The world is becoming increasingly disruptive and especially in the wake of the 2020 pandemic the digital adoption process has accelerated.
This digital adoption has generated a great impact on the work environment, as it has empowered digitization to cover new social realities through new paths and solutions. At a time when uncertainty is generated in society, we must establish a labor framework that brings benefits to all parties involved: citizenship, business and administration.
We can see that, throughout history, the end of work has been announced on many occasions when what ended up happening is that it was modified and adapted to the social and economic reality of the moment. This is also what is happening now and what heralds important social changes.
But this is just an accelerating trend: already in 2016, the World Economic Forum noted that more than half of the people studying at the time would end up working in jobs that did not yet exist.
It is no surprise that the labor market carries a speed and capacity for change much higher than the educational one, leaving behind training focused on rigid knowledge and training content. Professional careers that contemplate competencies linked to innovation and adaptability and are able to operate in digital environments will move away from this obsolescence.
Polarization of work
Technology will undoubtedly be an important niche for new jobs and will improve the quality of some existing jobs, while jobs that are dangerous or repetitive will be automated. We will move to a polarized model in which, on the one hand, we will have more skilled jobs and, on the other, jobs related to service activities, with low or medium skill requirements.
Within the skilled jobs we will be able to see: information security analysts, Internet of Things (IoT) specialists or process automation specialists, among others. On the other hand, the jobs will be, for example, sales or content production.
Technology will undoubtedly be an important niche for new jobs and will improve the quality of existing ones.
Men and machines: new labor couple
The World Economic Forum’s 2020 report on the future of work indicates that, by 2025, some 85 million jobs may be replaced by machines, but that 97 million will also emerge adapted to this new machine-human configuration. Thus, rather than setting a limit on the number of jobs, it seems that what we can really expect is a real transformation of the labor sector.
With the incursion of machines, routine, dangerous or process-accelerating jobs will be automated and, on the other hand, new jobs will be generated for their design, creation, handling and supervision. Therefore, if the global trend is towards technologization, to think that computer scientists should be inserted in all labor sectors is illogical, as we are currently seeing.
Technological skills are being added to traditional professions to make them capable of operating in digital environments. For example, a doctor who can operate with a robot, a policeman who keeps watch through a drone or a neighborhood textile store that is able to sell online.
In 2017, the consulting firm McKinsey & Company posited as a possible scenario that, in 2030, between 75 and 375 million workers will have to change their professional categories. This will require acquiring a higher level of education or developing social and emotional skills of creativity, critical thinking, and so on. In short, skills that are difficult to automate.
This is also reflected in other reports, such as the World Economic Forum’s 2020 report, which indicates that competencies such as critical thinking, problem solving, stress tolerance, resilience and flexibility will become enormously important for companies.
These types of competencies give workers an advantage over technology, as they are necessary for job development and are fundamentally human and difficult for machines to replicate. Therefore, it is these competencies that we must enhance and not try to imitate or beat technology in more automatable tasks. The improvement of skills and professional retraining are gaining importance and are essential for adapting to the new labor change.
We will not change people for robots, we will change the way we work.
We are facing the fourth industrial revolution, which is transforming society and the global economy and is characterized by more affordable and smaller technology, a ubiquitous internet, artificial intelligence and the machine learning. But this complex, disruptive and eminently technological scenario requires, and will require, new jobs. Some already exist (artificial intelligence specialists, e-commerce platform developers), others are hardly imaginable without a prospective study.
The distribution of these technologization processes will not be homogeneous either sectorally or geographically and, consequently, neither will the distribution of jobs. Rather than robots replacing humans, it seems that the trend will be for humans to work with robots. In other words: we will change the way we work.
This idea includes our way of relating to work and our consideration of work. Other global trends, not necessarily technological, include project work, results orientation and environmental awareness, among others.
Employees are people and suffer from human problems such as burnout or job frustration. This can lead to job resignation tendencies, even in times of uncertainty.
The one trend that seems constant in a changing work scenario is its clear link to what it thrives on: people.
Consequently, individually considering our labor projection, attending to technological and social megatrends, will place us in a better position in the future labor market. In turn, employers and human resources managers should consider these megatrends in the management of their teams, assuming that, first and foremost, they are people.
This article was originally published in Fundación Telefónica’s Telos magazine.
Michelle Madeline Cámara Mora, Professor of the Department of Criminology and Security, Universidad Camilo José Cela
This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original.
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