Automation technologies are driving major shifts in the job market, and that will require organizations to embrace new strategies, according to a new report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Burning Glass Technologies. The report found despite several apprehensions owing to the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, jobs will shift and evolve, not disappear. Hence, companies need to think beyond re-skilling their employees and constantly rework on their strategies in the ever-changing technology landscape. (Please read the report here)
Technology Extends Its Reach
The study grouped jobs into categories based on growth rates. “High-growth” jobs—those for which the number of listings grew more than 40% annually during the three-year study period—included cloud-based services (such as senior cloud engineers and Microsoft Azure developers), enterprise automation jobs, IT administrators, and cybersecurity engineers. But tech wasn’t the only sector experiencing such breathless growth: listings for HR onboarding specialists and talent coordinators rose more than 50%.
While the pace of growth for these jobs is startling, the demand for the technologies that underlie them is far broader. For example, in 2018 there were 14 times as many jobs calling for cloud computing skills as there were jobs for cloud engineers, and demand for these skills spanned occupations as diverse as software engineers, data scientists, product managers, and business development managers. Once-niche technologies are becoming mainstream.
Many of the individual skills for which demand grew fastest are linked to the widening adoption of emerging technologies, with demand for skills in chatbots, Amazon Alexa, data lakes, and cloud security all growing more than 40% year over year. Notably, quantum computing, digital currency, and natural-language toolkit skills have not only experienced average annual growth rates of more than 100% but have also seen growth accelerate even faster over the past year.
“Technology is creating new skills and those skills are reshaping the broader job market,” says Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies and a co-author of the report. “Skills like machine learning and data visualization are now showing up across the board in a range of listings for roles such as marketing managers and business intelligence analysts, not just in the rarified domain of tech pioneers.”
“Fast-growing” jobs, those for which growth in postings exceeded 20% in each of the three years studied, include real estate positions, hotel clerks, interviewers, computer-controlled machine tool operators, and (in aircraft manufacturing) structure, surface, rigging and system assemblers. “These trends are evidence that new technologies don’t necessarily replace jobs but often spur industry growth and job creation,” says Rainer Strack, managing director and senior partner at BCG and a coauthor of the report.
Not All Low-Tech Jobs Will Fade
While many highlight the importance of AI, automation, robotics, and the disappearance of manual jobs, the report says that not all low-tech jobs are fated to fade away. It showed a healthy growth in personal services such as fitness trainers, child care workers, and personal care aides.
Another example comes from truck drivers. Today and in the foreseeable future, driver shortages are fuelling demand. Autonomous driving technology may mitigate the shortages but for now, demand for human-driven trucks is explosive.
By categorizing jobs and skills according to the size and speed of growth of listings, the report chalks a picture for companies, governments, and individuals to enable them in planning meticulously. As BCG researchers observe, “Re-skilling is crucial, but that alone won’t be enough. Training, development, recruitment, and strategies to attract talent when demand is truly squeezed are critically important.”
Companies need to adopt corporate workforce strategies to systematically identify and fill their talent needs before they become critical.
A 2018 PwC report predicts that AI will create over 7.2 million jobs in the U.K. alone over the next two decades. Also according to McKinsey, about 77% of companies “expect no net change in the size of their workforce in either Europe or the United States as a result of adopting automation and AI technologies.”
Automation is bringing about a paradigm shift. New skills are needed in a world where machines are augmenting businesses. But the research reports conclude that organizations cannot leave behind its current workforce. Instead, organizations need to think about how they are educating and up-skilling teams. Experts recommend, honing the skills that are uniquely human (creative and cognitive), while also becoming cross-disciplinary specialists, will be the new workforce reality.