May 01, 2016

Work in the Future

There has been much discussion recently among human resource industry experts and analysis regarding the future of work. At DCR TrendLine, we’ve covered the topic as well, discussing what the American workforce will look like in 2020 in our January 2016 edition and painting a picture of the changing HR landscape last month. This month, rather than focusing solely on trends in human resources or the workforce itself, we’re examining the skills that workers will need to succeed in work in the future.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

According to a new report, titled The Future of Jobs, by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the global economy is positioned to enter new age. Advances in technology such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and genetics are having an accelerating impact on global employment trends. Socioeconomic factors such as changes in the work environment (on-demand work and remote work), global connectivity, a growing middle class, and urbanization in emerging markets are also contributing to changes in employment trends. Additionally, demographic factors such as extreme longevity also have a contribution; by 2025, the number of Americans over the age of 60 will increase by 70 percent. 

The report argues that the world is poised to enter a “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” The first revolution was driven by the use of water and steam to power machinery, and the second revolution replaced these with electrical power. The third revolution was spurred by information technology. The fourth industrial revolution is an extension of the third, using a combination of hardware, computing power, and robotics to expand information technology beyond software.

According to some, by 2020 the fourth industrial revolution will transform the way we live and work, bringing us advanced robotics and autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning, biotechnology, and genomics.

The Skills Needed by Workers in the Future

Most industry experts agree that in the future, organizations will have less boundaries, becoming more agile, global, and transparent. That, combined with the technology that will become commonplace in the fourth industrial revolution, means that many of the skills that workers need will change. According to the WEF, five years from now, 35 percent of the skills considered important in today’s workforce will have changed.

In the future, creativity will become of the top three skills that workers will need, as they will have to become more creative to benefit from the changes driven by new products, new technologies, and new ways of working. And today’s top skills such as negotiation and flexibility will drop out of the top 10 list by 2020, as machines, using masses of data, begin to make our decisions for us. According to a survey by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council, people expect artificial intelligence machines to be part of a company’s board of directors by 2026.

Top 10 Skills in 2015 vs. 2020

Top 10 Skills in 2015 vs. 2020

Source: Future of Jobs report, World Economics Forum

“According to many industry observers, we are today on the cusp of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology are all building on and amplifying one another. Smart systems—homes, factories, farms, grids or entire cities—will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change. Concurrent to this technological revolution are a set of broader socio-economic, geopolitical and demographic developments, each interacting in multiple directions and intensifying each other.” ~The Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum