The Future of Work: Job Seekers, Empathy and the Future of Humanity

When we think about the future of humanity we think about a whole host of things. “Where will we live? Will we finally have flying cars?” And one of the most important questions, “how will we work?”

In many ways predicting the future can be impossible. Imagine the difficulty you would have telling someone from the 1800s that you work as a software designer! One thing is for sure though, while the future may look radically different the core elements of work will always remain.

That’s because all jobs rely on people working with one another. As automation takes over more jobs, the human side of work will become even more important.

JobGetter Director and Co-Founder Fiona Anson recently appeared on the Future of Humanity podcast. She spoke to host Carl Taylor about robots, the changing landscape of the workforce, and the employers who are shifting away from formal qualifications. In short, it looked at how the future of work will affect us.

Check out the entire podcast for yourself.

Where is the World of Work Going?

Automation is going to happen. It already has. It’s almost a given that many of the jobs we have today will be automated eventually. This isn’t necessarily the end of the world. Automation of the aviation industry saw the majority of airline tickets being sold online instead of in person. The same process in supermarkets has seen people flocking to the self-serve checkouts.

Nobody feels the loss of these jobs though. Airline desk clerks and checkout workers are either still working despite automation or have been moved across into new areas. That’s because, for all of the things technology can do, there are still times when you need a human touch.

Automation is coming, that is almost for certain. But, at this point, we are still in control of our foreseeable future. We can control how much it impacts our lives and jobs. While it’s one thing to think about how technology will affect your job, it’s entirely different to think how it will affect your day-to-day life.

The Future of Work: Speed vs Emotion

Consider these scenarios.

  • You want to order take away food for dinner and watch a movie at home.
  • You want to go to an expensive French restaurant and then check into a 5-star hotel. 

While the first one is simple (order food with an app while browsing Netflix), the second is totally different. You could use an app to order food in the restaurant and maybe even check in. Would you want that though?

Part of the reason people go to fancy restaurants and hotels is to be treated by professionals. Most people want the human connection that comes from a waiter who understands the menu and knows how to make sure you’re looked after. They want a concierge who can work out what aspects of the hotel most appeal to them. They want to feel cared for.

Similarly, we’re getting close to robots being able to pick up a child who has fallen over, but do we want them to?  Or, would we rather the human touch so that he or she is comforted as well as put upright?

Without a doubt, technology will replace jobs where jobs are routine and repeatable but it’s a long way off affecting the jobs where we expect a human touch. That being the case, the future of work will see a big divide between the empathetic, human-centered roles and the ones that can be done quickly and easily by a machine.

What Do People Want

When Google Glass was announced, it was huge news. Google announced their device with a lot of fanfare. People declared that the future was here. And then…

Nothing. 

Google Glass fizzled. It wasn’t what people wanted.

Technology doesn’t get a free pass. It has to impress people and make them see the benefits. Take people’s adoption of tablets. Some people have completely abandoned books and have committed to tablets for their reading needs.

Others are still firmly attached to the physical books and enjoy the process of turning pages and filling shelves.

The future of work is exactly the same. Just because some jobs can be automated doesn’t meant that they will be. People might prefer the old way of doing things or want the more personal touch that comes with the old way.

Where Are the Jobs of the Future?

future of work will see more "empathetic" jobs since robots can't easily replicate them

Technology is on the rise but jobs that require empathy and service-based jobs are on the rise too. Just because they don’t capture headlines or clickbait links doesn’t mean that these type of jobs aren’t making an impact. Empathetic jobs, such as ones in aged care, childcare, retail, hospitality and tourism, are the ones that require an understanding of customer service and care and are in growing demand. 

This is partly due to a shift in the way that people are spending their money. Fifty years ago, we spent our money evenly between goods and services. Half a century later, it’s shifted so that, on average, we now spend 70% of our income on services. 

The effects of an ageing population and a recent mini baby boom also come into play. As stated before, people don’t want to be looked after by robots. They still need real people in these service jobs that look after the most vulnerable in our society.

What Happened to Security?

If the current trends are any indication, the future of the workforce will lack long-term security. Almost 10 years ago, part-time jobs were growing at twice the rate of full-time jobs. Now, it’s three times. 

The fewer full-time job opportunities have lead to a situation were underemployment (not having enough hours at work) is at a record high and still growing. 

Unfortunately, the jobs that are experiencing the most growth – the service sector jobs – are ones most likely to not be full-time. That means that job seekers are looking in other areas in order to get the security the require. There is a disconnect between employers who need workers to fill these roles and job seekers who need certain hours and pay in order to live in our increasingly expensive cities.

We Are Learning Slower Than Technology

As technology evolves, so do the number of people trying to “hack” it. Super companies like Facebook and Google are experiencing a huge demand for cyber security as well as other general coding skills. Because of this growth, we have – and will increasingly have – more technology roles.  But they are changing to – and at a rate that’s getting close to impossible to keep up with.

If you’re an IT student in school, chances are that, by the time you’re finished your qualification, what you learned will be close to “old school”. This means that there are not enough properly qualified people moving into these industries. Combine that with education institutions that haven’t adapted to the newest changes in their sector and you have a growing employer/job seeker gap. Job seekers are getting brand new qualifications and finding out that they still don’t have the technical skills that employers want.

Will this create a new problem?  Will employers give up looking for people with the right skills and simply roll over and let automation pick up the slack? If so, jobs will be under threat as once a job is lost to automation, it can be very hard for people to get back into that role.

Employers Need to Entice Workers

Currently there are lots of jobs available in service industries. Demand from job seekers is, however, waning. If employers in the service sectors want to get workers, they need to do more to convince them. 

Employers who understand that including on-the-job upskilling opportunities will get the best people as people are still looking for career paths and career development.  

Employers can also entice their workers by giving them opportunities to flex their creative muscles. Most people don’t like getting stuck in a rut. They don’t want to do the same thing, day in and day out. When employers give them an opportunity to change up the process or suggest new ways of doing things they are telling their workers that they value them – and these are the jobs people want.

This is essential for any employer that wants to attract the best talent. The War for Talent was won by the people and those people are much more savvy about who exactly will get the benefit of their services.

The Game is Changing

For years, the process to get a good job involved getting a degree. While not everyone needed one, for white collar jobs, not having a bachelor’s degree was, often, a sure-fire way to ensure you didn’t get an interview.

Changes to the way employers view qualifications and the need to entice the best workers has seen major companies throw their degree policy out the window. Companies like Deloitte, EY, and IBM have all said that degrees aren’t as important to them as making sure the candidate has the right qualities.

These businesses are looking for a certain type of person. They know they can teach them any skills they need. It’s much harder to teach soft skills like creativity, determination, and resilience so they look for people who have already developed these. Degrees are not necessarily a good indicator of these soft skills. Instead of looking for the right person from a shallow pool of qualified candidates, these companies are letting everyone apply, which gives them a much better chance of finding a good match.

What Skills Do Employers Want

Soft skills. 

Hands down these are the most important skills that employers are looking for. With so many tasks being automated across lots of professions, it’s the people who have these enterprise skills who are in demand. 

Communication, team work, presentation skills, critical and analytical thinking, and problem solving are top of the must-have lists for most employers these days.

Employers accept that some learning happens on the job, but they don’t want to be training people on how to inherently behave, if that’s even possible.  

That’s why, no matter what your background is, employers want to know what soft skills you have. To prove how important this mindset has become, EY is currently piloting a program where high school graduates are moving straight into employment programs with them. They don’t want them to waste four years learning non-relevant skills at university – they want enthusiastic, excited people who are keen to jump into the workforce and learn on the job.

Striking a Balance

We believe that the need for soft skills and human contact is the reason why technology will never fully take over. Just look at what we can do now – and what we choose not to. 

Courses can be done online, but we still choose the classroom experience. Check-in to hotels can be fully automated, but we still want a smiling face welcoming us. Technology can sort out a medical diagnosis but it’s still comforting to see a triage nurse in the ER. And, with society becoming more multicultural, there is still a very real need for people to learn how to interact with others around them, especially people from different backgrounds to them.

Job Clusters and Transferrable Skills

Soft skills are important because they can be used in lots of different jobs. Two jobs that share a lot of similar skills are said to be in the same job cluster.

The growing recognition of job clusters is important because it changes the way that we think about job hopping. Moving between different jobs and even across industries isn’t what it used to be. Previously, a candidate that had history of moving around industries would have been seen as unreliable. Now we can see that they moved around their cluster and their varied history has given them a greater breadth of experience which is valuable to employers today.

Businesses can benefit enormously from their new employees’ transferable skills. Companies are now recognising the benefits of someone joining them from a different industry with a fresh pair of eyes that might pick up newer and better ways of doing things. Transferrable skills can be a fantastic way for a job seeker to sell themselves. Good transferrable skills can be a goldmine for employers.

What Jobs Are Most at Risk of Automation?

Any job that is repetitive and can be broken down into simple, repetitive tasks are likely candidates for automation. That’s because robots are really, really good at doing one thing over and over again. 

Some of the jobs that are most at risk are jobs like manufacturing. However, there are also predictions that the formulaic work in jobs in basic bookkeeping/accounting and entry-level legal may well go by the wayside. In fact, all professional services that aren’t advisory are likely to be automated sometime in the future. Another industry that could be at risk is in the IT sector itself. There could be a time in the not-so-distant future that we simply dictate to a machine what we want it do to. At that point, the number of software developers we’ll need will drastically reduce. This is interesting because there is such a big push to get people into STEM jobs at the moment, particularly engineering. 

Professional jobs becoming automated brings it’s own set of challenges. What are we going to do with all the accountants and clerks who are out of a job? Where will our future solicitors, barristers, and judges cut their legal teeth?

Think of it like taxis and Uber. Uber and other ride sharing companies came in and disrupted the taxi industry. That was just a ripple compared to the threat that driverless cars pose though. Uber and taxis are a very similar model and method. Where will these drivers go – ones that use it as a main source of income or as a supplement – when driverless cars arrive?

What Can You Do?

It’s likely that very few jobs will be unaffected by technology – but one thing is for sure – technology is here to stay.  So, don’t get complacent. The ability to understand technology will likely become as important as basic reading and writing as time goes by. 

Technology is improving all the time. Just recently there have been huge improvements such as VR, talking robots like Sophia and IMB computers that can diagnose rare forms of disease that have baffled other medical professionals. The question is no longer, “can my job be taken over?” It’s, “how much of my job will there be?”

You don’t want to be stuck in denial when the robots come. The best thing you can do is look at what advances are being made in your field. If the writing’s on the wall (driverless cars, accounting technology and so on) then you will want to start thinking about a new job now. How you will use your unique skills to find a job in the future? What transferrable skills do you have?

If your position is more uncertain (medical robots may improve diagnosis but will still need a human role) think about how you can emphasise those personal, multi-faceted aspects of your job that robots will struggle to replicated.

This Is Only the Beginning

While it could be easy to fall into despair thinking about the technological revolution that is coming, that shouldn’t be the case.

People are growing more and more comfortable using technology for everyday tasks. Activities that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago are now seen as common. Instant chatting with anyone anywhere in the world. The ability to walk around with a computer in your pocket. 

The new generation of workers is also more receptive to new ideas and other ways of thinking. If there is one generation of workers that is ready to face the challenges that automation is going to bring, it’s this one.

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