What Your CEO Needs to Know About the Future of Work

February 13, 2018

What Your CEO Needs to Know About the Future of Work

The future of work and the fast-paced advancements in artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics are transforming how people work and the way businesses operate to deliver value to customers. Furthermore, global trends are changing the way we conceptualize work, workplace, and workforce. In this context, the question is how can HR executives advise CEOs on facing the future of work?

According to PwC’s 21st CEO Survey, between 38 to 40 percent are concerned about technology-related developments (e.g., cyber threats, speed of technological change, and availability of key skills). Hence, AI is no longer part of science fiction; it’s present in our world, and it is real. PwC projects that “AI will contribute an additional US$15.7 trillion to global GDP by 2030, an increase of 14 percent, making it the biggest opportunity in today fast changing economy.” This is a boon to the overall economy; however, it will come at great cost if CEOs and CHROs do not set the agenda to face the future of work helping employees to re-shape their skills to be competitive in this new digital economy environment.

Furthermore, McKinsey Global Institute’s report “Harnessing automation for a future that works” explains that technology and market disruptions are redefining “workforce” and “employee.” The report states, “by 2055, half of current tasks will be automated with technology that exists today.” In this context, CEOs and CHROs must act fast to consider the challenges that the future of work brings to organizations and find the balance between human skill development and machines to determine where, when, and how much to invest in artificial intelligence for future growth.

Here are four factors that a CEO needs to know about the future of work:

  1. Employee experience. Like everything in life, things evolve and change. Jacob Morgan in his book The Employee Experience Advantage describes the evolution of the employee experience from the utility period (people were “assets”) to productivity (time means money) to engagement (employee caring) to the current employee experience approach view as “something that creates engaged employees but focuses on the cultural, technological, and physical design of the organization.” Hence, employee experience is about bringing the human aspect to work where organizations provide a physical environment to leverage team collaboration with a culture that engages and rewards while technology provides tools that will make employee’s work easy to execute. CEOs need to be aware that creating employee experiences involves redesigning the entire organization to deliver a better customer experience.
  2. Automation of jobs and activities. Artificial intelligence is reshaping work, workforce, and workplace. According to McKinsey, “45 percent of work activities could be automated using already demonstrated technology requiring business processes to be transformed, and jobs performed by people to be redefined.” The impact of automation will not only affect low-skill and low-wage roles but also C-suite activities as well. Since machines can be programmed to execute routine and/or transactional activities in an efficient way, automation technology can exceed the median level of human performance required and deliver faster results and let people to focus on work of higher value. Executives have the responsibility to redefine work, jobs, and workplace but at the same time leverage automation to boost efficiencies and operational excellence. This will be a critical differentiation to win in the new marketplace.
  3. Disrupted workforce. In an intangible world with technological breakthroughs and market disruption, organizations need to address that the new “augmented workforce” is where machines and humans work alongside to create a new world where the “cloud” organization is becoming the norm. According to according to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, “companies can no longer consider their workforce to be only the employees on their balance sheet, but must include freelancers, gig economy workers, and crowds. These on- and off-balance-sheet workers are being augmented with machines and software. Together, these trends will result in the redesign of almost every job, as well as a new way of thinking about workforce planning and the nature of work.” We live an era of open talent where employees, contractors, freelancers, gig workers, crowds, and robots are pushing organizations to evolve, reinvent, and organize work to meet business needs. In this context, organizations will need to develop a future-forward and innovative workforce approach to leverage strategy.
  4. Artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is a collection of advanced technologies that allow machines to sense, comprehend, act, and learn. According to PwC, “AI can create a world where human abilities are amplified as machines help mankind process, analyze, and evaluate the abundance of data that creates today’s world, allowing humans to spend more time in high-level thinking, creativity, and decision-making.” AI is already transforming businesses by generating a critical impact using machine learning, augmented reality, and automation to improve customer and employee experience while changing societies and the way we live and work. Organizations that are able to adapt and strategically use AI to support growth and innovation will allow them to create a big differentiator in this new digital world where clients, customers, and employees are connected 24/7.

The future of work not only is going to impact organizations and people but societies as well. Governments need to be involved in this process creating regulations and promoting guidelines, partnering with the education sector to prepare people with the skills this new market need. CEOs and CHROs have the responsibility to create flexible organizations and to set a learning agenda to re-skill talent to adapt to change. Creating a mindset shift to be competitive in the marketplace will be critical, otherwise if organizations and people don’t adapt with new technology, they will struggle. Worse, they would fail.

The Authors: 

Alberto Loyola is CEO and Managing Partner of Global Talent Partner, a talent and organization consulting firm. He consults globally and serves as a trusted advisor to executives to assess leadership development, talent, corporate culture, HR technology, and the future of work to achieve their mission and organizational agility. Find him on Twitter or Linkedin.