Categories: Future of Work
During the COVID-19 shutdowns and drastic change in workday routines, recruiters are working tirelessly to alter business models, keep candidates engaged and hopeful, and support companies who have been severely disrupted, worrying about their employees while trying to keep their doors open. They are acutely aware, however, that mindsets if they have not already, will change as to what to expect from employment as a candidate and what employers will require from the talent they hire (flexibility and adaptability being key). Certain things are clear: amidst this turmoil, the value of people in the workforce will always be prevalent and all future workforces will need to be open to acquiring new tech skills.
Valuing people in the most basic sense of their health and safety is a given, but the value they bring to everyday work-life in our ordinary busy world, we often forget to realize. The “rat race” as it had been dubbed years ago is real and has been alive and well. This unprecedented crisis that has swept over our nation in a wave, however, is hopefully an eye-opening experience as to how we want to build our workforces moving forward, create the most adaptable and flexible teams and embrace what the new normal will be.
For future workforces, there can be no resistance to technology – we just have to use it in a way to value people and focus on positive outcomes
While studies and articles have exhaustedly dissected the divide among the generations in the workforce, one result of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is the inevitable full acceptance of technology among all workers of all ages. Workers and/or companies who at one time may have resisted any implementation of a new work model will find themselves left behind during recovery. Or those who may have been scared for job security against the threat of being taken over by robots may find solace in new tech knowledge and skills they’ve learned during this crisis, eventually providing them with more employment choices. Acquiring more tech skills, even if it happened during this crisis, is a positive outcome in almost any industry.
Tech skills will be on most resumes as we rebuild and hiring will expand
Take for instance healthcare. Healthcare is driven by technology and has been for some time – with the implementation of advanced medical devices, laboratory equipment, even administrative tools through the use of portals instead of paperwork. Traditional healthcare workers had to be trained on new systems, acquiring new skill sets, and that was a positive outcome because it augmented their resumes and credentials and increased service levels for those seeking care. Today, as the healthcare industry operates at breakneck speed to contain the virus and provide care, workers will no doubt again be called upon to increase their learning and adapt to new procedures, which will further strengthen their work experience and the industry overall.
Other industries have also adapted overnight to new technology and this flexibility will benefit them in the long run. For example, with the COVID-19 crisis and the shortage of medical devices, auto manufacturing facilities have changed course from their normal production to contribute to the medical supply development that we desperately need. An employee may have been trained to build a car at an auto plant, but their ability to switch hats and learn new technology will be paramount. And again, this can be a positive outcome, because by partnering with experts in the medical devices field, auto manufacturing workers and engineers will learn new skills, increasing their ability to secure work in the future.
This holds true for our schools that have now gone virtual. Not just for a few select courses - entire school districts across the country have closed their buildings and moved online. For the kids, it might have been an easy transition, save for the fact of getting them to pay attention without a person standing in front of them. But for the administrators, teachers, and caregivers who are helping to deliver and support this new learning platform, they may have had a week or two at the most to be fully operational. And most accomplished this because they buckled down and learned new technology.
While some school districts in the country already had some form of online education as a foundation, not many were at the capacity to support entire populations at the click of a button. Equipment needed to be circulated, curriculums needed to be redesigned, teachers needed to be trained. While many still view teachers as a protected profession, the education system requires expertise from more than traditional teachers. It includes administrators, assistants, technology support professionals, tutors, test developers, communication specialists and more.
These individuals collectively are helping to define and develop educational platforms that society may come to rely on more heavily in the future, requiring a pipeline of talent to support its growth and spark innovation. Innovation in the software development industry that will no doubt continue to be one of the fastest-growing sectors outside of healthcare for years to come; innovation in curriculum development and delivery programs that are dynamic and forward-thinking; innovation in network support to be able to manage capacity and uptime. The educational industry will require talented professionals to fill these roles and its employment reach will continue to expand.
We will all adapt to the new normal…and the new normal after that…
In addition to the educational profession, the private business sector will see virtual office environments grow as the new normal, requiring technology to outpace its growth, and opening new opportunities galore for remote system development and support. For many industries, it may have been fairly easy to make the switch; for others, they likely felt they should have prepared a bit more for the abrupt change in the daily work routine. Nonetheless, a switch to remote work was imminent, and most businesses will be planning to maintain that changeover for some time. This will require an investment in people, equipment, software, security consulting, online trainers and more for optimal operation. Objectives will be prioritized, jobs will be created and hiring will commence - new workers just might not be commuting to the head office anymore.
One objective will be a significant uptick in the use of video conferencing to manage the business (and the sale of tops vs. bottoms). The novelty of a WebEx since its development in the early 90s has worn off, but the subsequent iterations and future innovation for its premise will become a top priority as organizations try to move the bar in creating the most dynamic remote work environments. Companies will need specialists to assume these new responsibilities – yet another positive hiring outcome to a changing workforce.
And for many of those settled into a-staying-home routine (or mandate), the trajectory of online retail activity will continue to be astronomic, as it has been ever since its introduction in 1995 (or ’94 for that matter with NetMarket). For those that were slow to embrace its growth and modify their models, the effects were catastrophic (read Sears and JCPenney); for others who continued to innovate and race with technology, the sky has been the limit. Even as Amazon continues to loom over small businesses and an industry pioneer that will be studied by economists for years to come, we are also reminded that many small businesses forged their own entrepreneurial paths using online retail platforms that morphed into an entirely new business sector. Some even sought to add in some social responsibility for good measure – a WIN-WIN-WIN for job creation, tech development and goodwill (read Bombas).
And while individual opinion on the emergence of online buying is strong for both yay or nay, its existence has proven to be a crucial service while we endure the crisis, as we witness systems overloaded for grocery and medical orders and other essentials. These tools employ people, both in the (now remote) office and in the field. New technology for online retail and home delivery services has afforded employment to individuals that may have previously found it difficult to be employed: the mom of young children who needs extra income, the retiree who needs to supplement, the college student juggling a course schedule with the need to have a flexible, part-time job. This is another positive outcome demonstrating how technology use helped to bridge the gap among the generations and managed to spark the job force in the process.
Injecting some positive into the narrative
As we venture into month two and three of the official the COVID-19 crisis, our reliance on technology is becoming more apparent every day – and to many that could be very unsettling. But if we look at it from a different lens, we can see the human side of the emergence in technology that is going to help us navigate these uncharted waters. It has never been clearer that machines CANNOT take the place of humans in the workforce, especially when we are recognizing the shortcomings and pitfalls we face when we are missing people at work. And while technology has changed the way we work and how we will work moving forward, people once again are critical to how we steer opportunities that arise from embracing it. When we focus on the positive, we can take what we’ve learned and increase our skillsets enhancing our marketability, employability, and value to future workforces.