Future of Work is intently discussed across the academia, industry, policy circles as also in the parents circle. This is caused due to the changes that are occurring all-around. The nature and extent of the estimated impact of these changes on the workplace activities is yet to be fully understood.
It is now widely known that many recent-past and near-future technologies have a potential to cause sizable disruption to the way economies function and are administered. In a large measure, this means future of work is going to be vastly speculative until the sudden and wholesomely diruptive change presides over the workplace. It is therefore going to be different from anything we have ever come to know thus far. And it is therefore quite timely that NYU's Leonard N. Stern School of Business and McKinsey Global Institute brought alive this with a fitting set of industry leaders, analysts and practioners in its The Digital Future of Work Summit, at New York City. This article is an attempt to summarize some of the important takeaways from the summit proceedings and leadership voices on this much pertinent topic.
So vast is the estimated impending change, as cited by some of the analysts and observers, that the future of work landscape will see significant new work-roles requiring new combination of skillsets and capabilities. There is one statistic that would (hopefully) convincingly put this entire discussion in perspective. Students, Educators, Policy makers and all stakeholders of Education and Skill Development sectors will benefit from fully understanding the import of this statistic – McKinsey Global Institute’s Director, Mr. James Manyika says, “We actually found that, something like 60% of all occupations have on (an) average 30% of work-activities in those occupations that are automatable. What does that mean? It basically means that we’re going to see more people working alongside machines... whether you call it artificial augmentation or augmented intelligence, but we are going to see a lot more of that...”
It is very much possible that as time elapses, the percentages of 60% and 30% referred to in the above quote will be headed in an upwardly direction. Given this substantial change and the direction it is likely to take, it becomes important for us to reflect on how it will impact each one of us? And what is it that we must do, so as to be able to tide over the challenges this poses to our studies, teaching, learning and careers? It is not so much of only challenges - the question ought to be: Are we ready to leverage the benefits the future-of-work presents? And what does it take to improve and enhance our readiness to leap forward, embrace change and leverage the benefits this change presents to us - individually as also collectively.
And therefore, it is necessary for us to individually as also collectively, to have more and more focused conversations on evolving an approach to meet the future. These conversations must have to be regular, consistent and continuous – it is only then that we will be in a position to consider the past, track, course-correct, and prepare for the future. Metaphorically speaking, as opposed to a one-time master plan, we will need more of an agile charter / roadmap approach. This will ultimately ensure that we - individually and collectively - are able to churn for ourselves the best of everything the future holds.
Here are presented some of the industry’s leadership voices who have reflected on this emerging scenario pertaining to future-of-work and especially, its relevance to current and future students. Do take note of what they prescribe to this generation of learners and graduates on how to approach this transition so as to succeed in satisfactorily establishing and sustaining careers and lives -
Ms. Susan Lund, Partner at McKinsey is quoted as saying here in this video that, "I think for young people today, what's clear is that they are going to need to continue to learn throughout their lifetime. The idea that you get education when you are young and then you stop. And you go and work for 40 or 50 years with that educational training, and that's it, that is over. All of us are going to continue to adapt, get new skills, go back possibly for different types of training and credentials (regularly). But I think what's very clear is that our kids need to learn how to learn. And become very flexible and adaptable"
Professor Arun Sundarajan of NYU Stern School of Business weighs in, “the future of work that a college graduate is looking at today is so different from the future of work that I looked at when I was college graduate. There is far less structure and far less predictability. You don’t know or that you can invest in a particular set of capabilities today and that they will be valuable in 20 years. We used to be able to say, well, this is the career I am going to choose. That is difficult to make today with so much change”
NYU Stern School of Business’s Professor Vasant Dhar says, “... I tell the students... it would help if you had the skills required to deal with information. Because, those are the core skills that are necessary these days to help you learn new things. So, this ability to learn things on your own, to some extent will be driven by the core skills you have... and how you can deal with information, handle and process information”
There are encouraging positive forecasts. One such study by Pearson in association with researchers from Nesta and Oxford Martin School suggests that while overhauling changes are indeed going to be a reality, the consequence of these changes may not be completely negative to workers, livelihoods and standard of living considerations. Given all this information, what must students in our campuses do to be assured of a fruitful, successful and satisfying career and life ahead?
Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America says, “I am the mother of two teenage sons, aged 18 and 20 and I think about how do I advise them all the time. So, what I tell them is it matters far less what they choose to study than the skills they build. I advise to hone creative skills. I’ve actually got an actor and a musician. So, that’s the art. But, I tell them to think about analytic skills, creative skills, human skills, the kind of self-presentation, being able to connect to others, being able to sell in the sense of persuade...”
Katherine Fleming, Provest, New York University has this to say, “They (students / youngsters) are going to need skills that they can only get by doing things. So, every time they are given an opportunity to do something they should say YES to it even if it doesn’t strike to them initially as being exactly what they want to be doing”