Every student needs a deeper foundational understanding of data, digital tools, technology, and basic programming language skills for the new jobs that will be created. Internships are not as crucial as creating portfolios that showcase data, digital, and technology skills applied in a dynamically changing environment. Freshman students’ technology skills will not be the technology skills they will need their senior year to enter the job market.

Until colleges design more flexible learning paths, many students will have to build a parallel learning track outside of college to keep up with the skills needed to be employed. Many of these skills will have to be self-taught and do not have formal certificates or learning programs. According to Gartner, “43% of candidates today are self-taught in one or more of their role’s requirements.” The skills needed are changing too quickly to formalize everything.

“We’re using AI to identify exceptional people from all walks of life that have remarkable ability to actually be very rapidly retrained to not just be good engineers but the very highest-performing, most successful engineers in the industry. So we’re literally hiring truck drivers and teachers, retail workers and fast-food workers ... and very rapidly, within 20 weeks, getting them through a computer science degree and getting them into not just actual jobs but proving they can be highest performers in those roles.”

According to Gartner, “HR leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to quickly find and develop talent with the most in-demand skills, yet 58% of the workforce needs new skills to get their jobs done.” The vast majority of business leaders- 94% – now expect employees to pick up new skills on the job. Companies are pivoting to hiring people with an intentional learning mindset.

In a dynamic, knowledge economy, hiring employees with an intentional learning mindset is critical. Intentional learners approach learning as integrated and ongoing, not a moment in time or outside of everyday events. Intentional learners have strong curiosity,  adaptability, and self-management skills to embrace the changes rather than fight them. They are also willing to go further than just scratching the surface to learn about new ideas or new technology and stretch beyond their comfort zone. Constant upskilling and employee digital and technology dexterity will outweigh tenure and experience.

Robots interacting with Clients

"Machine bosses will replace human bosses by 2030. Algorithms that boss employees around, also known as robobosses, will be responsible for assigning work based on skill sets. Robobosses will also decide whether employees will get a promotion and what their salary increases will be."

Measuring employee performance by surveillance was originally left to managers. In recent years, there is a growing trend toward quantifying employees’ productivity.

Low-skill workers have been monitored and evaluated by technology for a few years now. Warehouse workers have been monitored by cameras and other tracking tools for efficiency and productivity. AI technology monitors hotel housekeepers, telling them which room to clean and tracking how quickly they do it. And when the workforce went remote, more companies started embedding tracking and other monitoring in computers and phones to measure productivity.

The Future of Work Will Be Better and Different Than the Work of the Past!

technology and people connectedCompanies are increasingly turning to what Deloitte calls the Open Talent Economy, a collaborative, transparent, technology-enabled, rapid-cycle way of doing business. The Open Talent Economy is used to address skill gaps, leverage a dynamic workforce, and make quick business pivots when new opportunities arise.

Deloitte states the Open Talent Economy brings a balance of power back into the employer and employee relationship. Because “employers and employees now seek each other out on a playing field that is broader and more level than ever before.”

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