Blog: The New Collar, Future of Work


The New Collar, Future of Work

Any economic inflection point comes with the loss of jobs. But we tend to ignore that such inflection creates more jobs than we lose
The New Collar, Future of Work

So you have heard that Robots are taking away jobs. You assumed that the jobs being taken away will be your neighbors and you would be miraculously saved. Should we call you naïve? Or should we blame the common narrative of Unemployment vs. Different employment?  

Let me be upfront and state that any economic inflection point comes with a loss of jobs. But we tend to ignore that such inflection adds net new jobs and creates more jobs than we lose. Yet, we tend to focus on the negative narrative as it makes a better copy. Fear trumps optimism in media or politics as we see in many nations. A fact is that technology drives the creation of many more jobs than it destroys over time, mainly outside the industry itself. 

Keynes, the famous economist wrote 100 years ago that, “We are suffering, as we make a painful transition from one type of economy to another.” We have had many templates but this time, it will be the hardest ever for the following reasons: First, in the history of mankind, the biggest inflection point which multiplied our economy manifold was when the physical human effort was augmented with motoring. This allowed us to increase the output like never before. Yes, jobs were lost, fear was high, there were protests and push back from all segments, including a socio-political revolution. Yet, we are where we are. Second, today, we are at the 2nd such inflection point of mankind when the human thinking power will get multiplied manifold with quantum computing, AI & Machine Learning (commonly referred to as the 4th Industrial revolution). And third, this transition will be harder than all three before as we are twice the size in population now, and this wave will disrupt the normal a lot more. 

Here are a few facts drown fear narrative: In the last 5 decades, work-hours have dropped by half, giving us more leisure time and the economy has grown manifold; at a minimum, 250 million net new jobs will be created by 2030 with the 4th Industrial Revolution, with an optimistic upside of another 250 million, even the personal computing wave added 10 million net new jobs just in the US; and the third industrial wave showed us that new jobs are created even as population grows —the 3rd Industrial revolution saw a doubling of women in the workforce in just the western economy. 

So this revolution is not a story of only unemployment but of different employment. We know it is here. Yes, we also will hurt in many ways largely due to our own doing including poor socio-political investments, denying that change is happening or need to brace up, lower learning investments among others. So, why blame an unknown when we do it to ourselves. 

More than 1/3rd of the working population will find new work that we haven’t defined yet or which even have a name! Companies which practice rigorous Human Capital Strategy tend to be 2x better prepared than the others. Every new job requires a higher level of education than was previously needed. Now that we know it, how many of us with access will take personal accountability? Yet we continue to play politics like in the USA where white collar voters feel left out in the growth wave. 2/3rd of them will need mass re-skilling programs, yet the best model is in Singapore which works on a #skillsfutureinitiative.

About half a billion or more will be displaced from current jobs, the largest in the history of civilization and that is what makes it complex. China will face the biggest brunt of this. Yet if you see in the last 2 decades, per capita STEM investments have stagnated or been lowered by most countries. 

The sequence of the above job losses can be contained if the cycle of getting re-skilled, finding new careers, education catching up, happen in synchronicity. The gaps in these initiatives lead to social disharmony, wealth gaps and large swathes feeling disenfranchised. However, the first wave of productivity boost does not always get passed on to the consumer. Wages tend to stagnate for a bit before picking up as companies investing in them absorb all productivity gains. So personally, as companies or individuals, we either under-invest, tend to live in denial or assume the tornado will hit the next home and not ours. 

CXOs, Practitioners and Human Capital Strategy should consider these 7 trends:

Complex Cognitive ability: Jobs of the next decade will require this in abundance. Look at some of our climate change issues or health risks or food shortages we stare at with the population growth

Flat Generation: We are done talking millennials. Careers of 80 percent of the workforce are built across organizations and loyalty is only to learning and craft of the day. There is one Flat generation being swept by a Digital wave. You are either riding it or washed out. So the traditional leadership programs and succession plans need to be agile and innovatively dealt with. 

Rise of Gig Economy: Sharing is not limited to Uber only. Individuals are not enthused by fancy offices, permanency of benefits or retirement benefits. Work needs to be thought-off in packets; and engagement is here and now. Like we map customer journeys, workplace benefits need to be hyper-personalized and contextualized to employee journeys to people who prefer gigs. 

Climate will affect socio-political and geo-political dynamics more than ever. New wars, people migration and economy growth spurts will be affected by climate unseen before. 

Women account for half of the workforce participation but only contribute to 1/3rd of GDP. Are we missing a trick by not leveraging feminine traits of leadership and focusing only on the inclusion of gender?

The new disabled and diversity hiring is “digitally disabled”. This individual who either didn’t know this was coming or lived in denial will be the new one who needs help from governments or companies to re-integrate into the future workforce. Individuals entering the workforce today should be prepared for two to three radical career shifts coming from by a similar number of redundancies. 

Companies need to build new capabilities – workforce transitions, mid-career skill gap training and life-long learning abilities that are management-enabled. So, how do companies create a sense of urgency and avoid the mistakes of the previous three revolutions? 

The last vector in this, which generally lags behind is the formal education sector — picking the old curriculum and applying some make-up to it is the biggest flaw in the approach. 50 percent of students don’t seem to believe that college education adds value to their employment abilities. Employers find <50 percent of their future workforce employable and available. Yet, 75 percent of education industry believes they are doing a great job. Can’t be a bigger ‘head in the sand’ syndrome than this. 

What can you do as individuals is to accept the below tenets and avoid the “head in sand” syndrome?

There are tons of new jobs that will need higher education than you have today. 

What you study today is irrelevant in 5 years.

Commit to life-long learning and no one is going to help you more than yourself. Governments, companies can enable you if you find access. 

We have three waves before this and we all know the fourth wave is bigger than all others. History and civilization has a lot of learning for us to adapt and adopt. The onus of change is on the individual and all others can only enable you. Where do you want to be? By the way, did someone announce that the wave has started and is only gaining momentum? I will see you at the other end of it in 2030. 

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Topics: Technology, HR Technology

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