workforce evolution

#WorkTrends: How the Workforce Is Changing

Alexandra LevitWhile Generation Z and an army of robots aren’t about to take over your office any time soon, who we work with and how we work together is still all changing very fast. In this week’s episode we talk to author and consultant Alexandra Levit about the major trends affecting the workplace of tomorrow and why it’s a competitive advantage to have a flexible and systemized contract workforce.

Levit works to prepare organizations and their employees for meaningful careers in the future workplace. The former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and writer for The New York Times, Fast Company and Forbes has authored several books, including the international best-seller “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College” and her new book “Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future.”

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Demographic Shifts

Levit says organizations are already being affected by the changing demographics of who is available to work, particularly aging baby boomers who are remaining in the workforce after retirement age — often on their own terms.

“They’re available to work but the model in which they’re available to work is slightly different,” she says. “Many organizations are not prepared for that because these are people who even if they worked 60 to 80 hours in their prime are not willing to do that anymore. We have to really think of ways to allow these individuals to continue to contribute in meaningful ways.”

She notes that the population in developing countries is growing much more quickly than the population in developed countries, which she says means nations such as India and China are going to be exporting more qualified workers in most professions. Consequently, more individuals will be available for virtual work and remote work, often while charging lower fees than similar professionals in the U.S. and European nations.

Automation and AI

When it comes to automation and artificial intelligence and their impact on the workforce, Levit takes a largely optimistic view. “Until machines develop consciousness, there’s going to be no real way for them to take over every aspect of a human role,” she says. “There are still very unique human skills like judgment, empathy, interpersonal conflict resolution, creativity, that are very difficult for machines to replicate.”

Rather, she foresees the rise of human-machine hybrid teams in which machines will take over tasks of certain jobs — and she says deploying and maintaining those tools will likely create new jobs.

“I know one organization that’s working on a chatbot for their onboarding function,” she says. “… This chatbot has involved no fewer than 15 to 20 human employees, so that’s a whole bunch of human people who now have jobs because we’re deploying a chatbot. This is going to continue to happen. As we try to figure out how to best use technology and how to best deploy robots, we’re still going to need a lot of people.”

Managing Contract Workers

To find and maximize talent, Levit says organizations need to systematize their contract workforce — and they need to do it now because the contract world is going to play an even larger and more complex role moving forward.

“The way that it’s happening in most organizations today is that there’ll be a manager from one team who brings in someone, there’ll be a manager from another team who brings in another person,” she says. “And there will be no rhyme or reason to how that person is recruited, how they are onboarded or how their performance is evaluated.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.