Looking Back, Looking Forward
Recruiting, Work, and Learning Changes This Decade
This article is a bit different. It takes a very high-level look at how this decade compares to the same decade roughly 100 years ago. It looks at the changes and differences in work, hiring, recruiting, and learning.
I was curious about what people in the 1920s experienced and what major changes took place. It was as amazing and transforming a decade as this one.
During that decade, the United States and most of the world experienced a huge boom in the stock market. Similar to what we have seen as well. And it all went well until the stock market crash of 1929, when stocks plummeted and created economic chaos for thousands of people. Are we poised for something similar? We have a few more years to wait and see.
The 1920s also gave rise to advances in technology, science, and medicine. The modern sedan-style car appeared, as did the first transatlantic flights. We saw the development of antibiotics, insulin, nationwide radio broadcasting, and frozen food. Women finally got the vote, and congress laid the foundation for the growth of unions. And human resources began to grow as a profession.
The 1920s saw the creation of jobs that existed for only a few decades, with a few hanging on well into the 1950s before disappearing completely. Advances in technology and changing lifestyles accelerated their demise. Some of these jobs included the telephone operator, elevator operator, wheat farm thresher, milkman, traveling salesman, silent movie actor, farmhand, and horse & wagon driver.
No one imagined what new jobs would emerge, just as we struggle to imagine which will emerge over the next seven years. We know that many well-paid jobs that employ large numbers of people will disappear, but we do not know which ones. We have already seen the demise of the HTML programmer and the network administrator and the shrinkage of newspaper reporters and computer operators. We see the traditional taxi drivers replaced by Uber drivers, programmers with automated software, checkout clerks at shops and grocery stores by self-scanning machines, printers and press operators by online publishing, and navigators on airplanes and ships by GPS devices.
So what can else can we expect in the talent world over the next few years?
The concept of lifelong employment has already left us. People now change companies and jobs frequently and often move from permanent employment to freelance work several times in their careers. Working for one firm for many years has not only declined but is also looked upon as a negative. People now want different experiences, creative challenges, and opportunities to expand their skills.
The workweek will shrink to four days per week or less. And much of that time will be spent remotely. In the 1920s, people worked longer hours, even often Saturdays, and much of that work was manual. Although work has moved from manual to cognitive, we have only scratched the surface of what may come. Employment will continue to undergo a metamorphosis. 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.
A much smaller number of people will work in large organizations. We may laugh at laws passed in California and elsewhere to “protect” gig workers by forcing employers to make them employees and offer benefits. These laws are reminiscent of legislation passed at the beginning of the twentieth century by many states that limited the speed of automobiles to 5 MPH so that horses would not be scared. The fact is that gig work will be a dominant form of employment means that governments or other institutions will need to step up and provide the benefits corporations provide today. These will be paid for by new taxation policies or contributions from workers. This will give workers the freedom to choose who they work for, how they work, and when they work.
Society will gradually extend the retirement age and may even eliminate the concept of retirement as we remain healthy and active longer than ever. Advances in medicine will bring longer and healthier lives. Retirement 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. We may replace retirement benefits with a guaranteed income throughout life.
Recruiting - The recruiter remains but is reskilled.
Hiring will remain similar to how it is done today. What will be different is that artificial intelligence will play a large role in finding, screening, and assessing people. It will make recommendations to recruiters who will use human judgment to decide whether to move forward or not. The data that A.I. can access and use is far greater than anything a human can do. But A.I. does not have a sense of the context of a situation or understand the nuances of a hiring manager and their preferences.
Recruiters will not disappear, but 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. Artificial intelligence will be regarded as normal and essential in assisting the remaining ones in multiple ways, from finding candidates and assessing them to engaging them in conversation.
Learning will stay in the classroom but be augmented with technology.
During the pandemic, we re-learned the importance of face-to-face learning. The interaction between students and teachers is part of the learning process, even though it seems inefficient. An ideal learning situation is a combination of self-initiated learning, information delivered through the Internet and mobile devices, and facilitated conversation and discussion led by a teacher. Online learning will be a major component of any learning but will not replace in-person learning completely. People seek other people’s input, ideas, and arguments. This is why book clubs, discussion groups, and tutorials are popular. Artificial intelligence can guide learning and provide information and answers that might elude most teachers but will not replace them. Vocational education and internal employee development will be reborn and utilize augmented reality and perhaps virtual reality, as well as simulations to teach skills.
Artificial intelligence and automation will transform manufacturing which will remain an employer but a smaller one as robots increasingly become more capable, flexible, and mobile. Manufacturing already represents less than 10% of the workforce, but even with recent increases due to the pandemic, retrenching from China, and a rise in patriotism, the numbers will not grow substantially.
Service jobs will continue to grow, and hordes of new occupations will appear. Most of them we cannot yet know, but perhaps among them will be professional drone operators, spaceship pilots, and terraforming experts.
HR will evolve into a service whose 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 serve practical and immediate employee needs. Human resources staff will be smaller and perhaps largely contingent. With people working in many different ways, HR will need to be extremely diverse and look well beyond the walls of a single institution. Looks for significant changes in this profession.
All in all, the changes will be wide-reaching and impact everyone. We tend to overestimate the impact of some things, perhaps artificial intelligence in our case, and underestimate other things, perhaps the new ways of working and new concepts of productivity.
What do you think? I’d love your comments on what you see for the next seven years.
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