Today’s Dream, Tomorrow’s Workplace: Are We Prepared?

How might transformative technologies such as AI and robotics shape the workplace of tomorrow?

The first installment of the Future of Work addressed how people identify the concept of a career. This second installment will discuss how technology is transforming the workplace of tomorrow. According to a PwC research study, 38% of jobs in the USA, 30% in the UK, 35% in Germany, and 21% in Japan will be handled by robots and AI by 2030.

Now, does this mean that people displaced from these jobs will be unable to support themselves? Or will this shift reinvent how our society functions?

With the AI revolution, some experts believe the average work week will shorten to 15–25 hours or less, as workers will no longer be responsible for low ROI tasks. They say most blue-collar jobs will become automated, and people will become valued for soft skills. CFOs will have more time to think about strategy and digital innovation. Essentially, the automation transformation could create untapped opportunities for organizations. With people no longer limited to extraneous manual labor jobs, they could instead focus on subjects of their interest.

In their book, Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI, Accenture leaders Paul R. Daugherty and H. James (Jim) Wilson discuss how new jobs will be categorized into trainers, explainers, and sustainers. While trainers will not necessarily require a background in software engineering, having a background in psychology or philosophy might be beneficial. Explainers will be tasked with conveying why machines do what they do—research shows that new GDPR rules in Europe already require about 75,000 new data compliance officers just to explain customers’ algorithmic decisions. Finally, sustainers will manage the ethical tradeoffs to determine the best course of action for business and society.

Note that all of these roles—trainer, explainer, and sustainer—can be done remotely. For various reasons, more and more people seem to prefer working from outside the office anyway. This reduces the need for expensive office space, simultaneously raising demand for foreign language proficiency and interpersonal communication skills to work with virtual teams.

This leads us to interpersonal dynamics. More people may prefer to work from home, but what about those who crave the social community of the workplace? How will coworkers of the future bond if they are located all around the globe? Organizations will have to find a way to maintain team spirit—and understanding between teams—as people work remotely with less hierarchy.

The future of corporate culture and organization

Humans are born with an extraordinary array of skills: empathy, communication, improvisation, and blending of logic. The “consciousness” of AI, though ever evolving, is generated outside of an organic brain and cannot fully replace its human counterpart—at least not yet. On the other hand, machines excel at data sorting, transactions, predictions, and anything else that requires repetition or can be set into an algorithm. Organizations will need to find that sweet spot to collaborate the unique intelligences of humans and machines. This might mean less hierarchy, less HR intervention, and more focus on impact over working hours.

Together with the rising availability of remote work, new technology is emerging to help women and other minorities enter the workforce. Take Textio, for example, an augmented writing platform that can analyze the text in job descriptions to determine bias. Blendoor, a similar form of technology, eliminates the idea of a “culture fit” for a blind approach to hiring. By flagging biased language and expectations, these apps can help companies draw in a wider applicant pool.

What does this mean for Japan?

Japan’s population is declining at an alarming rate. Add that to the fact that 21% of jobs will be automated by 2030, and it’s clear Japanese corporations have some challenges ahead.

To start with, companies will have to restructure to facilitate remote work, utilize blind hiring, and create training programs for trainer, explainer, and sustainer roles. While this may seem like a lot, it comes with opportunities for organizations to look into areas of business that they may not have considered before.

The faster Japan creates a parallel industry to its outstanding technology sector, the sooner it will see a boost in the economy that will make the transition to a future workforce much more manageable.

 

Top photo credit: iStock.com/metamorworks

 

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