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The Future of Work, Employability and Digital Skills
Open Foresight Research - Summary
30 March 2021
CONTENTS
This document summarises findings from interviews and workshops conducted
in 2020-21 exploring the future of work, employability and digital skills.
Context
Summary Findings
50 Insights for the Future
Questions and Feedback
CONTEXT
Objective
To highlight and balance alternative expert views to provide an impartial,
balanced synthesis of how future changes in work and skills may play out.
Source of Views
This is based on insights from 20 workshops and 150 interviews with over
400 informed experts from across academia, business and government. These
were primarily across Europe, but also include views from US and SE Asia.
Use of Document
This is a provocation to stimulate further discussion and debate with more
stakeholders to help build a richer, deeper view of the future of work.
SUMMARY FINDINGS FOR THE NEXT DECADE
Key Shifts
The varied discussions identified 10 key shifts that expected to have greatest
impact over the next decade. The top 3 of these are seen as pivotal for all.
Building Digital Skills
Reinventing Roles
Developing Soft Skills
Reskilling and Upskilling
AI, Automation and Jobs
Blurring of Employment
Equality and Diversity
Climate Change Jobs
Porous Organisations
Agreed Accreditation
Priority Issues
When we add in opinion on where there may be greatest innovation and
change for individuals by 2030, there was specific focus on three priority issues
for society, for government, for employers and for future workers.
DEVELOPING SOFT SKILLS
BUILDING DIGITAL SKILLS
BUILDING DIGITAL SKILLS
BUILDING DIGITAL SKILLS
Educational systems have not kept pace with the changing nature of work.
Currently over 40% of EU workers lack basic digital skills.
Many employers find it difficult to recruit people with the necessary digital skills.
There is awareness of the gap between skills demand and supply but detail is lacking.
Adult skills training is failing, with participation and funding falling.
Those that need most help receive the least. Low skilled workers could be left behind
More reskilling and upskilling and a rise in on-the-job education as part of life-long learning.
BUILDING DIGITAL SKILLS
THE REINVENTION OF ROLES
THE REINVENTION OF ROLES
Just as in the first, so the fourth industrial revolution is set to bring about widespread reinvention.
Impact across manufacturing, customer-facing jobs, service economy and professional roles
Automation and AI will impact many jobs which will, in turn, be redesigned.
With workplace automation humans stay in the mix for oversight and the personal touch.
Teachers act as coaches and support the development of both hard and soft skills.
Traditional views of employment, work and society are changing.
A new social contract between job-creating firms, workers, customers, partners and wider society
DEVELOPING SOFT SKILLS
DEVELOPING SOFT SKILLS
Many see that soft skills will be essential, but few agree how best to deliver associated training
Soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030
Soft skills contribute to higher revenue, productivity, and profitability and ROI
Many lack the soft skills to prosper in and an increasingly digital future workplace.
Soft skills are transferable and will be more important for the future’s mobile labour force.
Workers favour firms that offer more emotional engagement and human to human contact.
DEVELOPING SOFT SKILLS
54 INSIGHTS FOR THE FUTURE
Agreed Accreditation
If c20th was about standardisation of levels of learning, the c21st is focused on
ability and insight. In a world of MOOCS and knowledge credits from multiple
digital platforms, a key challenge is setting agreed, common accreditation.
A Change in Structure
There is a shift from vertically integrated to horizontally specialised firms – from
product to platform and from sector to ecosystem: Firms are moving from being
a nexus of contracts with standardised rules to mechanisms of coordination.
A Shift in Interventions
We see greater long-term government intervention. This tests well-established
institutions such as the role of elected representatives and our ability to do
things at pace. State intervention will take on different forms.
Attracting Nomads
As more selective graduates seek different roles, having the right combination
of projects and purpose is vital in standing out from the homogeneous average.
Automation of Interaction
Information-rich, repetitive jobs are initially supported by a first phase of AI
(machine learning) but then replaced by the second phase (deep learning).
Automation may replace behaviours previously unique to humans.
Blurring of Employment
The nature of employment and unemployment and how they are viewed in
society changes. Being ‘in’ or ‘out of’ work is no longer a clear distinction.
Changing Perceptions
As public understanding of the role of the Armed Forces declines, so does the
support to recognise veterans’ capabilities, actions and contribution to society.
Clear Progression
Young people are increasingly attracted to businesses where they can
see the opportunity for promotion and a long career - if they want it.
Although some are comfortable with flexibility, others want clear paths.
Conversational Working
Workers are increasingly comfortable interacting with chat-bots.
Many are more open, honest and flexible with machines than human support.
Co-ordinated Policy
Ensuring that they are addressed in a sustained and coordinated manner will be
pivotal. Policy makers are under growing pressure to address these challenges
head on with innovative approaches that benefit all.
Data and Digital Literacy
An informed perspective of data, how it is acquired and used, increases public
confidence, overcomes misunderstanding and aids better decision-making.
Data as an Asset
Organisations are obliged to account for what data they own or access.
They are required to report their full data portfolio - and are taxed on this.
Deeper Collaboration
Partnerships become more dynamic, democratised, multi-party collaborations.
Competitor alliances and wider public participation create new frameworks.
Digital Skills
Organisations compete to attract high-demand data professionals.
In many sectors the supply of digital skills is increasingly constrained.
Elected Leaders
More organisations give employees the power to choose their leaders.
At the team, division, and even company, level, selecting fixed-term
leadership is increasingly democratic and open.
Embracing Uncertainty
In an increasingly volatile and ambiguous world, leaders seek to help
communities be more comfortable with uncertainty. Flexibility and wider
insight sharing are coupled with transparency of decision making.
Equality and Diversity
To attract workers of all abilities, treating everyone in the same way do is
an imperative – equal pay, equal opportunities and equal benefits.
Leadership is expected to fully reflect organisational and stakeholder diversity.
Good New Jobs
Change could lead to a new age of good work, good jobs and improved
quality of life for all, but if managed poorly, it may pose the risk of
widening skills gaps, greater inequality, and broader polarisation.
Human Touch
In an ever more digital world, workers increasingly favour those firms that can
offer more emotional engagement and, specifically, human to human contact.
Immersive Experiences
Learning becomes a more immersive, experimental experience. It takes place in
creative spaces, focuses on the big challenges and is supported by new tech.
The impact of learning within the ‘real-world’ is prioritised and amplified.
Incumbent Blockers
Several large, established organisations continue to prevent change by arguing
for short-term shifts rather than longer-term collaborative system redesign.
Leadership Personality
Some big business personalities evoke widespread liking and trust.
Many leading brands, seeking to be similarly trusted, amplify the principles
and charisma of their leaders, but a good number struggle with authenticity.
Learning at Work
There is a rise in on the job education and learning by doing as part of life-long
upskilling. Much of this occurs in a digital context with innovative financing.
Project based learning, reskilling and upskilling are at the fore.
Learning to be Creative
Gamification drives the development experience shift from a focus on avoiding
failure to one that encourages learning from mistakes, recognises different
learning styles and abilities and better embraces problem solving.
Love Warts and All
With greater transparency a necessity, companies address it as both an
opportunity and a threat. Successful firms reveal their less attractive sides.
Meaningful Employment
Younger generations want to work for employers that serve a greater purpose,
contribute to society and provide space and time for staff to take the initiative.
More Apprenticeships
Companies are more involved in training new recruits from the start.
Collaboration with institutions increases with co-designed curricula.
New jobs
While certain jobs are disappearing, others are emerging or growing.
The OECD suggests that 65% of children entering primary school today
will ultimately end up working in areas that currently don’t exist.
Next Gen Expectations
For the young there is a generational attitudinal shift underway.
Expectations of are changing - particularly amongst the educated elite.
Pace of Change
As technology innovation outpaces the ability of society to adapt, many are
unable to keep up. An accelerating workplace outpaces the workforce.
Personal Learning Networks
Companies encourage employees to source information from their own
personal learning networks, beyond the firm, and to actively contribute to
requests for insight from other individuals within their communities.
Porous Organisations
Increasing competition for talent forces organisations to be permeable: As well
as curating flexible workers, retaining corporate know-how is a key challenge.
Projects Not Jobs
Many see the future organisation as increasingly flexible, permeable, flat and
virtual. Companies shift from being employers and become the bodies that
create or coordinate projects that an increasingly freelance population delivers.
Purpose at the Fore
Companies focus on profitably solving the problems of people and planet, and
not profiting from creating problems. The role of business in society is
increasingly aligned to purpose, ethics and commitments to trustworthiness.
Reskilling and Upskilling
As some sectors and countries gain from technology, others lose out and fall
behind. A response to this is a growing call for more reskilling and upskilling.
Reinventing Roles
Do the shifts ahead drive mass unemployment or evolution? New technology
has a fundamental impact on roles that are currently part of our social fabric.
Rethinking Teaching
Teachers cease to be content-sources as they are more flexible, act as coaches
and increasingly support the development of both hard and soft skills.
New teacher competencies are prioritised with a wider supporting toolkit.
Robots as Colleagues
Ubiquitous workplace automation hands over repetitive and dangerous jobs to
robots. Humans stay in the mix providing oversight and the personal touch.
Smaller ‘Big’ Companies
The employment pool expands with ‘on and off-balance sheet talent’. Each
decade the value of the top 10 companies doubles but full-time employees fall.
Implementing coordinated development struggles with bifurcation of talent.
Smarter Talent
The increasing use of technology, especially within the Navy and Air Force,
makes the Armed Forces a leading source of recruits for the smarter talent pool.
Speed to Scale
Digital firms face few limits in their ability to scale – the bigger they are, the
bigger they become. Greater connectivity shrinks the time to 1bn customers.
Student at the Centre
Learning is redesigned to put the student, not the system, at the centre.
Personalised, unbundled learning includes peer-to-peer and hybrid experiences.
Assessing impact at the individual level from multiple sources is key.
Systemic Shifts in Education
Changes in learning have greater impact across new business
models and global learning platforms to micro-accreditation.
New providers of learning emerge and challenge traditional institutions.
Teacher-less Classrooms
If we have driver-less cars, then we can also have teacher-less classrooms:
As learning comes from multiple sources beyond the core, we reinvent the
learning experience around project-based collaboration and sharing.
The Sustainability Imperative
As the impact of climate change grows, those organisations that do not
adopt high standards fail to recruit the best next generation workers.
With the impact 4oc of global warming evident, all jobs become Climate Jobs.
The 20 Year Degree
Proactive nations better enable career-long learning where individuals can
distribute and update capability development to best fit their personal needs,
interests and the evolving demands of the changing work environment.
Trust and Transparency
Organisations seek to build, and even manage, trust and perception.
This is increasingly about being more ‘trustworthy’ which, for many,
is focused on being truthful and, for some, more transparent.
Trustworthy Organisations
Most important to the next generation of employees is that companies
are trustworthy and transparent about their business practices.
Unintended Consequences of Covid-19
Capitalism may be transformed as governments prop up weak firms with
subsidized loans, raise higher taxes and call for a new social contract to which
business should adhere to justify support from the public purse.
Valued Part-Time Work
As more shift to four day working weeks and wider job sharing, the
status of part-time work increases. Part-time is as valued as full-time.
Vulnerable Roles
While advocates of automation focus on the benefits, others see a different
future. Up to 75% of accountants, bankers and lawyers’ jobs may be vulnerable.
Wi-fi Nomads
More organisations accommodate more flexible, mobile employees.
They work anywhere with an internet connection. With no physical contact with
their colleagues, leadership is increasingly distributed and remote.
Working Near Home
Working remotely becomes the norm for some and a regular option for others.
Local hubs provide flexible work options outside but near to home.
Working Longer
For many, retirement at age 65 is economically infeasible. Few workers can
fund a 30-year retirement with a 40-year career. Neither can societies.
More countries are join Australia in contemplating a pension age of 70.
Youth Unemployment
In many countries rising unemployment for the young is a major challenge.
In several graduates wait a decade before finding meaningful work.
QUESTIONS AND FEEDBACK
Your Perspective
We would very much welcome your contribution, feedback and critique to help
improve the insights, prioritise those of most significance and identify any gaps.
Future Agenda, 84 Brook Street, London W1K 5EH +44 203 0088 141
www.futureagenda.org | @futureagenda

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Future of work employability and digital skills march 2021

  • 1. The Future of Work, Employability and Digital Skills Open Foresight Research - Summary 30 March 2021
  • 2. CONTENTS This document summarises findings from interviews and workshops conducted in 2020-21 exploring the future of work, employability and digital skills. Context Summary Findings 50 Insights for the Future Questions and Feedback
  • 4. Objective To highlight and balance alternative expert views to provide an impartial, balanced synthesis of how future changes in work and skills may play out.
  • 5. Source of Views This is based on insights from 20 workshops and 150 interviews with over 400 informed experts from across academia, business and government. These were primarily across Europe, but also include views from US and SE Asia.
  • 6. Use of Document This is a provocation to stimulate further discussion and debate with more stakeholders to help build a richer, deeper view of the future of work.
  • 7. SUMMARY FINDINGS FOR THE NEXT DECADE
  • 8. Key Shifts The varied discussions identified 10 key shifts that expected to have greatest impact over the next decade. The top 3 of these are seen as pivotal for all. Building Digital Skills Reinventing Roles Developing Soft Skills Reskilling and Upskilling AI, Automation and Jobs Blurring of Employment Equality and Diversity Climate Change Jobs Porous Organisations Agreed Accreditation
  • 9. Priority Issues When we add in opinion on where there may be greatest innovation and change for individuals by 2030, there was specific focus on three priority issues for society, for government, for employers and for future workers. DEVELOPING SOFT SKILLS BUILDING DIGITAL SKILLS
  • 11. BUILDING DIGITAL SKILLS Educational systems have not kept pace with the changing nature of work. Currently over 40% of EU workers lack basic digital skills. Many employers find it difficult to recruit people with the necessary digital skills. There is awareness of the gap between skills demand and supply but detail is lacking. Adult skills training is failing, with participation and funding falling. Those that need most help receive the least. Low skilled workers could be left behind More reskilling and upskilling and a rise in on-the-job education as part of life-long learning. BUILDING DIGITAL SKILLS
  • 13. THE REINVENTION OF ROLES Just as in the first, so the fourth industrial revolution is set to bring about widespread reinvention. Impact across manufacturing, customer-facing jobs, service economy and professional roles Automation and AI will impact many jobs which will, in turn, be redesigned. With workplace automation humans stay in the mix for oversight and the personal touch. Teachers act as coaches and support the development of both hard and soft skills. Traditional views of employment, work and society are changing. A new social contract between job-creating firms, workers, customers, partners and wider society
  • 15. DEVELOPING SOFT SKILLS Many see that soft skills will be essential, but few agree how best to deliver associated training Soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030 Soft skills contribute to higher revenue, productivity, and profitability and ROI Many lack the soft skills to prosper in and an increasingly digital future workplace. Soft skills are transferable and will be more important for the future’s mobile labour force. Workers favour firms that offer more emotional engagement and human to human contact. DEVELOPING SOFT SKILLS
  • 16. 54 INSIGHTS FOR THE FUTURE
  • 17. Agreed Accreditation If c20th was about standardisation of levels of learning, the c21st is focused on ability and insight. In a world of MOOCS and knowledge credits from multiple digital platforms, a key challenge is setting agreed, common accreditation.
  • 18. A Change in Structure There is a shift from vertically integrated to horizontally specialised firms – from product to platform and from sector to ecosystem: Firms are moving from being a nexus of contracts with standardised rules to mechanisms of coordination.
  • 19. A Shift in Interventions We see greater long-term government intervention. This tests well-established institutions such as the role of elected representatives and our ability to do things at pace. State intervention will take on different forms.
  • 20. Attracting Nomads As more selective graduates seek different roles, having the right combination of projects and purpose is vital in standing out from the homogeneous average.
  • 21. Automation of Interaction Information-rich, repetitive jobs are initially supported by a first phase of AI (machine learning) but then replaced by the second phase (deep learning). Automation may replace behaviours previously unique to humans.
  • 22. Blurring of Employment The nature of employment and unemployment and how they are viewed in society changes. Being ‘in’ or ‘out of’ work is no longer a clear distinction.
  • 23. Changing Perceptions As public understanding of the role of the Armed Forces declines, so does the support to recognise veterans’ capabilities, actions and contribution to society.
  • 24. Clear Progression Young people are increasingly attracted to businesses where they can see the opportunity for promotion and a long career - if they want it. Although some are comfortable with flexibility, others want clear paths.
  • 25. Conversational Working Workers are increasingly comfortable interacting with chat-bots. Many are more open, honest and flexible with machines than human support.
  • 26. Co-ordinated Policy Ensuring that they are addressed in a sustained and coordinated manner will be pivotal. Policy makers are under growing pressure to address these challenges head on with innovative approaches that benefit all.
  • 27. Data and Digital Literacy An informed perspective of data, how it is acquired and used, increases public confidence, overcomes misunderstanding and aids better decision-making.
  • 28. Data as an Asset Organisations are obliged to account for what data they own or access. They are required to report their full data portfolio - and are taxed on this.
  • 29. Deeper Collaboration Partnerships become more dynamic, democratised, multi-party collaborations. Competitor alliances and wider public participation create new frameworks.
  • 30. Digital Skills Organisations compete to attract high-demand data professionals. In many sectors the supply of digital skills is increasingly constrained.
  • 31. Elected Leaders More organisations give employees the power to choose their leaders. At the team, division, and even company, level, selecting fixed-term leadership is increasingly democratic and open.
  • 32. Embracing Uncertainty In an increasingly volatile and ambiguous world, leaders seek to help communities be more comfortable with uncertainty. Flexibility and wider insight sharing are coupled with transparency of decision making.
  • 33. Equality and Diversity To attract workers of all abilities, treating everyone in the same way do is an imperative – equal pay, equal opportunities and equal benefits. Leadership is expected to fully reflect organisational and stakeholder diversity.
  • 34. Good New Jobs Change could lead to a new age of good work, good jobs and improved quality of life for all, but if managed poorly, it may pose the risk of widening skills gaps, greater inequality, and broader polarisation.
  • 35. Human Touch In an ever more digital world, workers increasingly favour those firms that can offer more emotional engagement and, specifically, human to human contact.
  • 36. Immersive Experiences Learning becomes a more immersive, experimental experience. It takes place in creative spaces, focuses on the big challenges and is supported by new tech. The impact of learning within the ‘real-world’ is prioritised and amplified.
  • 37. Incumbent Blockers Several large, established organisations continue to prevent change by arguing for short-term shifts rather than longer-term collaborative system redesign.
  • 38. Leadership Personality Some big business personalities evoke widespread liking and trust. Many leading brands, seeking to be similarly trusted, amplify the principles and charisma of their leaders, but a good number struggle with authenticity.
  • 39. Learning at Work There is a rise in on the job education and learning by doing as part of life-long upskilling. Much of this occurs in a digital context with innovative financing. Project based learning, reskilling and upskilling are at the fore.
  • 40. Learning to be Creative Gamification drives the development experience shift from a focus on avoiding failure to one that encourages learning from mistakes, recognises different learning styles and abilities and better embraces problem solving.
  • 41. Love Warts and All With greater transparency a necessity, companies address it as both an opportunity and a threat. Successful firms reveal their less attractive sides.
  • 42. Meaningful Employment Younger generations want to work for employers that serve a greater purpose, contribute to society and provide space and time for staff to take the initiative.
  • 43. More Apprenticeships Companies are more involved in training new recruits from the start. Collaboration with institutions increases with co-designed curricula.
  • 44. New jobs While certain jobs are disappearing, others are emerging or growing. The OECD suggests that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in areas that currently don’t exist.
  • 45. Next Gen Expectations For the young there is a generational attitudinal shift underway. Expectations of are changing - particularly amongst the educated elite.
  • 46. Pace of Change As technology innovation outpaces the ability of society to adapt, many are unable to keep up. An accelerating workplace outpaces the workforce.
  • 47. Personal Learning Networks Companies encourage employees to source information from their own personal learning networks, beyond the firm, and to actively contribute to requests for insight from other individuals within their communities.
  • 48. Porous Organisations Increasing competition for talent forces organisations to be permeable: As well as curating flexible workers, retaining corporate know-how is a key challenge.
  • 49. Projects Not Jobs Many see the future organisation as increasingly flexible, permeable, flat and virtual. Companies shift from being employers and become the bodies that create or coordinate projects that an increasingly freelance population delivers.
  • 50. Purpose at the Fore Companies focus on profitably solving the problems of people and planet, and not profiting from creating problems. The role of business in society is increasingly aligned to purpose, ethics and commitments to trustworthiness.
  • 51. Reskilling and Upskilling As some sectors and countries gain from technology, others lose out and fall behind. A response to this is a growing call for more reskilling and upskilling.
  • 52. Reinventing Roles Do the shifts ahead drive mass unemployment or evolution? New technology has a fundamental impact on roles that are currently part of our social fabric.
  • 53. Rethinking Teaching Teachers cease to be content-sources as they are more flexible, act as coaches and increasingly support the development of both hard and soft skills. New teacher competencies are prioritised with a wider supporting toolkit.
  • 54. Robots as Colleagues Ubiquitous workplace automation hands over repetitive and dangerous jobs to robots. Humans stay in the mix providing oversight and the personal touch.
  • 55. Smaller ‘Big’ Companies The employment pool expands with ‘on and off-balance sheet talent’. Each decade the value of the top 10 companies doubles but full-time employees fall. Implementing coordinated development struggles with bifurcation of talent.
  • 56. Smarter Talent The increasing use of technology, especially within the Navy and Air Force, makes the Armed Forces a leading source of recruits for the smarter talent pool.
  • 57. Speed to Scale Digital firms face few limits in their ability to scale – the bigger they are, the bigger they become. Greater connectivity shrinks the time to 1bn customers.
  • 58. Student at the Centre Learning is redesigned to put the student, not the system, at the centre. Personalised, unbundled learning includes peer-to-peer and hybrid experiences. Assessing impact at the individual level from multiple sources is key.
  • 59. Systemic Shifts in Education Changes in learning have greater impact across new business models and global learning platforms to micro-accreditation. New providers of learning emerge and challenge traditional institutions.
  • 60. Teacher-less Classrooms If we have driver-less cars, then we can also have teacher-less classrooms: As learning comes from multiple sources beyond the core, we reinvent the learning experience around project-based collaboration and sharing.
  • 61. The Sustainability Imperative As the impact of climate change grows, those organisations that do not adopt high standards fail to recruit the best next generation workers. With the impact 4oc of global warming evident, all jobs become Climate Jobs.
  • 62. The 20 Year Degree Proactive nations better enable career-long learning where individuals can distribute and update capability development to best fit their personal needs, interests and the evolving demands of the changing work environment.
  • 63. Trust and Transparency Organisations seek to build, and even manage, trust and perception. This is increasingly about being more ‘trustworthy’ which, for many, is focused on being truthful and, for some, more transparent.
  • 64. Trustworthy Organisations Most important to the next generation of employees is that companies are trustworthy and transparent about their business practices.
  • 65. Unintended Consequences of Covid-19 Capitalism may be transformed as governments prop up weak firms with subsidized loans, raise higher taxes and call for a new social contract to which business should adhere to justify support from the public purse.
  • 66. Valued Part-Time Work As more shift to four day working weeks and wider job sharing, the status of part-time work increases. Part-time is as valued as full-time.
  • 67. Vulnerable Roles While advocates of automation focus on the benefits, others see a different future. Up to 75% of accountants, bankers and lawyers’ jobs may be vulnerable.
  • 68. Wi-fi Nomads More organisations accommodate more flexible, mobile employees. They work anywhere with an internet connection. With no physical contact with their colleagues, leadership is increasingly distributed and remote.
  • 69. Working Near Home Working remotely becomes the norm for some and a regular option for others. Local hubs provide flexible work options outside but near to home.
  • 70. Working Longer For many, retirement at age 65 is economically infeasible. Few workers can fund a 30-year retirement with a 40-year career. Neither can societies. More countries are join Australia in contemplating a pension age of 70.
  • 71. Youth Unemployment In many countries rising unemployment for the young is a major challenge. In several graduates wait a decade before finding meaningful work.
  • 73. Your Perspective We would very much welcome your contribution, feedback and critique to help improve the insights, prioritise those of most significance and identify any gaps.
  • 74. Future Agenda, 84 Brook Street, London W1K 5EH +44 203 0088 141 www.futureagenda.org | @futureagenda