Much has been written about the future of work—how jobs may change, which types will be eliminated, which new ones will be created, and what organizations and institutions must do to prepare for the changes ahead. But because technology is constantly evolving, there will always be something new to report.
Case in point: The Future of Work in America, a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute that explores automation’s potential effects on jobs in the United States. Among the key takeaways:
- According to previous McKinsey research, less than 5 percent of occupations can be entirely automated, but within 60 percent of jobs, at least 30 percent of activities could be automated. Put another way, “What lies ahead is not a sudden robot takeover, but a period of ongoing and perhaps accelerated change in how work is organized and the mix of jobs in the economy,” the report states.
As machines take over routine and some physical tasks, the demand for work requiring emotional, creative, technological, and other cognitive skills will grow. All workers will need to adapt.
- The report points out one “worrisome trend”—the hollowing out of middle-wage jobs. According to the research, middle-wage jobs could decline by 3.4 percent by 2030. At the same time, McKinsey estimates that employment in the highest-wage jobs could grow by 3.8 percent—but only if workers acquire the necessary education and skills.
According to McKinsey, this issue is critical—creating career pathways to help people move up and finding sources of future middle-wage jobs is “essential to sustaining the US middle class.”
It’s also essential to organizational success. For business leaders, that means directing focus on learning and development. According to McKinsey, employers will be the natural providers of training and continuous learning opportunities. Here are five ways to get started:
- Make learning—reskilling, upskilling, and continuous—a top priority.
- Use data, feedback, and other methods to determine individual and organizational learning needs.
- Concentrate on employees’ skills instead of their job descriptions. By doing so, it will be easier to forge new pathways for reskilling, upskilling and development.
- Take the lead: Don’t wait for employees to ask about learning and training resources. Provide a range of options and make sure every employee knows how to find them.
- Stay vigilant: Learning is not only critical to success, it is fast becoming a continuous and lifelong endeavor. Make sure you provide your employees with the knowledge and resources to keep up.
The good news is that learning budgets are growing and business leaders are increasingly seeing the strong connection between learning and performance. Organizations that work to fully understand the link will be better equipped for success in the future, both near and far.
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.