In recent history, experts have often predicted a future where machines would replace human workers. Back in 2013, Oxford University researchers shocked the world by suggesting that nearly half of all US jobs could be automated in the coming decades. Those ten years have nearly passed, and the job market doesn’t look as bleak as those earlier predictions. With unemployment rates at record lows, the once-feared wave of automation now seems less threatening.
However, looking back at inventions like the steam engine in the 18th century, the impact of technological advancements have historically reshaped work and this will continue moving forward. Multiple studies, including those by McKinsey Global Institute, Oxford University and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, all point to significant and inevitable changes ahead. These changes will affect both highly skilled workers and those in blue-collar jobs, largely due to the continued growth of artificial intelligence.
The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) has rekindled the next industrial revolution, prompting organizations to explore the dynamic shifts that are redefining occupations, jobs and employment structures. A report by Goldman Sachs in March 2023 underscores the urgency of this situation, revealing the potential disruption of a staggering 300 million jobs globally through the automation of specific tasks.
Industries characterized by routine and repetitive activities, prone to automation stand at the forefront of this monumental shift. In the US, jobs related to office and administrative support, legal tasks, architecture and engineering face the highest risk of automation, with AI potentially replacing 46%, 44% and 37% of their respective tasks.
However, the impact of automation isn’t limited to physical work activities. Generative AI is set to influence knowledge work, particularly tasks involving decision making and collaboration. Professionals in fields such as law, technology, education and the arts are likely to see parts of their jobs automated sooner than initially expected. This is due to the dynamic deployment of generative AI's capacity to anticipate patterns in natural language and apply them seamlessly.
The dichotomy of future jobs
Amid these developments, uncertainty looms over the future, as the interplay between AI and traditional work defies simple categorization. As jobs once considered essential become automated, there is a notable shift towards roles that demand distinctly human skills.
According to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report 2023, a transformative landscape awaits. Forecasts indicate that approximately 23% of jobs are poised to evolve by 2027, leading to the creation of 69 million new jobs but also the elimination of 83 million roles.
Generative AI is reshaping industries across the board, from healthcare to design and gaming to art. It’s fuelling innovation and propelling enterprises into a future where possibilities are limitless. The rapid adoption of generative AI on industries highlights its undeniable impact.
Organizations are recognizing its transformative power and embracing it as a strategic enabler. Kevin Ichhpurani, Corporate Vice President, Global Partner Ecosystem & Channels, Google Cloud, states: “Generative AI has the potential to revolutionize a wide variety of business processes and even transform entire industries.”
McKinsey Global Institute estimates that generative AI will lead to a 36% increase in task automation over what would otherwise have been expected — from 22% of today’s work hours to 30%. Recognizing its immense potential, HCLTech is an early adopter of generative AI technologies, taking part in an OpenAI and Microsoft Copilot focused tech development. Additionally, the IT services provider has recently unveiled its Generative AI Labs, a strategic move aimed at bolstering its teams’ capability in developing innovative solutions and services across a diverse range of roles and domains, including systems engineering, process operations and support.
However, upskilling alone won’t be enough to contain the disruption caused by AI to millions of jobs. Instead, workers may need to be entirely reskilled — a fundamental and profoundly complex societal challenge that will require workers not only to acquire new skills but to use them to change occupations, according to a Harvard Business Review report.
Fastest growing careers: EV & AI specialists, green jobs and IT security
As the world enters the Fifth Industrial Revolution and the push for emissions reduction and combating climate change gains momentum, industries like oil, gas and coal, as well as automotive are witnessing a decline in employment. These fossil fuel sectors employ over 18 million people globally, with the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) predicting the loss of 6 million jobs worldwide by 2030 during the transition to clean energy.
The pursuit of sustainability has led to a surge in green industries, including renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, urban farming and eco-friendly manufacturing. For instance, solar power is set to become Europe’s main source of energy in the coming years, potentially creating four million jobs by 2050. In the US, green jobs are projected to expand to nearly 24 million, comprising 14% of total US jobs by 2030. Since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law in August 2022, more than 100,000 clean energy jobs have been created in the US.
The focus now shifts to the fastest-growing professions: autonomous and EV specialists, AI and ML specialists, champions of sustainability, business intelligence analysts, big data experts and information security professionals. These fields are projected to witness an estimated 30% growth by 2027.
The rise of the gig economy, driven by digital platforms and AI-powered matching algorithms, has opened door for flexible, remote and independent work. However, this presents a dual challenge. While on-demand jobs offer increased flexibility, they often come with income instability and lack of social benefits. Conversely, the AI revolution has fuelled the demand for specialized skills, resulting in a surge of high-wage jobs in fields like data science, artificial intelligence research and advanced manufacturing. This shift necessitates a dynamic approach to reskilling and upskilling to ensure a smooth workforce transition.
A joint study with HCLTech and Fortune Brand Studio suggests that more than 90% of senior executives from 11 industries across North America and Europe cited “sustainable work models as a top priority for their organizations, with over half of them indicating strong agreement.”
Talent management in the AI era
Amid these transformative shifts, organizations face the challenge of managing a multigenerational workforce. Tailoring experiences that align with individual preferences while harnessing the power of AI to create personalized learning and development pathways becomes crucial.
A Workmonitor report indicates that 59 percent of Gen Z employees prioritize values related to social and environmental issues when choosing employees. The digital-native generation possesses an innate understanding of emerging trends and disruptive technologies. By integrating this innovative thinking with the wisdom of the older generation, businesses can drive transformative change, as 50 percent of Gen Z employees would rather be unemployed than unhappy in a job, compared to 42 per cent of Millennials and 28 per cent of Baby Boomers.
Amrita Das, Senior Vice President and Head of HR – APME Growth Markets, HCLTech, explained: “Gen Z has been born and raised in the digital age — meaning that the exchange of ideas and good practices have opened avenues for newer and better ways of managing themselves and their careers. They have started to differentiate between a career, a job and their livelihood — placing exclusive values on each of them and working towards nurturing each of them as and when they needed.”
A multigenerational workforce creates a dynamic environment where new ideas are constantly exchanged, leading to creative solutions and enhanced competitiveness. The convergence of different generations in the workplace presents a unique opportunity for organizations to tap into a wealth of knowledge, experience and different perspectives.
“Changing work dynamics are posing challenges for talent attraction and retention. HCLTech has two specific programs called TechBee and Rise. TechBee is our offering aimed at high school and university students. It’s a 12-month training program that allows students to start their careers early. Rise supports those who are returning to the workforce and offers reskilling and career coaching to ensure a smooth transition back to work,” said Das.
Mentorship, reverse mentoring and team-building activities can help bridge generational gaps and foster collaboration. By leveraging the strengths of each generation and promoting mutual respect, organizations can harness the collective intelligence of their multigenerational workforce.
The role of policies and education in shaping the future
As we delve further into the age of generative AI and its impact on work, the importance of comprehensive policies and education becomes evident. Governments, industry stakeholders and educational institutions must collaborate to design agile curricula that equip individuals with the skills needed to thrive in an AI-powered world.
Policies that promote reskilling and upskilling, incentivize green industries and address the inequalities exacerbated by technological shifts are essential to ensure a just transition. The limitless potential of AI and its subset, generative AI, represents a pivotal chapter for the world of work, which was once confined to traditional boundaries. A radical metamorphosis is underway.
As policy makers, subject matter experts and technology enthusiasts navigate this uncharted territory, it is imperative to recognize that the future of work is not a distant horizon — it is unfolding before our very eyes, revealing a harmonious blend of human potential and technological marvels.