Environmental analysis (SLEPT) and planning - Future of Jobs Report 2018 (impact of technology)

This report “Preparing the future workforce” is an important read for leaders of professional services firms (PSFs). Marketing professionals should consider it as part of their environmental analysis (SLEPT) and planning. Commercial advisers and employment lawyers will no doubt find the information of value. HR professionals will be interested in the impact on their workplace strategy and strategic human resource plans. The most interesting aspect is that whilst significant use of technology for automation is predicted, more new jobs (in new roles) are anticipated than lost jobs.  And sales and marketing professionals appear to be in the stable jobs category.

About the research

The global companies involved in the research employed 15 million people – of which 1.3 million were in professional services. In addition to general trends there are industry and country trends.

The report focuses on the structural impact of technology on existing and future jobs (the Fourth Industrial revolution) with a five year outlook. It considers how technology augments existing roles to free up people from the majority of data processing and information search tasks and supports them in high value tasks such as reasoning and decision making – i.e. increase productivity.

The international research focuses on:

  1. Mapping the transformation currently underway
  2. Documenting shifting work tasks and skills required in the workforce for 2022
  3. Understanding aims and priorities for training, reskilling and upskilling

Impact on business growth

The report shows the top 10 issues to impact business growth positively and negatively to 2022:

Positive impact on business growth Negative impact on business growth
Increasing adoption of new technology Increasing protectionism
Increasing availability of big data Increase in cyber threats
Advances in mobile internet Shifts in government policy
Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) Effects of climate change
Advances in cloud technology Increasingly ageing societies
Shifts in national economic growth Shifts in legislation on talent migration
Expansion in affluence in developing economies Shifts in national economic growth
Expansion of education Shifts of mindset among the new generation
Advances in new energy supplies/technologies Shifts in global macroeconomic growth
Expansion of the middle classes Advances in artificial intelligence (AI)

Many of the issues are seen as both threats and opportunities: “Even as technological advancements pose challenges to existing business models and practices, over the coming years, these same dynamics of technological change are set to become the primary drivers of opportunities for new growth”.

Adoption of new technology 

Technologies by proportion of companies likely to adopt them by 2022:

  • 85% User and entity big data analytics
  • 75% App and web-enabled markets
  • 76% Internet of Things
  • 73% Machine learning
  • 72% Cloud computing
  • 59% Digital trade
  • 58% Augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR)
  • 54% Encryption
  • 52% New materials
  • 46% Wearable electronics
  • 45% Distributed ledge (Blockchain)
  • 41% 3D printing
  • 40% Autonomous transport
  • 37% Stationary robots
  • 36% Quantum computing
  • 33% Non-humanoid land robots
  • 28% Biotechnology
  • 23% Humanoid robots
  • 19% Aerial and underwater robots

The report also states “There are complex feedback loops between new technology, jobs and skills”.

Stable, new and redundant roles and skills

There is a detailed table showing the stable, new and redundant roles. Happily, stable roles include: MD and CEO, data analysts, sales and marketing professionals.

“Jobs expected to become increasingly redundant over the 2018-2022 period are routine-based, middle-skilled white-collar roles such as data entry clerks, accounting and payroll clerks, secretaries, auditors, bank tellers and cashiers”.

“Also expected to grow are roles that leverage distinctly “human” skills such as customer service workers, sales and marketing professionals, training and development, people and culture and organisational development specialists as well as innovation managers” .

There is also an interesting analysis of the ratio of human-machine working hours.

Amongst the trending skills in demand are: analytical thinking and innovation, active learning and learning strategies, creativity, technology design and programming, critical thinking and analysis, complex problem-solving, leadership and social influence, emotional intelligence, reasoning and systems analysis.

The report argues that there is a reskilling imperative: “Central to the success of any workforce augmentation strategy is the buy-in of a motivated and agile workforce, equipped with futureproof skills to take advantage of new opportunities through continuous retraining and upskilling”.

“Companies anticipate that, over the 2018-2022 period, on average around half of all retraining will be delivered through internal departments, about one quarter through private training providers and about one-fifth through the public education institutions”. 

There are also breakdowns to show technology adoption, effects on the workforce and emerging and declining roles by industry – including professional services. “While professional services industry respondents expect that the changes afoot are more likely to lead to an expansion of their workforce”

Other highlights

  • Four specific technological advances – ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet, artificial intelligence (AI), widespread adoption of big data analytics and cloud technology – are set to dominate the 2018-2022 period as drivers positively affecting business growth.
  • A cluster of emerging roles will gain significantly in importance over the coming years, while another cluster of job profiles are set to become increasingly redundant
  • Applied to our sample, the above numbers would suggest a decline of 0.98 million jobs and a gain of 1.74 million jobs. Extrapolating to global workforce one of these estimates that 75 million jobs may be displaced by the above trends, while 133 million additional roles may emerge concurrently.
  • Respondents expect increased job creation in such project-based, temporary and freelancing roles.
  • Two investment decisions, in particular, will be crucial to shaping the future of jobs: the question of whether to prioritise automation or augmentation and the question of whether or not to invest in workforce reskilling.
  • Most automation occurs at the level of specific work tasks, not at the level of whole jobs.
  • The next wave of labour-augmenting automation technology could lead to an average labour productivity increase across sectors of about 30% compared to 2015 with some significant variation by industry.
  • Employers surveyed for this report estimate that, by 2022, no less than 54% of all employees will require significant reskilling and upskilling.

The full report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) can be downloaded here: https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2018

Other blogs on SLEPT include:

Marketing planning process

Law Society SLEPT analysis