In an earlier blog about the Future of Work, and in a recent IDC Perspective, we presented IDC’s view of the Future of Work and offered a framework that provides a way to approach and scope the organizational, policy, and technology changes required to leverage this opportunity in a holistic manner. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the growing role of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, IPA, and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) in automating and augmenting the tasks and processes traditionally accomplished by human workers. We’ll also explore how organizations are planning to acquire the skills required to leverage the opportunities for automation and human-machine collaboration.
In recent IDC research, we asked respondents to indicate the percent of certain work-related activities that are accomplished by digital workers (or machines) in their organization today and in two years. (See Projected Growth in the Roles of Digital Workers). We asked them to consider AI, robotics, AR/VR, intelligent process automation software, digital assistants and other “smart” devices.
Machines are Changing the Dynamic of Work Activities
Respondents estimated that today, almost half of complex technical and data processing activities are accomplished by machines, and they project that value to increase over the next two years. They also projected that the percent of activities accomplished by machines related to performing physical work, administration, communicating and interacting, and coordinating and managing will more than double in two years, while reasoning and decision-making will largely remain in the human domain.
Of course, these changes will not occur without human data scientists, machine-learning specialists, process automation analysts and so forth. But our Future of Work survey shows that 74% of organizations are finding it difficult to obtain the skillsets they need, at least in some business areas. (See Developing Skills for the New Workplace.) So how will organizations acquire the skills they need to remain competitive?
How to Reskill Employees for the Future of Work
Though the majority of organizations (61%) indicated that they would hire new personnel to obtain required skills, over half (57%) also said that they would invest in reskilling the existing workforce. This is easier said than done, as evidenced in a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled Why Companies are Failing at Reskilling. According to that article, organizations are struggling with the challenge of identifying the requirements of their future workforce and then mapping the skills of their current workers to those skills.
How will this training occur? Our Future of Work survey respondents told us that today, online training, internal knowledge sharing, and engagements with 3rd party training providers are used most often for reskilling employees.
Organizations are also using talent marketplaces and crowdsourcing to obtain the skill sets and talent that they need. 45% of respondents told us that their organization is using talent marketplaces to recruit for specific competencies, and 43% indicated that they are being used to recruit people on a project basis. Over one-third told us that their company uses talent marketplaces to execute repetitive tasks on demand, scale up on a flexible basis and/or meet seasonal demand. On the other hand, crowdsourcing is most often being used to improve existing products (50% of respondents) and/or for new product development (45%).
We also asked our survey participants where they seek help to drive innovation. 41% are reaching out to their customer, while 39% look to partnerships with their technology vendors, indicated an opportunity for technology vendors to become more engaged in assisting with their customers work transformation initiatives.
One last note – training and reskilling employees is not solely the responsibility of employers. Governments can assist with education policies that accelerate STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) programs, as well as providing support for corporate training programs. And workers themselves must take responsibility for their own career development as well as a shift in thinking to become lifelong learners.
Want to learn more about preparing for the Future of Work? Listen to our on-demand presentation, “The Future of Work: Preparing for the New Normal.”