I was looking back at the 1920s to see what changes they experienced and found myself amazed. The 1920s brought us from the biggest boom in the stock market to the crash of 1929. (Are we poised for this again maybe?)
The 1920s gave us prohibition. It gave us the basics of a modern car, the first transatlantic flight, early antibiotics, insulin, nationwide radio broadcasting, and frozen food. It gave women the vote. It laid the foundation for the growth of unions and gave rise to what we call human resources.
The 1920s also saw the rise of many bygone jobs. These included the telephone operator, elevator operator, wheat farm thresher, milkman, traveling salesman, silent movie actor, farmhand, and horse & wagon driver.
In the1920s, no one could have imagined what would replace these jobs. I believe many unimagined new jobs will replace those we are fearful of losing today. Most of the jobs of the 1920s lasted well into the 1950s before disappearing completely. That will not be today’s scenario. Jobs will disappear quickly and frequently, but be replaced just as quickly.
So what can we expect of the 2020s in the talent world?
The concept of lifelong employment will change and we will extend or even eliminate the idea of retirement. This change will cause us to rethink how we provide medical insurance, life insurance, and government pension programs.
In the 1920s, people worked longer hours, even often Saturdays, and much of that work was manual. Although work has moved away from manual to cognitive, we have only scratched the surface of what may come. Employment will continue to undergo a metamorphosis. A much smaller number of people will work in large organizations in a roughly a 40 hour workweek, with 8 am-5 pm work hours. We may end up laughing at the recent law passed in California to “protect” gig workers by forcing employers to make them employees. This law is akin to passing legislation, as many states did, that limited the speed of automobiles to 5 MPH so that horses would not be scared or run over. The fact is that gig work will be a dominant form of employment over the next few decades.
More people will experience work as a flexible, anytime, anywhere way to achieve goals, meet deadlines, and get paid for what they produce. Contingent and remote work will be ordinary and preferred for its flexibility. The government will increasingly provide health insurance and other benefits through taxes.
Automation will dominate all aspects of recruitment and learning with AI becoming integrated deeply into the way we work. The number of recruiters will shrink by the end of the decade by at least 50%, and those that remain will be highly skilled at relationship development, influencing, and communication. They will also have solid technical knowledge and skills. AI in the form of chatbots and candidate relationship management tools will assist the remaining ones in multiple ways from finding candidates and assessing them to engaging them in conversation.
Learning will be self-initiated and delivered through the Internet and mobile devices. Most learning will be just-in-time and video will be the primary source. More teachers will become coaches, facilitators, and content curators than lecturers or experts. AI will guide learning and provide information and answers that would probably elude most teachers. Except for a handful of elite ones. Most universities will move to online delivery, and students will span all age groups. Vocational education and internal employee development will be reborn and utilize AR, and perhaps VR, as well as simulations to teach skills.
For sure, advances in medicine will bring longer and healthier lives. Retirements ages will creep up and approach 70+ before the decade ends. There will be significant advancements in biomedical devices and a bionic person - someone with many artificial parts and replacement organs - may be a reality.
It will be a decade of massive change driven by the proliferation of devices that are connected to the Internet. The Internet of Things will give the ability to monitor health in real-time, all the time and prevent many major health issues.
Artificial intelligence and automation will transform manufacturing which will all but disappear as an employer. Robots will take over. Manufacturing already represents less than 10% of the workforce, and that shrinks each year.
Service jobs will continue to grow, and hordes of new occupations will appear or grow from drone operators to spaceship managers to who knows.
HR will morph into a talent service of some sort. Its primary function will be to ensure organizations have an agile, flexible, and continuously developing workforce. Administration, legal, compliance, and reporting will be automated or outsourced to specialists. Chatbots and online tools will service most employee needs.
It is going to a fun ride!