A lot of interesting material is published as background for the discussions at the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in Davos . Some of it is commissioned by the WEF organizations and on top of that many companies or research institutions publish additional content. For business leaders as well as political decision makers, there is no lack of high-quality information to digest.
The Future of Work is a theme that is discussed at many levels. Often the issue is seen as a futuristic topic with a focus on the evolution of technology, especially artificial intelligence and robotics. This discussion often leads to research on how many and what kind of jobs will disappear and in which industries. This triggers a debate about education and learning both on the level of societies as well as inside companies.
Another discussion is the one focusing on our needs here and now. What skills are needed in the labour market right now – or in the near future? This is tied to discussions on growth and investments. Companies are competing, as they should, for the best talent and this competition is a global one in nature. It involves companies as well as governments – everybody tries to attract and retain talent.
A third element that is emerging is the demand for people with a broad scope of skills. This is often a reaction to the discussion mentioned above, the discussion centred around technology and the future of jobs. The conclusion is that we increasingly value humanities as well as creativity. Businesses could learn a lot from the creative field – there is a lot to learn from artists and art. Many of the methods that are applied in the field of fine arts on a daily basis could certainly take some business leaders by surprise.
In the rich material around WEF, there is a report called The Future of Jobs. The time horizon of this report is set on the year 2022. Let us take a closer look at what the report says about Western Europe as a region:
The transformation of information work, if managed wisely, could lead to a new age of good work, good jobs and improved quality of life for all. But if it is managed poorly it poses the risk of widening skills gaps, creating greater inequality and causing broader polarization. In many ways, the time to shape the future of work is now, the report concludes. We agree.
According to the report the emerging jobs in Western Europe within the time frame are particularly:
- Software and Application Developers
- Sales and Marketing Professionals
- Managing Directors and CEOs
- Data analysts and Scientists
As emerging skills, the report identifies:
- Creativity, originality and initiative
- Analytic thinking and Innovation
- Active learning and learning strategies
- Technology design and programming
- Critical thinking
- Leadership and social influence
- Emotional intelligence
- Systems thinking
The need to rethink education and learning at all levels is one conclusion. The pressure and the need to have a look at especially university education is very much a focus for many universities in Finland. The thinking according to which you pull in young talent, educate them creating new potential for research – and then let them go, needs to be redesigned. We all need to get back to the university during our careers. We have a well-functioning market for executive level education, the MBAs and eMBAs being the best-known ones, but also other opportunities exist. We believe that there is also a market for broader education beyond the executive level. The challenge is this: How do we create a market that matches the demand?
As said, companies need to understand the evolution of work and prepare for the transformation. This strategic topic is not one that can or should be handled by HR only.
Our conclusion is the following: When companies think strategically about the evolution of work, they need to pay attention to understanding the technological context. But they should not stop there. They should also recognize the importance of building a company culture that nurtures the emerging skills listed above. These kind of cultures are open to new ways of learning and they actively trial new methods such as different forms of arts when educating their people to master these skills.