Technology has taken over the world’s most laborious and mundane tasks. Permanent employment prevails, but roles are constantly changing, and employees must constantly adapt to prevent their obsolescence.
REPORT | 4m read
November 10, 2020
Employees have the potential to retrain for something better, and work to master enough for their next promotion—but the goalposts are constantly moving.
Large companies with real-time lines of sight into every facet of their business have the greatest ability to hunt out new efficiencies and can adopt new technologies faster. This gives them an edge over smaller firms, who are forced to specialize in discrete disciplines—e.g., visual recognition, autonomous movement technologies, robotics.
Similarly, new roles have emerged to support new needs—roles such as robot trainer, AI trainer and VR manager. This is a world defined by eye-blink–quick adaptation, and a central AI department, led by a virtual Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer, is entrusted with making decisions alongside select human counterparts. The traditional role of the CEO has been completely renegotiated.
The biggest companies with control over the entire work process have the most space for finding new efficiencies and can adopt new technologies faster, which gives them an edge over their rivals. As human labor becomes more replaceable, human talent becomes more important. Someone has to build, manage, and guide the machines in every office so they are used to their fullest potential.
Roles are constantly changing, and employees often move from one role to the next as their previous job becomes obsolete. The concept of a career has become a thing of the past, and people talk about staying in a job for a “cycle” before the next job.
There is no mass unemployment, and governments have not felt the need to introduce a Universal Basic Income (UBI). However, there are fewer jobs overall, and a “hollowing out” of mid-skilled jobs has taken place as the share of low-skilled and high-skilled jobs has increased. There is also a growing divide between the mega-corporations and the remaining smaller companies in terms of the quality of employment and the level of remuneration. This has caused widening inequality in most countries, and governments have had to take action.
Churning through jobs as more positions are eliminated also requires government and private sector efforts toward retraining, lifelong education and unemployment support.
Almost three-quarters of professionals (73 percent) believe that by 2030, technology and AI will generate more revenue for their organization than human workers and will also absorb more of their organization’s annual operating costs. A similar proportion believe that in 2035, AI investment will be the biggest driver of growth for their organization.
And over half of participants believe that AI will have the potential to make the majority of business decisions by that time, removing the need for a traditional senior management or leadership team. Within growing companies, about half of surveyed leaders agreed, but only 43 percent of leaders of no-growth or shrinking companies felt the same. And there were signiﬁcant differences depending on the market: 81% of U.S. business leaders agreed with this view, compared to 29 percent of French business leaders.
AS HUMAN LABOR BECOMES MORE REPLACEABLE, HUMAN TALENT BECOMES MORE IMPORTANT.
But while over three-fourth of leaders believe that organizations will create functions like AI management departments and cybercrime response units, fewer than half of employees anticipate these business units by 2035.
Business leaders and employees can thrive together in the future of work, provided the digital disconnect is understood, explored and overcome. Without these efforts, the workplace revolution could significantly stall. The greatest caution signal thrown by our research was this: Leaders and employees disagreed on which of these four worlds would prevail in 2035.
The Platform Plugins world, with its high levels of replacement anxiety and loss of permanent positions, was identified by employees as the working model most likely to define 2035. Meanwhile, leaders put more stock in a world of Powered Productives—where permanent employment is still the bedrock of work culture and technology nudges workers to be their best selves.
To bridge this disconnect, leaders must address the signiﬁcant upskilling and augmentation that will be required to elevate their workforces, and communicate a compelling vision in which technology plays an additive—not subtractive—role in the lives of employees.
The changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed how unpredictable the future is. Few could have predicted the current moment, let alone a moment that is still 15 years away. But the research makes clear that the best world of work is ours to create. With planning and care, it will be the one that benefits both employees and organizations, and makes the day-to-day more meaningful.
of professionals believe AI will have the potential to make the majority of business decisions by 2035.