How to Prepare for The Future of Work

The future of work continues to change and the predictions of mass joblessness as a result of AI and robotic automation have been incredibly inaccurate. Then again, we have a feeling these people in the predicting business are behind the grim Y2K warnings of the late nineties. Some of them we hear, have even gone into predicting presidential elections. (Ahem.)

While robotic automation and AI hasn’t obliterated the job market, it does and will continue to absolutely wreak havoc on entire industries. Quite often, low-skilled wages have been replaced by higher-skilled occupations.

A team of researchers from the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Masdar Institute in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, have taken a close look at that question. In a paper called “Racing With and Against the Machine: Changes in Occupational Skill Composition in an Era of Rapid Technological Advance,” Frank MacCrory, George Westerman and Erik Brynjolfsson of the MIT Sloan School and Yousef Alhammadi of the Masdar Institute studied the U.S. government’s O*NET database of occupational skill requirements in 2006 and 2014 and analyzed the types of skills that jobs required in both years. Their paper was named the best conference paper at the 2014 International Conference on Information Systems.

The researchers found that there were significant changes in skill requirements over the 2006-2014 time period. For example, as machines’ capabilities have increased in areas such as visual perception and voice perception — think Google Inc.’s self-driving car project or Apple Inc.’s Siri — jobs in the U.S. have started requiring those skills less. And as computers take over more routine work, jobs involve less supervision of people (since more and more people are, in effect, supervising machines rather than humans). For instance, the researchers note that in the past, an architect might have supervised draftsmen; today’s architects instead work with CAD software.

By contrast, some job skills have grown in importance — in particular, the ability to work with equipment such as computers. Demand also grew for skills in some areas in which machines haven’t made many inroads. The average occupation in the U.S. in 2014 more heavily emphasized interpersonal skills — an area where computers can’t yet compete with humans — than a comparable job in 2006.

Even more important than the specific changes in job skills, however, is what the changes augur for the future. The authors advise that, given the extremely rapid progress taking place in digital technologies, people in all lines of work should strive to be flexible about acquiring new skills and even about changing their occupations.
Companies too need to be forward-looking to ensure they aren’t left behind by their competitors – in case they automate too slowly. The future of work is guaranteed to be an evolving target. All markets will be in constant upheaval.

Just one simple example is chatbots – they allow any website to have 24×7 human-like support meaning they could potentially be selling around the clock with little human interaction. When the AI gets tripped up, like all artificial intelligence invariably does, it needs to “kick” out the conversation to skilled humans who can pick up where the computers left off.

The interesting point here is the computers will take a larger share of the customer and prospect interactions but the sheer number of interactions could skyrocket, meaning even more agents are needed as a whole – people with superior skills to today’s contact center agents.

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A new intelligence is emerging in the workplace and workforce.

It will continue to change everything. Every company leader and management team needs to be aware of what is coming and how to prepare.

The best place to become informed is The New Intelligence Event where there will be a strong focus on The Future of Work as well as other important topics like AIOps and Adaptive & Intent based networking.

The future continues to arrive sooner than we think and luck favors the prepared. Prepare now – register today.

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