In a recent online poll conducted by the Future Fit Academy on LinkedIn on what worries people most about the future world of work, 41% of respondents are stressed about having to acquire new skills, while 32% are concerned that humans may become irrelevant as machine learning and AI make rapid inroads into work roles traditionally done by humans. Interestingly, 22% of respondents are worried about hybrid work and isolation.
The Future Fit Academy ran an online poll where the following question was posed:
What worries you most about the future world of work?
Just on 100 respondents ranked their key concerns according to four key categories, with the following results:
|What worries you most about the future world of work?|
|Humans may become irrelevant||32%|
|Hybrid Work and Isolation||22%|
|Need to acquire more skills||41%|
|Changes I will need to make||5%|
Dr Eric Albertini of the Future Fit Academy unpacks the key concerns of respondents, as well as provides context and solutions for the mounting stress many people face in a rapidly changing world of work.
“The common denominator in all these concerns is the impact that technology is having on work and the skills sets needed to remain relevant now, and in the future. Even after two and half pandemic years of monumental change, people are struggling to cope – not so much with the concept of change – but rather with the uncertainty that goes with it,” says Dr Albertini.
Will humans become irrelevant?
“There are many raging debates on the fourth industrial revolution that revolve around the threat posed by new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics to jobs and the human way of life. But the reality is that technology and ‘being human’ have been operating together and alongside each other for decades. Machine learning has for years been automating certain jobs and repetitive functions – and creating thousands of new jobs in the process. The pessimism that machines will replace humans is largely unfounded – in fact, a study by Manpower Group that surveyed 19000 employers across 44 countries showed that only 9% of employers believed that humans would become irrelevant. However, what will be ‘replaced’ are the types of skills needed to remain relevant in a changing world of work,” says Dr Albertini.
“The Manpower report shows that the companies investing in the most autonomous technologies are also creating the most jobs! Simply put – investing in new technologies helps organisations grow and progress, which in turn results in more jobs being created. Of course, the nature of jobs and work will change. All organisations must reskill and upskill their people to transition into new roles in high growth industries. Likewise, individuals will need to invest in their development and reskilling too and embrace a learning and agile mindset. It is by focusing on upskilling and reskilling people, practically and at scale, that organisations and their people can embrace the improvements and efficiencies that machines bring to the business and to job roles – it’s a case of both/and rather than either/or,“ he adds.
The need to acquire more – and new – skills
Much has changed at home and at work in the last 30 months. Many people are embracing hybrid work arrangements and advancements in technology have been a significant factor that enabled this to happen. Specialised interpersonal skills will be in high demand in the new hybrid workplace. Businesses have also found that they can benefit from using technology to augment human intelligence, not replace it.
More recently, tech giants such as Google have brought people back to the office full time. This is a huge indicator that the future of work does not lie in technology — it lies with people, according to Entrepreneur magazine (May 2022).
What has changed though, is the type of skills that people and businesses will need going forward. The Manpower Group report reveals that “candidates who can demonstrate higher cognitive skills, creativity and the ability to process complex information, together with adaptability and likeability, can expect greater success throughout their careers. By 2030, demand for human skills – social and emotional soft skills – will grow across all industries by over 26% across the world.” Not technical, academic skills – but soft skills!
The Manpower Group report also suggests that jobs will grow in frontline and customer facing, engineering and management roles. All of these roles require distinctly human skills, such as communication, negotiation, empathy, intuition and leadership. These are not skills that can come from linear, rules-based machine learning.
“Granted, technology will make certain skills and competencies less important – think physical skills, logical reasoning and rule-based decision making – this is already happening at scale in insurance underwriting as just one example. On the flipside, other technology will actually see emotional intelligence, foresight and creativity more in demand. The bottom line is, we must evolve our human skills and competencies to compete in the new world of work.
Recent LinkedIn data shows that the skills sets for jobs have changed by around 25% since 2015 – and by 2027 that number is expected to double. That means that your job is changing, even if you aren’t changing jobs – just as business demands are changing even if you’re not changing your business. The World Economic Forum estimates we will need to reskill more than 1 billion people by 2030,” says Dr Albertini.
Traditional hiring practices will need to change too, where the focus needs to be more on skills and less on degrees according to the World Economic Forum. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) further estimates that more than one billion jobs, or almost one-third of all jobs worldwide, are likely to be transformed by technology in the next decade.
“The good news is that many of the top skills in fast-growing and higher-paying roles are similar to skills in other fields – so there is a high transferability of skills across different job functions. For example, a cashier has 70% of the skills needed to be a customer service representative, and a driver has 57% of the skills needed to become a supply chain associate. These are predominantly the so called soft-skills – such as adaptability, connectedness to self and others, the ability to be empathetic, tolerance of ambiguity, and many more. These are the focus of the Future Fit Academy. The challenge of soft skills is that they are much harder to teach and to learn, but they can be developed,” he adds.
Hybrid Work and Isolation
Unprecedented levels of hybrid work seem likely to continue beyond the pandemic which didn’t ‘create’ hybrid work, but certainly ‘microwaved’ or accelerated its adoption. While employees are loathe to relinquish some of the benefits of flexibility in their work arrangements, remote or hybrid work has its downsides that go beyond domestic distractions and blurred work-life boundaries.
“The concerns noted around hybrid work and isolation are absolutely valid. The quality, frequency, and nature of interactions change when colleagues are physically remote and there is less dynamic, spontaneous communication. Neuroscience research has found that only in-person interactions trigger the full suite of physiological responses and neural synchronization required for optimal human communication and trust-building, and that digital channels such as videoconferencing disrupt our processing of communicative information,”explains Dr Albertini.
“Research does indicate that hybrid work causes a feeling of loneliness and hybrid workers feel less connected with a lowered sense of belonging. Again, it is a range of soft skills that would build the ‘muscle’ required by hybrid workers to get the best out of hybrid work models for both themselves and their employers,” he concludes.
- Machines to ‘do half of all work tasks by 2025’. BBC New, October 2020 https://www.bbc.com/news/business-54622189
- In the Future of Work, Humans Will Still Be Wanted. Forbes, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/adigaskell/2019/03/04/in-the-future-of-work-humans-will-still-be-wanted/?sh=79a1c2dc3b1e
- Why humans will remain central to the future of work. WEF, 2019. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/why-humans-will-remain-central-to-the-future-of-work/
- The Future of Work is Still Ultimately Human https://globalnetwork.io/perspectives/2019/08/future-work-still-ultimately-human
- Skill shift: Automation and the future of the workforce https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/skill-shift-automation-and-the-future-of-the-workforce
- What is the future of work? Technology or People. Entrepreneur, May 2022. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/425013
- Here’s Why the World of Work Urgently Needs to Put Skills First. World Economic Forum. March 2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/03/work-skills-first/
- The Loneliness of the Hybrid Worker. MIT Sloan Management Review. May, 2022. https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/the-loneliness-of-the-hybrid-worker/