Lately if you’ve watched anything filmed in 2019 or earlier that showed a busy workplace, you might have felt caught in a time warp. “That was pre-pandemic,” you may have told yourself. “It doesn’t look like that anymore.” You may have also wondered a little nostalgically if it will ever look that way again.
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict the workforce of tomorrow will function, think and produce in ways that are much different from the traditional model. What will the changes be? The answer to that question depends both on what’s happening with the current workforce and what high school and college aged individuals are experiencing today.
Even if the first COVID-19 infection never happened, the way people work was already changing. Artificial intelligence was already replacing grocery store checkers, assembly-line workers, proofreaders and market research analysts. Technology also made it easier to outsource tasks to contractors, hire people who lived in another country and work outside the office.
The powerful forces of globalization and artificial intelligence were already reshaping work. Children who started middle school five years ago had already begun experiencing the world through virtual reality, personalized intelligent tutoring and machine-assisted collaboration. Brands looked to technology to assist in their struggle against employee disengagement and to unpack the growing mountains of available data.
Pandemic-induced disruptions accelerated the change that was already happening. As we struggled to understand the long-term repercussions, organizations like the World Economic Forum, Harvard Business School and Deloitte created reports analyzing the current situation and predicting how it would affect tomorrow’s workforce. Here we summarize some of their key findings.
Expect Continued Acceleration
Vaccine development isn’t the only thing traveling at warp speed. Technology adoption is expected to snowball. Businesses that a few years ago were content with the way things always were are now researching cloud computing, e-commerce, data encryption and artificial intelligence.
Lockdowns and economic concerns drove companies to rely more heavily on machines. Artificial intelligence doesn’t get sick, spread germs or need time off to help with online learning. It never shows up to a virtual meeting in sweatpants and doesn’t ask for ergonomic equipment for the home office.
Where before technology adoption and task automation seemed intimidating and expensive, it became a necessity. Now a larger percentage of the work done by humans is accomplished by machines.
Tomorrow’s Workforce is Rethinking Options
If you talk to high school and college age groups, you’ll find they’re looking for opportunity, but not always along traditional pathways. Around half of surveyed Gen Z members (those born between 1997 and 2012) say they’re interested in something other than a four-year degree. They’re worried a college degree might bury them under a mountain of debt, that they might not be able to find a good job even with a degree and that they might not have the skills they need even if they do find work in their desired field.
Gen Z is the most populous generation since the Baby Boomers. Older members currently make up 24 percent of the global workforce.
Training, Reskilling and Upskilling Will be Key
What is tomorrow’s workforce saying today?
- 29 percent say they are less likely to attend a four-year university because of the pandemic
- Almost a fourth of them say they don’t intend to continue their formal education after high school
- 38 percent say they feel companies should pay for some form of continuing education
- 61 percent say obtaining skills-based education might be a better way to achieve the success they desire
Gen Z and Millennials have thinking and working patterns in common. They want to make a meaningful contribution, to have flexibility in their schedule and to receive recognition for their efforts. Gen Z members are digital natives, and pre-pandemic were predicted to be the most educated generation. They’re more comfortable with technology than older generations will ever be.
They’re interested in learning skills that will help them get ahead, and they’ll be attracted to companies that can help them achieve those goals. Because the economic landscape will continue to shift, holding a four-year degree in one subject might not be as important as the ability to develop proficiency at tasks as they appear.
Takeaways for Employers
One of the best ways to future-proof your workforce is to think now in terms of reskilling and upskilling. Start doing so now to keep existing employees engaged, attract the right kind of talent and prepare for periods of rapid change.
When you need the right person with the right skills now and you don’t have time to send someone through an extended learning program, call Brelsford Personnel. We match East Texas companies with workers who already have the skills needed to get the job done. Contact us online today.