Is This the End of the Jobs Apocalypse?

ManpowerGroup recently released a report, “Humans Wanted: Robots Need You,” which blew several holes in the dire jobs apocalypse predictions we’ve been hearing the past several years. The report was so damaging to this narrative because it relied on responses from a survey of over 19,000 employers in 44 countries who reported the impact of automation on job growth in their organization over the next two years and how they plan to use upskilling to ensure their workforce is “future-fit.”

The study has three findings which run especially counter to the narrative that mass job losses will hit much of the workforce though no doubt some occupations will be hard hit. They are:

Automation is creating jobs and the trend is set to stay.

More Employers than ever (87%) anticipate increasing or maintaining their workforce as a result of automation – up from 83% in three years. The share of companies predicting job losses has fallen from 12% to 9%.

87% of employers anticipate increasing or maintaining their workforce.

Organizations that are automating most are creating the most jobs.

Companies that are digitizing are growing, and that growth is producing more and new kinds of jobs. Also, organizations that are already automating tasks and progressing their digital transformation are also most confident of increasing headcount.   Of the 41% of companies automating tasks over the next 2 years, 24% will create more jobs, 6 percent more than those who don’t plan to automate.

More companies are planning to build talent than ever before.

As workers with in-demand skills grow increasingly hard to find, more companies are planning to build talent than ever before, with 84% of organizations expecting to be upskilling their workforce by 2020, a jump of 60% since 2015.

84% of organizations expecting to be upskilling their workforce by 2020.

This report has prompted a great deal of discussion in my home as it so powerfully resonates with what we are seeing every day in our personal and professional lives.  As a digital marketing manager at SpringML, I get to see first-hand how we help customers get value quickly from their data and accelerate the adoption of ML and AI in their enterprise.

Likewise, my husband Jaime Fall, who has the pleasure of serving as Director of UpSkill America at the Aspen Institute works with employers to invest in the education, training, and development of frontline and entry-level workers so they have the skills and knowledge they need to advance in their careers. In the 2018 UpSkill America Year in Review, he recently reported just a few large corporations alone announced investments exceeding $600 million dollars for the upskilling of their workers. He says this report perfectly reflects what he hears from employers every day, “The ManpowerGroup data provides real numbers to what I hear anecdotally every day. In this time of low unemployment, employers can’t find enough workers with the skills they need, they can’t afford high turnover in the workers they have, and they often need to build the skills of their current workforce, so employers are increasingly turning to upskilling as a solution.”

As the mother of a college freshman and a high school sophomore, the report was also valuable because it helps to paint a path forward for my Gen Z daughters as they try to choose productive, prosperous and meaningful careers. Though there is still much we don’t know, the report paints a pretty clear picture that the least disrupted career paths are likely ones that include a strong mix of technical skills and professional skills (often badly mislabeled as soft skills) such as communications as 65% of the responding companies say they plan to increase headcount in IT roles with communication being the most valued professional/soft skill.

While, it is important to point out that this report doesn’t do anything to dispel the expectation that some occupations such as cashiers and drivers will, over the long-term, face significant disruption, it does paint a path forward for many of us who are trying to get a clearer picture of what the future workforce looks like and how we can prepare ourselves and our children for success in it.