What if the breakthrough of artificial intelligence in our societies were to contribute to making us ‘more human’ at work? Or even to make us realise how precious and worthy our humanity is? Recent reports from several experts and institutes tend to suggest so. Interviewed by the Pew Research Center 1, Susan Price, digital architect at Anaconda Inc. 2, sums up this phenomenon: “Machines will increasingly be assigned to tasks for which they are better equipped than humans, such as computing, data analysis and logic. Those requiring emotional intelligence, empathy, compassion, discernment or creative judgement will then expand and become more valuable. »
So, what will be the jobs of tomorrow and how do we see the future?
Projections to be taken with caution
What will tomorrow’s jobs look like? It is difficult to say, as the report by The Institute For The Future 3 shows, according to which 80% of students currently at school will be doing a job that does not yet exist. Certainly, the automation of many tasks is likely to lead to the disappearance of a large number of traditional professions. In January 2017, a study by the McKinsey Global Institute already indicated that in 60% of existing jobs, our current technologies would make it possible to automate 30% of the tasks required to perform them… But how to interpret this information?
What jobs will be available tomorrow?
While there is no doubt that some types of jobs will be replaced by machines, 30% or more automation of a task does not mean that the job in question will disappear: it will change considerably.
This is why experts agree that it is wrong to think that there will be a shortage of work.
Secondly, the progress of artificial intelligence will lead to the creation of many new jobs: from artificial intelligence to augmented reality and virtual reality, technology will impose new needs requiring human supervision and will also allow for the ideation of services that we don’t even have the idea of yet!
Let’s add to that all the jobs in the making around the themes of sustainable development, waste management, optimising our energy consumption… but also support for our ageing population and other personal services.
In terms of new jobs, we predict the advent of cyber-city analysts, augmented reality architects, robot educators, urban agriculture professionals, and a granularisation of communication jobs in an increasingly connected world, where information circulates in real time and where the right to forget and to make mistakes is diminishing by the day. Let’s hear it…
Which jobs are under threat tomorrow?
The Sapiens 4 Institute recently listed five jobs that are destined to disappear:
- Bank and insurance employees: estimated extinction between 2038 and 2051.
- Accounting clerks: estimated extinction between 2041 and 2056.
- Office and management secretaries: estimated extinction between 2053 and 2072.
- Cashiers and self-service employees: estimated extinction between 2050 and 2066.
- Handling workers: estimated extinction between 2071 and 2091 (considered among the most arduous and least secure occupations by DARES).
Should we be concerned? No. But keeping informed is. A good way to follow trends and find out what companies need is to consult the annual BMO (manpower needs) surveys conducted by the French employment agency: the most recent one ranks computer specialists second, just behind home helpers and housekeepers, in the top 15 of jobs in demand… And a glance at the top 10 most in-demand jobs shows that catering, entertainment, artists, and truck drivers (while we wait for the autonomous car…) are well and truly part of the jobs of tomorrow.
What should you do then, if your job seems likely to be completely replaced in the medium term by the machine? Become aware of your value and remain confident: in every job, there are skills and qualities that will allow you to pivot sufficiently to preserve your employability! On condition, however, that you are ready to evolve and work while accepting to exploit all the possibilities offered by the machine, by digital technology and/or AI…
A labour market in transition
Working will mean learning
The jobs of tomorrow are also changing in essence. Twenty years ago, the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman conceptualised the term ‘liquid modernity’ to refer to our present world, as opposed to solid modernity in which stable and lasting institutions prevailed and the notion of a career within a single company still had meaning.
The individual of the 21st century must constantly adapt to the uninterrupted flow of socio-economic innovations, driven by the speed of technological innovation.
Faced with this phenomenon, hyper-specialisation is becoming obsolete in favour of a hybridisation of skills and a capacity for adaptation and constant learning. According to a recent report by Burning Glass 6, a marketing manager with traditional skills earns an annual salary of around $71,000, while a marketing manager who masters SQL (a programming language used to operate databases) earns an annual salary of around $100,000… Hence the importance of training, again and again.
In this context, we can assume that companies will increasingly resort to coworking spaces which are keen to provide the opportunity to learn, exchange or train directly in the workplace.
The exponential importance of soft skills in tomorrow’s jobs
Faced with this global paradigm shift, in which it will henceforth be less a question of mastering a specific, concrete skill than of having the right frame of mind, we are hearing more and more about the importance of developing one’s soft skills. The term refers to psychological qualities that are human in nature: curiosity, creative thinking, critical thinking, communication and listening skills, empathy, or a certain propensity to develop and maintain harmonious interpersonal relationships.
These assets will become indispensable for navigating a world in constant turmoil marked by disruption. Since tools and practices are evolving at a speed unprecedented in human history, tomorrow’s employee will need to have sufficient psychological and cultural resources to be able to bounce back from the new circumstances that will frame his or her work.
Intercultural awareness in all the professions of tomorrow
Management positions will be the most subject to this need, as Simon Gottschalk, a professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Nevada, argues: “Unstoppable qualities at the top will include in particular the ability to network, manage public relations, demonstrate cross-cultural sensitivity, and more generally what the author Dan Goleman would call ‘social and emotional intelligence’. This also includes creativity, and just enough critical thinking to think outside the box. »
The intercultural sensitivity noted by Simon Gottschalk is indeed a real issue at a time when physical barriers are being erased in favour of the ‘global village’ (Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, 1967), and many companies have seen their image tarnished by the failure of their leaders in this respect.
Challenging the traditional HR paradigm
In such a context, the human resources industry will inevitably have to evolve to adapt to these structural changes. Hitherto very pragmatic, they will have to become more strategic, since it will no longer be a question of employing people on the basis of their degree of specialisation, but rather on the basis of their profile and their soft skills. It will therefore be imperative for human resources professionals to be able to understand and anticipate the business challenges facing companies.
The profession will be faced with another major and increasingly delicate challenge: employee retention. According to a study carried out by Deloitte in 2018 on the relationship between Millennials and their work, it appears that they do not see themselves in the same job for more than two years. Another important characteristic of this generation, a source of turnover, is the attachment to inclusiveness and intercultural sensitivity: 69% of respondents would be prepared to stay for more than five years in a company said to be diverse, compared with 27% in a non-diverse company.
Like the communication sector, the human resources sector will undergo a strong granularisation in order to respond as well as possible to the complexity of these new challenges. And this is all the more true as many AI-packed applications will be made available to HR to assist them, particularly in recruitment and monitoring the well-being of employees…
Some new professions are already emerging, from the employee experience or candidate experience specialist, to the performance coach, to the organisational psychologist or the head of technology selection.
If the vocational training sector is pivoting to meet the challenges of tomorrow, what about our education systems? According to the Pew Research Center 1, without a reversal of the traditional educational paradigm, they risk becoming obsolete by 2026. The main challenge for education now lies less in the instruction of concrete knowledge and more in the instruction of lifelong learning. The report by Burning Glass5 calls on educational institutions to “think outside the box”. In the meantime, the web is seeing an increase in the creation of online programmes and training courses, which are conducive to the lifelong learning of the employee of tomorrow.
So it’s up to you to act!
Sources & notes :
1 – The Future of Jobs and Jobs Training, Pew Research Center, 2017.
2 – Leading open source innovation company for machine learning development.
3 – Californian think tank instigating research with a predictive dimension, making it possible to understand the complex changes of the new economy and to define strategies on a global scale.
4 – The impact of the digital revolution on employment, Sapiens Institute, 2018
5 – The Hybrid Job Economy: How New Skills are Rewriting the DNA of the Job Market, Burning Glass, 2018.
6 – Deloitte Millennial Survey: Millennials disappointed in business, unprepared for Industry 4.0, Deloitte, 2018.