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From Jobs to Superjobs
The Future of Work
As organizations embrace and adopt robotics and AI, they’re finding that virtually every job can be redesigned—creating new categories of work, including hybrid jobs and “superjobs.”
The jobs they are a-changin’
Are jobs going away due to technology? While some may be eliminated, our view is that many more are changing. The unemployment rate remains low in the United States, and the labor market is tight for new and critical skills around the world. Furthermore, only 38 percent of our survey respondents told us that they expect technology to eliminate jobs at their organizations within the next three years, and only 13 percent believe automation will eliminate a significant number of positions, far different from our findings on this score only a few years ago.
Earlier research by Deloitte posited that automation, by removing routine work, actually makes jobs more human, enabling the role and contribution of people in work to rise in importance and value. The value of automation and AI, according to this research, lies not in the ability to replace human labor with machines, but in augmenting the workforce and enabling human work to be reframed in terms of problem-solving and the ability to create new knowledge. “It is [the] ability to collectively make sense of the world that makes us uniquely human and separates us from the robots—and it cuts across all levels of society.”
The ways our survey respondents tell us they are using automation, and their efforts to redesign work as a corollary to automation, speaks to this idea. This year, while 62 percent of respondents are using automation to eliminate transactional work and replace repetitive tasks, 47 percent are also augmenting existing work practices to improve productivity, and 36 percent are “reimagining work.” Many respondents also told us they were doubling down on reskilling: Eighty-four percent of the respondents who said that automation would require reskilling reported that they are increasing funding for reskilling and retraining, with 18 percent characterizing this investment as “significant”.
Human Capital Trends 2019
The advent of “superjobs”
In traditional job design, organizations create fixed, stable roles with written job descriptions and then add supervisory and management positions on top. When parts of jobs are automated by machines, the work that remains for humans is generally more interpretive and service-oriented, involving problem-solving, data interpretation, communications and listening, customer service and empathy, and teamwork and collaboration. However, these higher-level skills are not fixed tasks like traditional jobs, so they are forcing organizations to create more flexible and evolving, less rigidly defined positions and roles.
These new types of jobs, which go under a variety of names—“manager,” “designer,” “architect,” or “analyst”—are evolving into what we call “superjobs.” New research shows that the jobs in highest demand today, and those with the fastest acceleration in wages, are so-called “hybrid jobs” that bring together technical skills, including technology operations and data analysis and interpretation, with “soft” skills in areas such as communication, service, and collaboration.3 The concept of superjobs takes this shift one step further. In a superjob, technology has not only changed the nature of the skills the job requires but has changed the nature of the work and the job itself. Superjobs require the breadth of technical and soft skills that hybrid jobs do—but also combine parts of different traditional jobs into integrated roles that leverage the significant productivity and efficiency gains that can arise when people work with smart machines, data, and algorithms.
The potential for backlash
The advent of superjobs carries with it the potential for societal backlash. The flip side—some would say the darker side—of the creation of superjobs is growth in commodity jobs, service jobs, and microtasks. Already, commentators are seeing a bifurcation of some work and jobs into highly augmented, complex, well-paid jobs on the one hand, and lower-wage, lower-skilled work across service sectors on the other. Recent research is capturing the impact of technology and automation on the division of the job market.7 In the face of the potential social consequences, business leaders should challenge themselves to reimagine work to meet the needs of all workforce segments in all job types—service and gig workers as well as those with superjobs.
Clearly, the full story has yet to unfold with regard to technological advances and their impact to work. We believe that organizations need to view these trends in the context of the social enterprise—and the increasingly important connections between organizations and society. Augmenting workers with technology will, no doubt, lead to work being done in new ways. The challenge before organizations now is to execute this reinvention in a manner that leads to positive results for themselves, their workers, and the economy and society as a whole.
For more information about the Human Capital Trends 2019, please contact Petra Tito or Ronald Meijers via the contact details below.