Seismic Shift: The Factors Impacting Your Nation’s Workforce (and Your Organization)

As we look into the next decade, there will be a seismic shift from the current shared view of our world from what I call the “3 Big Agitators”:

1. The First is Moore’s Law – this Law relates to the exponential advancements in technological change – in other words, technology evolves exponentially, not in increments so tech changes are big and fast.
2. The Second is population shifts as it pertains to changes in country populations and to changes in demographics including age, race, and religion.
3. The Third is pure market globalization in which organizational success is viewed and experienced on a scale in which the world is one market, rather than in the past when it was between our world’s 195 countries.

So I begin this blog with the warning to “brace yourselves” - as the days we read about in science fiction novels and thought we’d never live through are in fact, here.

The 2017 McKinsey Report on workforce^ shares that across 46 countries and in a little over a decade from now, automation will cause between 400 to 800 million workers to be displaced from their current jobs. If we think about the low end of 400 million, it’s more than the current total of all people in the U.S.  And on the high end of 800 million, it’s about the populations of the U.S. AND, France, The Bahamas, El Salvador, Haiti, Kenya, South Korea, Cameroon, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Taiwan, Ghana, Mongolia, and Tanzania. That’s a lot of people!

In fact, in the U.S., it is projected that in 6 years, we will have more robots in our military forces than humans^^.  So with technological change, and the mass deployment of robots throughout the world, McKinsey researchers have predicted that post-secondary educational attainment will be in increasing demand.  With automated-intelligence (AI) and Robotics taking on routine work, we will see expanding need for humans to manage activities that require social and emotional skills, creativity, high-level cognitive capabilities, and other ‘very human skills’ that cannot be easily replaced by technology. There will be jobs, but they’ll be different from what we know today^.

So, as leaders, how do we prepare for that change?

The answer lies in ensuring that our workers can be productive in a future of unknown possibilities, and that solution requires education and training towards:

1. strong critical thinking and problem solving,
2. adaptation and flexibility, and
3. skills’ expertise – the service or products we need may evolve, or the way that expertise is applied may shift, but the fundamental expertise will be needed.

Therefore, when we consider what we as leaders need to do to upskill workers of our organizations, cities, and countries, our ability to promote and facilitate lifelong learning will be key towards human economic viability.   For sure, workplace readiness will increasingly be needed for plug & play employees, and post-secondary education will provide new and deeper expertise, but we will also have ongoing needs for organizational training, technical schools, boot camps, community colleges, apprenticeships, internships, and of course universities.  They will all be part of the new lifelong learning continuum as we work to keep up with global competition and dynamic market needs (and those aggressive robots headed our way!).

---- As presented by Dr. Becky Takeda-Tinker at the Sister Cities 2018 International Conference held in Aurora, CO.

^McKinsey Global Institute, Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transitions in a Time of Automation, December 2017.

^^International Federation of Robotics, Robot Density Rises Globally, February 2018

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