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How do we prepare our workforce for an uncertain future?

Becoming agile and lean in the face of big change.

Around The World

@yellowteapot via Unsplash

Unleash Your People In a world where organizations are struggling to survive, how can we not only survive but retool our workforce to thrive?

  • According to a study, “Automation will displace 22.7 million US jobs by 2025.”
  • Organizations need to figure out a way to enable their employees to continuously learn, unlearn and relearn at a fast pace.
  • Governments, Corporations and Academic Institutions may have to work together to up-skill and reskill millions of workers.

There are troubling times in the industry today. Large organizations are struggling to survive. The newer and smaller entrants into the market are making the lives of the larger organizations miserable. Big organizations are like elephants. They are mammoth in size but often slow in action and movement. Small organizations are like mosquitoes. A mosquito is tiny in size but fast and agile in action. If it wants, it can make the life of an elephant miserable and an elephant can do nothing about it.

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The major driver of these rapid and disruptive changes? Technology. Agile and lean organizations that have been able to adopt new technology and new business models at a fast pace to create more value for their customers have flourished. Organizations that have shown laxity in adapting have perished. 

MireilleG via Twenty20

What is in store for our Children’s workforce generation? 

So what is happening as a result of this rapid technology adoption? It is creating never-seen-before experiences for customers. It is not only improving product and service quality but also creating revolutionary products and services which are transforming lives. But, it’s not all hunky-dory at the same time. Technology is slowly replacing human beings at the workplace, in factories, in farm-lands and so many other places. Many of the transactional, low-skilled jobs like office secretary, call center agents, translators etc. have already been taken away by machines. Now many of the white-collar and blue-collar jobs are under threat. 

will there be any jobs left for our children? What is in store for them in the future? 

tonycece via Twenty20

Let’s look at a few more examples. At the Dusseldorf Airport in Germany, robots are being used for valet parking service. Once you reach the airport, just step out of your car and press a button on a touch screen at the entrance. And then a machine lifts your car off the ground and parks it at a secure place. Robots at the Aloft hotel in San Francisco deliver towels, toothpaste, and other stuff to guests in their rooms. That is not all. Driverless cars now have become a reality. It appears that technology would virtually take away almost every possible job. According to a study, “Automation will displace 22.7 million US jobs by 2025.” So will there be any jobs left for our children? What is in store for them in the future? 

Well, it is not as bad as it sounds…     

Experts claim that while many jobs will disappear, many new jobs will be created. And that is good news. For example, if robots come to the workplace, we need experts to install them and to troubleshoot them when these artificial humans develop a snag. Repairing robots is not an easy job and it requires a specialized skill-set. Automation will spur the growth of many new jobs—including some entirely new job categories. Moreover, while technology may take away jobs in one sector, it might open up new job opportunities in another sector. Over the decades we have seen the number of people engaged in agriculture, manufacturing, etc. has been on the decline. At the same time number of people employed by IT, Hospitality, Health, Insurance, Education sectors have been on the rise. 

Some researchers are of the opinion that technology will not take away jobs but it will only transform jobs. In other words, technology will change the way we work, but it won’t necessarily take away our work. For example, now a doctor will spend more time with his patient’s counseling and advising them rather than trying to keep tons of patients’ data in his head. A Finance Head in an organization would spend less time with spreadsheets and calculators working through loads of data and spend more time on building strategy for the organization. 

Automation always keeps on creating new types of jobs and also constantly changes the mix of skills required in existing jobs. While this is good news, the two questions that remain to be answered are: 

  • 1. Will automation create enough new jobs to absorb the victims of automation itself?
  • 2. Will these new jobs be within the reach of people with average capability? 

It is clear that we are heading for exciting yet turbulent times.

These two questions lead us to the biggest irony of our times. In near future, thousands of people would become jobless and at the same time thousands of positions would remain unfulfilled in organizations. Many would lose their jobs at their mid-career stage because all of a sudden their skills would become obsolete and their current skills may not meet the demands of the new jobs. It is clear that we are heading for exciting yet turbulent times. 

So, how do we prepare our workforce for the future? 

How should we prepare our workforce for these turbulent times? Well, Business leaders, HR leaders, Policy makers, Legislators, Social entrepreneurs, Academicians and other key stake-holders must start thinking seriously about it. With old skills getting obsolete and new skills emerging as new needs, organizations need to figure out a way to enable their employees to continuously learn, unlearn and relearn at a fast pace. Traditional methods of skill-development would not be effective because of the longer cycle time. Enterprises must use crowd-sourcing, communities of practice and social learning as tools to upskill and reskill their people. HR and L&D leaders must become architects of continuous development in their organizations. They must build effective learning habits in their workforce. 

Organizations must ensure that they not only train their young workforce but also train their workforce who are in their mid-career stage. In fact, Governments, Corporations and Academic Institutions may have to work together to up-skill and reskill millions of workers in their mid-career stage (who would lose jobs) to help them find alternate and new opportunities. 

Oh GOD, Protect us in these Uncertain Times!! 

In the context of the technological revolution and today’s workforce, GOD has a different connotation altogether. Here GOD stands for: 




These three words are of great essence to our workforce today. Here are my two cents for both white collar and blue collar professionals. First of all, generate a new idea or solution. Then make your idea or solution operational by taking it to the real world and making it relevant. Then destroy your idea or solution before it loses relevance. After you destroy, prepare to generate, operate and destroy again. And let the cycle continue. Remember, if you don’t destroy, you cannot generate again. Smart professionals who gain mastery over the cycle of generation, operation and destruction would outlive the average ones. 

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