This was the third in a 13-week series of highlights from the broadcasts of HR Trends, a special edition of Coffee Break with Game-Changers on the business channel on Voice of America Internet talk radio. Industry experts will be discussing a variety of topics that are trending in HR today, such as this one on technology in the workplace.  /wp-content/uploads/2014/09/graham4_player_wide_546689.jpg

Are we creating a lost workforce? One in which those with semi-skilled roles are left by the wayside? That was the topic of this week’s radio broadcast among expert panelists including Charles E. Firestone, executive director Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and Bill Briggs, Chief Technology Officer of Deloitte Consulting LLP. They were joined by Dr. Stephen Hunt, Senior Vice President of Customer Value at SuccessFactors.

How technology is changing people and their jobs

This week, the panelists offered several insights on how they see technology changing people’s jobs in the work place – and here, in no particular order, are a few of the most interesting ones.

  • Every company is a technology company. Technology is creating an unprecedented time of innovation – to the point where every company is a technology company. A company can’t separate its business or innovation strategy from its technology strategy.
  • Technology is changing faster than people are evolving. With each advancement, technology reduces some jobs while it creates others. And sometimes it does this in unimaginable ways. All of this is forcing people to change and grow faster, which can be an issue because not all people are wired for continuous learning.
  • The semi-skilled jobs are being eliminated. Technology tends to create jobs and fuel economic growth, but in the process, semi-skilled jobs are eliminated. This leaves two distinct labor groups – the highly skilled running the technology and the very low skilled in service-type occupations. This is creating a big gap, and unfortunately, it’s hard to move from one group to the other because the semi-skilled jobs are where people used to learn on the job.
  • More than technology is needed. The technology folks need core technological capabilities, but they also need design and artistry – taking STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to STEAM (with the addition of creative Arts). It’s all about creating the sparks of what tomorrow could look like, so it’s important to fuel creativity to find new questions to ask and new patterns not yet seen.
  • A leadership willing to take risks is key. Today’s leadership is risk-averse, with a keen focus on efficiency and shrinking budgets – and there is no tolerance for failure. But when companies advance towards things that can’t be anticipated, there is some natural risk involved.
  • Globalization is a major influence. Jobs will be lost to globalization because businesses can now take jobs to the person, rather than bringing people to the jobs.
  • Reskilling is a necessity. As technology continues to displace people and create new kinds of jobs, reskilling programs will be key. Soon people will be trained for jobs that are not even defined today.
  • The yin and yang of the five-year mark. Today, the average tenure in a job is five years (and getting shorter), but significant advancements take longer than five years to build, scale, and get out into the world. This creates a leadership challenge, and it’s creating a leadership style that runs companies through sheer force of will and relationship building.

The crystal ball: What will be trending around technology in the workforce in 2020?

Here are the predications from each expert on what the trends will continue to affect technology in the workforce:

  • Firestone believes that skilled and intelligent workers will leverage technology to a great extent, and consequently, prosper. The growing unskilled segment will lead to a greater divide in terms of income and wealth, which Firestone says is worrisome. He also pointed out that this is a global issue, and there will be a lot of new employment around the world in places where people will be elevated from extreme poverty.
  • Briggs predicts that the leading companies will reconstitute themselves dynamically as they understand, harness, and use new technologies to disrupt – and by doing so, they will become the new Fortune 100. He reiterated that companies need to take into consideration people’s passions and harness them to do work differently, giving them a chance to retool and reskill.  
  • In Hunt’s view of the future, the skilled laborers – of which there will be a shortage – will have a meritocracy, regardless of location, and life’s going to be really good for them. He also thinks that there will be little tolerance for bad management practices, because companies will need to effectively engage and retain these skilled employees. As to the unskilled, he’s “nervous,” as he believes there will be a growing number of disenfranchised people. But he’s optimistic, and sees technology being used to bridge the gap and “skill [the unskilled] up.” 

You can hear the full broadcast on the workforce and technology here, including more on the role of leadership in this challenge. Listen to other recent HR Trend Radio Shows, including ones on what baby boomers want and workplace collaboration here.

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