Walker/talkers & data detectives: This is what the future of work looks like.
The words ‘Artificial Intelligence’ can conjure up futuristic images of robots coming to take over our jobs – and doing them better than us, at that. But the truth is, we are working alongside AI seamlessly already, often without being aware of it. For instance, in your email communications, AI is used to make sure correspondence is authentic, and to filter messages – and even suggest replies, like ‘I’m in!’ or ‘All good, thanks’.
Then there are music and retail recommendations; AI lies behind all these algorithms. Airline autopilot, autonomous transportation, fraud, stock markets, X-rays – the list goes on. Ask Alexa– she’ll give you many more examples. And she should know, being a virtual assistant, driven by AI.
It’s clear then, that the robots aren’t coming, they’re very much here. And it’s led to anxiety as to what the future holds for the human workforce. How will we all make a living when a machine can always do a better job? And how will companies cope in this digitally super-charged environment? In actual fact, work has always changed – just ask a former travel agent, a secretary or a switchboard operator. Checkout cashiers will no doubt disappear altogether in just a few years.
However, we will always possess qualities that robots cannot, such as imagination and
ingenuity. Machines will also take over human work that’s killing creativity. And that can only be a good thing. It’ll be less about robots versus humans and more about human-bot collaboration. New skills sets, attitudes and expectations will be needed.
But there are exciting times ahead, and a world of opportunity for open, forward thinking businesses – so say digital specialists.
“In the future, work will change but won’t go away. Many types of jobs will disappear. Many workers will struggle to adjust to the disappearance of the work they understand and find it hard to thrive with work they don’t understand. Wrenching transformations – which is what the future of work holds for us all – are never easy. But a world without work is a fantasy that is no closer to reality in 2017 than it was 501 years ago upon the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia,” according to Ben Ping, Vice President, Director of Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work.
So, what are the new jobs that will emerge in the future? It’s certain that many will evolve out of this new landscape. Digital experts at Cognizant have deciphered three categories these jobs will fall into: coaching (helping people get better at things), caring (improving health and wellbeing) and connecting (man and machine for the greater good). And that’s because as humans, we will always want the human touch. Technology yes, but as a means, not the end.
Cognizant’s far-reaching study has evolved out of extensive research and analysis of
economic political, demographic, societal, cultural, business and technology trends. And its findings lift the lid on what certain jobs may look like. Take the Financial Wellness Coach job, in the coaching domain – needed following the explosion of digital banking, and the potential damage it has on our financial fitness. Leveraging the power of advanced technologies, this adviser would improve a person’s financial acumen so they didn’t fall into financial debt. Then there’s the Walker/Talker role, falling into the caring category. Acting as a companion for the elderly at present is the domain of family or care nurses, and this is often medically-led. But as our population becomes more ageing, loneliness may become an endemic problem. A Walker/Talker would be a conversational companion, at home or out and about, using a connected platform for logging on and off shift – Uber-style. And we mustn’t overlook the roles in the connecting sphere – that will be true protagonists in the future. Jobs such as ‘Data Detective’ that will decipher what our data is telling us and what secrets it contains. Across the board, the theme is consistent: human jobs are not diminishing, they will just be different.
“What’s often overlooked in examining the big picture of employment levels is the growth of new jobs. We believe that there will be almost 21 million new jobs, about 13% of the current U.S. labor force, directly created as a result of the growth of the new machine. In case these numbers – 19 million jobs disappearing and 21 million jobs being created – sound implausible, keep in mind, as a point of reference, that since 2010, during the years of the post-Great Recession recovery, 15 million private sector jobs have been created in the United States,” says Francisco D’Souza, CEO of Cognizant.
So, now we know the lay of the land – as in, an apocalypse is not just around the corner – what do organisations need to do to prepare for this? What’s more, what happens to
companies that don’t engage and master the work ahead in becoming digital? The appetite is there: 99% of executives believe business analytics will have a strong impact on work. But the important key ingredient here is that organisations can’t just do digital in this new space, they need to be digital. This will guarantee not only survival, but the ability to thrive. This means looking holistically at your company from the inside-out, and making digital change across the board, from strategy to models, to socio-economics and competition. Those that are nimble will win. If you’re not leading with digital – earning with it and investing in it – then you’re at risk of becoming obsolete, and soon.
Contrary to a lot of hype you may have read about an Armageddon-esque scenario in which the robots will soon rule, humans have never been more integral to the future of work across the world. A human-bot symbiosis will become the new normal. Jobs will change – sometimes dramatically in scope – but they won’t disappear. Our human touch will be our most important CV attribute – and will ultimately guarantee our survival.