Future of work: workers face the prospect of completely retraining or reskilling to tackle the impact of technology on employment

Charles Donkor
Partner, People and Organisation, PwC Switzerland

None of us can know with any certainty what the world will look like in 2030. But given the velocity of change, we do know that it will offer dramatically new opportunities and challenges to employees and leaders. High-performing organisations (see Focus 1) are now actively reflecting on the implications of these changes, and are engaging with leaders and employees to develop new skills and behaviours to shape their future successfully. In this article, we look at some of the key findings of a major PwC survey on the future of work and four scenarios mapping four potential worlds of work in 2030.

PwC survey on the future of work

Almost three quarters (74%) of people are ready to learn a new skill or completely retrain to keep themselves employable. They see it as their personal responsibility – and not the responsibility of their employer – to keep their skills up to date. This is one of the key findings from PwC’s latest report, Workforce of the future: the competing forces shaping 2030, in which we surveyed some 10,000 people. Their views reinforce a shift to continuous learning while earning to enable them as employees to keep up with the impact of technology on jobs and the workplace.

The majority of respondents in our survey believe technology will improve their job prospects (65%), although workers in the US (73%) and India (88%) are more confident than those for instance in the UK (40%) and Germany (48%). Overall, nearly three quarters believe technology will never replace the human mind (73%), and the majority (86%) say human skills will always be in demand.

The reality of lifelong learning is coming home to today’s workforce – whatever people’s age. The report found that 60% of respondents believe few people will have stable, long-term employment in the future. People are shifting from a qualification that would last a lifetime to thinking about new skills every few years, matched with ongoing development of personal skills such as risk management, leadership and emotional intelligence.

While respondents to the survey were positive about the impact of technology, with 37% excited about the future world of work and seeing a world full of possibilities, there is still concern that automation is putting some jobs at risk. Overall, 37% of respondents believe automation is putting their job at risk, up from 33% in 2014. And over half (56%) think governments should take action needed to protect jobs from automation.

Anxiety kills confidence and the willingness to innovate. With a third of workers worried about the future of their jobs due to automation, employers need to enter into mature conversations now to include workers in the technology debate. This will help employees to understand, prepare and potentially upskill for any impact technology may have on their job in the future. The shift is nothing less than a fundamental transformation in the way we work, and organisations must not underestimate the change ahead.

Worlds of work in 2030

The report presents four future scenarios – or worlds – for work in 2030. These four worlds demonstrate the possible outcomes that might evolve over the next ten years owing to the impact of megatrends, artificial intelligence, automation and machine learning. They are blue world (traditional large-scale companies functioning like many multinational organisations today), red world (small and nimble organisations that leverage technological possibilities to scale up services and products for global customers), green world (social responsibility and trust dominate the corporate agenda) and yellow world (social-first and community business prosper; a search for meaning and relevance with a social heart).

We believe that these four worlds will co-exist in the future, especially within large or larger companies. It will require new and refined leadership skills to manage these organisations successfully and to develop today’s companies into high-performing organisations (see also High-Performing Teams) of the future. In our report, we take a look ahead to examine how workforces in each of these worlds will have adapted, as well as the way technology (such as machine learning, deep learning, AI) is influencing how each of these worlds functions. Organisations and workers that understand these potential futures, and what each of them might mean for them, and plan ahead, will be best prepared to succeed.

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