More Will Be Expected: Six Insights on the Future of the Workforce

Recently, Eightfold had the privilege of participating in The Future of Work Symposium organized by Cultural Vistas, a nonprofit committed to personal and career advancement through international exchange.

We heard many interesting predictions about what’s next for the world of work. Here are six of our favorites:

  1. Automation is a key trend in virtually every industry and career. Automated machines, both physical robots and software, will handle an ever-increasing share of work. But this trend does not eliminate the need for people—even highly automated machines ar-Workforcee still tools, and there will never be a robot-owned company. Those workers who can function alongside automation, at every skill level, will fill the jobs of the future.
  2. With more automation, there will be more of a burden of responsibility on individuals to know how to operate their tools correctly—partly due to a reduction in human oversight, and partly because each person can do much more when supported by a growing number of automated machines. So what skills will workers need for jobs managing fleets of robots? The growing focus on STEM education is very important, but not everyone needs an engineering degree in order to hold down a job. More generally, students should learn about formal logic systems to understand how their machines operate, how to troubleshoot them, and how improve their productivity.
  3. The growth in automation is often seen as a threat to jobs, particularly low-skill jobs. While this is an important concern, history suggests cause for optimism. ATMs created more banking jobs. Self-service retail created more call center jobs. Human demands are endless, and automation will not cause permanent joblessness any more than any other era of industrial history. As during these earlier periods, the social and political response to automation is of paramount importance.
  4. Whatever students are learning in school, their specific skills will have a shorter shelf life than ever. Virtually no worker will have a 40-year-or-longer career that requires no change in skills. More than particular skills, students must learn how to learn throughout their lives.
  5. Companies will become ever more aware of the impact of bias, and of the limitations that “traditional” credentials and sources of talent have for increasing diversity. With this new realization, companies will spend more effort on nurturing their talent pools, creating new talent pools, retraining, and educational mission. There is less a shortage of talent than a shortage of imagination.
  6. As teams grow more globally dispersed, workers will collaborate across cultures more than ever. They will need skills and sensitivity, but also good tools such as high-quality video and real-time machine translation. Cross-cultural opportunities—like those that Cultural Vistas has fostered over its 55-year history, are becoming more essential than ever before.