With all the buzz around driving innovation with new ideas, new products, and new businesses, there’s surprisingly little attention being given to the new type of workforce required to do it.
Think of it this way: The people building Tesla automobiles today have a markedly different skill set than those building Ford’s Model T back in the early 1900s. Sure, the end product is still a car, but the journey from designing to producing to maintaining today’s electric cars is profoundly different.
The reason? Automation.
While Henry Ford innovated with the assembly line and the world’s first instances of mass production, today’s automated processes require much less physical and manual labor to produce cars. A recent Axios article noted automation’s impact on the auto industry in particular, citing the Brookings Institution’s estimate that digital mobility, including AVs (autonomous vehicles), will change the jobs of more than 9.5 million workers—or more than 1 out of every 20 U.S. workers. But automation is not only changing the workforce in the auto industry, it’s happening in all sectors, all over the world.
A McKinsey & Company Discussion Paper recently looked at the impact of automation on future workers, offering insights on how the demand and requirement for new skill sets will force organizations to adapt. According to the paper, “Demand for technological, social and emotional, and higher cognitive skills will rise by 2030.”
Indeed, while the need for technical skills has been steadily increasing since the early 2000s, emotional and social skills are quickly catching up, growing at a similar pace. All the while basic physical and manual tasks, as well as basic cognitive skills like data input, are at risk of declining or already on the decline.
The McKinsey paper also looks at automation and artificial intelligence (AI)’s impact across industries, including banking and insurance, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail. Not surprisingly, in these industries where AI and automation are already taking hold, emotional and social skills are increasingly needed. For example, in banking and insurance it’s expected that, “The number of technology experts and other professionals will grow, as will the number of occupations that require customer interaction and management. This increase will drive strong growth in the demand for social and emotional skills.”
So how do you adapt to this new reality?
Contrary to popular belief, AI and automation will not contribute to a reduction in the workforce, but rather a “retooling” of it with new skills. In fact, according to a survey by McKinsey in the U.S. and Europe, 70 percent of companies did not expect their workforces to decrease or increase as a result of automation.
Therefore, companies should embark on initiatives that focus on learning and helping the existing workforce evolve and advance their careers with new technologies. This requires a change in mindset on how to get work done, including placing more emphasis on cross-department collaboration and teamwork, as well as engaging the C-suite and how they work together.
Finally, the McKinsey paper offers options on how companies can go about building this new workforce and continuously cultivating the new skills needed. This may include retraining and redeploying current employees, taking on new hires, and contracting new talent.
To learn more about the impact of automation on the future workforce and how you can prepare for it, read the complete McKinsey discussion paper.