What is YOUR Future at Work?

How to Predict the Future of Work
(Photo by Wyron A)

What is the future of work? More importantly, what is YOUR future at work?

These are questions my Columbia University colleagues and I have been discussing with increasing frequency as we design our research projects, as well as courses for our students. Because the more we understand emerging trends, the better we can equip our students for a brighter future at work.

But how to identify and interpret emerging trends?

Many years ago, a colleague at my law firm told me that he was leaving his seemingly secure place on partner track to work for a small venture capital fund. He said that the fund’s founder had “noticed” that as baby boomers were getting older they were also getting more invested in fighting their aging. So that founder decided to engage in their fight by investing in the new wellness industry. Over the next few years, he invested in companies that made supplements and other healthcare items and then he shifted into organic wellness products. The founder was well ahead of the curve, thanks to his ability to understand the logical outcome of current trends.

Emerging AI and Automation trends

If you look past the hype about AI, you will see that many businesses are changing the way they work as they explore the potential of this technology. In the process, we are also seeing some shifts in employment patterns emerging. With AI and automation comes dislocation. Unfortunately, according to a recent report on Automation and Artificial Intelligence by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, the negative impacts of automation and AI are going to hit some groups harder than others:

  • Routine physical and cognitive tasks are most likely to be automated. This has tough implications for people in office administration, production, food preparation, and transportation roles.
  • Smaller, more rural areas will be harder hit by automation than the largest cities. (The higher the level of worker education, the less likely those workers are to lose ground to automation.)
  • Men, youth, and under-represented groups will be most negatively affected by automation.
Education is your insurance for your future at work

The authors of the report propose several policy approaches to mitigate the negative impact of automation. In addition, they recommend some crucial actions for organizations and individuals that come straight out of the playbooks of knowledge management and organizational learning. In their view, the most important thing we can do is promote a learning mindset by taking the following actions:

  • Invest in reskilling incumbent workers
  • Expand accelerated learning and certifications
  • Make skill development more financially accessible
  • Align and expand traditional education
  • Foster uniquely human qualities

Clearly, the keys to employment success and security are to keep ahead of automation through education and to double down on the things that humans do better than machines.

Join us to learn more about the future of work

My Columbia University colleague, Dr. Ed Hoffman, will be speaking about the Future of Work on Thursday, May 2, at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC. After his presentation, Ed, our colleague Jordon Sims, and I will lead an interactive discussion with the audience on the issue. For more information on Thursday’s session, see this post by Ed Hoffman: The Future of Work: Intangibles, Machines, and Cultures of Excellence.

If you are in Washington, DC on Thursday and would like to join us, go to https://dc.alumni.columbia.edu/hoffman for more information on how to attend.

We look forward to seeing you there.

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