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PwC’s John Karren: The Workforce of Tomorrow Is Here, Seize It

Automation and technological innovation are radically transforming the way businesses operate but rather than fearing mass unemployment and a human workforce uprooted by artificial intelligence, businesses should take a proactive approach to retain existing employees for emerging jobs while evolving to meet the needs of a younger generation. That was a key message John Karren, U.S. digital workforce transformation leader and partner for PwC, delivered during a keynote address at the MICHauto Annual Meeting, held in conjunction with the 2017 MICHauto Summit.

“Most commentators agree that the world is changing faster than ever before in history,” Karren said, adding that 47 percent of job categories will be automated by 2020.

While he acknowledged that the job landscape is evolving, Karren said the need for a human workforce will not go away. Karren said automating tasks makes other uniquely human skills more important.

“Technology magnifies our leverage, our judgement and creativity instead of replacing it,” he said.

Staying ahead of the technology curve, Karren said, is predicated on attracting the best and brightest and addressing evolving workforce expectations — current workforces expect a mobile environment, are fueling the new “freelance economy,” and typically spend no longer than 16 months with any employer on average, he said. This is particularly important to note as in-demand jobs allow individuals more freedom to seek out companies that meet their needs.

“Talent and capabilities management must be the No. 1 priority, or risk losing the battle to harness technological breakthroughs in your respective market,” Karren said.

With an increased focus on automated processes, today’s skills battleground is for soft skills — creativity and innovation, leadership, adaptability and problem solving — technical skills alone are not enough, Karren added.

Key Takeaways:

  • The future of work is about today. The world of work is changing rapidly and if companies aren’t thinking about this than they are behind.
  • The future isn’t linear or predictable. Plan for a dynamic rather than static future.
  • Multiple external and internal change drivers (i.e. emerging technologies and artificial intelligence, increased globalization, and the gig economy) are impacting today’s workforce.
  • Businesses must integrate scenario planning across strategy, finance and workforce.
  • Integrating humans and technology is crucial.
  • Good employers manage today’s AND tomorrow’s people issues – wellness, reskilling, rewards, employer models, mobility, immigration and productivity.
  • Companies should engage and manage multiple stakeholders (current/future customers, employees, leadership, society, community, government, vendors, etc.) in future planning.