Why we need to completely retrain or reskill workers to tackle technology’s impact on employment

Workers believe personal skills will remain in demand despite automation.

Almost three quarters (74%) of people surveyed by PwC are ready to learn a new skill or completely retrain to keep themselves employable, and see this as their personal responsibility and not that of their employers.

The findings are from PwC’s latest report, Workforce of the future: the competing forces shaping 2030, which includes findings from a survey of 10,000 people across the UK, Germany, China, India and the US. Their views reinforce a shift to continuous learning while earning, so employees can keep up with technology’s impact on jobs and the workplace.

The report examines four worlds of work in 2030, to show how competing forces, including automation, are shaping the workforces of the future. Each scenario has huge implications for the world of work, which cannot be ignored by governments, organisations or individuals.

Gerald Seegers, Head of People & Organisation for PwC Africa, says: “We are living through a fundamental transformation in the way we work. Automation and ‘thinking machines’ are replacing human tasks and jobs, and changing the skills that organisations are looking for in their people. These momentous changes raise huge organisational, talent and HR challenges – at a time when business leaders are already battling with unprecedented risks, disruption and political and societal upheaval.”

Achieving the right mix of people and machines in the workplace and the implications for business is the critical talent issue facing organisations today. According to PwC’s annual Global CEO survey 2017, 52% of CEOs (Africa: 53%) say that they are considering exploring the benefits of humans and machines working together in the workplace. In some sectors, automation has already replaced some jobs entirely.

According to our Workforce of the future report, the majority of respondents believe technology will improve their job prospects (65%) although workers in the US (73%) and India (88%) are more confident, than those in the UK (40%) and Germany (48%). Overall, nearly three quarters believe technology will never replace the human mind (73%) and the majority (86%) say human skills will always be in demand.

Maura Jarvis, Associate Director, at People & Organisation PwC, says: “The shape that the workforce of the future takes will be the result of complex, changing and competing forces. Some of these forces are certain, but the speed at which they can unfold can be hard to predict. Regulations and laws, the governments that impose them, broad trends in consumer, citizen and worker sentiment will all influence the transition toward an automated workplace. The outcome of this battle will determine the future of work in 2030.”

While respondents to the survey were positive about the impact of technology, with 37% excited about the future world of work and seeing a world full of possibilities, there is still concern that automation is putting some jobs at risk. Overall, 37% of respondents believe automation is putting their job at risk, up from 33% in 2014. And over half (56%) think governments should take action needed to protect jobs from automation.

Jarvis further adds: “The megatrends are the tremendous forces reshaping society and with it, the world of work: the economic shifts that are redistributing power, wealth, competition and opportunity around the globe, the disruptive innovations, radical thinking, new business models and resource scarcity that are impacting every sector.

“Businesses need a clear and meaningful purpose and mandate to attract and retain employees, customers and partners in the decade ahead.”

The four worlds of work in 2030

The report presents four future scenarios – or worlds – for work in 2030, to demonstrate the possible outcomes that might evolve over the next ten years due to the impact of megatrends, artificial intelligence, automation and machine learning. It looks forward to examining how workforces in each of these worlds have adapted, as well as how technology is influencing how each of the worlds function.

Our four worlds of work are each markedly differenct, but through each runs the vein of automation and the implications of robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

As more individual tasks become automatable through AI and sophisticated algorithms, jobs are being redefined and re-categorised. It’s clear that automation will result in significant reclassification and rebalancing of work.

Automation will not only alter the types of jobs available but their number and perceived value. Those workers performing tasks which automation can’t yet crack, become more pivotal – and this means creativity, innovation, imagination, and design skills will be prioritised by employers. Jarvis adds: “None of us can know with any certainty what the world will look like in 2030, but it’s very likely that facets of the Four Worlds will feature in some way and at some time.” Some sectors
and individuals are already displaying elements of the various worlds.

Those organisations and individuals that understand potential futures, and what each might mean for them, and plan ahead, will be the best prepared to succeed.

This article was submitted from PwC.

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