If 2019 was the year we identified the most acute challenges facing various industries — in the form of macroeconomic trends as well as industry-specific factors — 2020 will be the year we confront those issues.
For most companies, this looks like addressing a skills gap that grows at the same rate technology progresses. This is to say, in the tech industry, it’s a gap that grows quickly.
In this way, progress can be unforgiving, both to companies left searching for skilled labor and for workers who are left behind during these economic shifts. The consequences bleed through to the rest of the economy in the form of anemic productivity, shrinking revenue, and reduced customer satisfaction.
Some of these changes, like automation, are sweeping through the entire economy. Many leaders thought, somewhat conveniently, that white collar jobs would be insulated from the instability that would come to characterize lower-skilled labor — but white collar jobs might be just as vulnerable, according to new reports.
Automated programs now act as corporate recruiters, generating insights for market analysis firms, and executing high-frequency trades in finance — all functions of jobs that we understand to be well-paying, professional and, above all, safe (for now).
Clearly, there’s no class of workers excluded from the changes that are taking place. Artificial intelligence, the enabling technology behind automation, is forcing a broad economic realignment as firms compete to leverage its benefits and protect themselves from risk.
Technology always has been a differentiator, but the rate at which industry-changing innovations come to market is faster than ever before. As firms adopt new tech at corresponding rates to gain an edge on the competition, their workforces repeatedly are thrown into phases of transition that are beginning to feel permanent.
Companies with workforces small enough or agile enough to adapt can thrive. However, a status quo of permanent transition could exclude vast swaths of people from participating, especially in organizations with large, diversified business units.
Even organizations founded in the digital era with young, tech-savvy workforces aren’t excluded from the challenges that the current software environment presents to people at work.
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An example of this is the rise of the gig economy workforce. Workers are distributed, they work independent schedules, and they establish highly varied work patterns. The flexibility and independence this offers can make an organization nimble and adaptable.