B+P Insights: The Future of Jobs

In many industries and countries today, the most in-demand occupations or specialist roles did not exist 10 or even five years ago. By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. In such a landscape, the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements is increasingly critical for businesses in order to fully seize the opportunities…


In a recent report from World Economic Forum disruptive changes to business models is forecasted to have a profound impact on the employment landscape over the coming years. Major drivers of transformation currently affecting global industries are expected to have a significant impact on jobs, from job creation to job displacement, and from heightened labour productivity to widening skills gaps. In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago. By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. In such a landscape, the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements is increasingly critical for businesses in order to fully seize the opportunities. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report seeks to understand the current and future impact of key disruptions on employment levels by asking the Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) of today’s largest employers to imagine how jobs in their industry will change up to the year 2020.


We are today at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Smart systems—homes, factories or entire cities—will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change. Concurrent to this technological revolution are a set of broader socioeconomic, geopolitical and demographic developments, with nearly equivalent impact to the technological factors.


Across the countries covered by the Report, current trends could lead to a net employment impact of more than 5.1 million jobs lost due to disruptive labour market changes over the period 2015–2020,—two thirds of which in routine white collar office functions, such as Office and Administrative roles—and a total gain of 2 million jobs, in Computer, Mathematical , Architecture and Engineering related fields. Manufacturing and Production roles are also expected to see a further bottoming out but are also anticipated to have relatively good potential for up-skilling, redeployment, and productivity enhancement through technology rather than pure substitution.

New and Emerging Roles. Two job types stand out: the first are data analysts, which companies expect will help them derive insights from the torrent of data generated by technological disruptions. The second are specialized sales representatives, as practically every industry will need to become skilled in commercializing and explaining their offerings to clients and consumers. A particular need is also seen in industries as varied as Energy and Media, Entertainment and Information for a new type of senior manager who will successfully steer companies through the upcoming change and disruption.

Changes in Ease of Recruitment, Competition for talent in job families such as Computer and Mathematical and Architecture and Engineering will be fierce, and securing a solid talent pipeline a priority for every industry.


In this new environment, business model change often translates to skill-set disruption. Even jobs that will shrink in number are simultaneously undergoing change in the skill-sets required to do them. Across nearly all industries, the impact of technological and other changes is shortening the shelf-life of employees’ existing skill sets. On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill-sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today. Overall, social skills— such as persuasion, emotional intelligence and teaching others—will be in higher demand across industries than narrow technical skills, such as programming or equipment operation and control. In essence, technical skills will need to be supplemented with strong social and collaboration skills.


The impact of technological, demographic and socioeconomic disruptions on business models will be felt in transformations to the employment landscape and skills requirements, resulting in substantial challenges for recruiting, training, and managing talent. Just over two thirds of companies believe that future workforce planning and change management features are a reasonably high or very high priority on the agenda of their company’s or organization’s senior leadership. Across all industries, about two thirds of our respondents report intentions to invest in the re-skilling of current employees as part of their change management and future workforce planning efforts, making it by far the highest-ranked such strategy overall.


Immediate Focus

  • Reinventing the HR Function: It’s key to manage skills disruption as an urgent concern. What this requires is an HR function that is rapidly becoming more strategic and has a seat at the table—one that employs new kinds of analytical tools to spot talent trends and skills gaps, and provides insights that can help organizations align their business, innovation and talent management strategies to maximize available opportunities to capitalize on transformational trends.
  • Making Use of Data Analytics: Businesses will need to build a better forecasting data and planning metrics will need to be central.
  • Talent diversity—the business benefits of workforce diversity and companies expect finding talent for many key specialist roles to become much more difficult by 2020: technology and data analytics may become a useful tool for advancing workforce parity.
  • Leveraging flexible working arrangements and online talent platforms:. Businesses will have to increasingly connect and collaborate remotely with freelancers and independent professionals through digital talent platforms. Longer Term Focus
  • Rethinking education systems: Businesses should work closely with governments, education providers and others to imagine what a true 21st century curriculum might look like.
  • Incentivizing lifelong learning: Ageing countries won’t just need lifelong learning—they will need re-skilling of existing workforces throughout their lifecycle. Governments and businesses have many opportunities to collaborate more to ensure that individuals have the time, motivation and means to seek retraining opportunities.
  • Cross-industry and public-private collaboration: businesses will need to realize collaboration on talent issues, rather than competition, is no longer a nice-to-have that but rather a necessary strategy. There is thus a need for bolder leadership and strategic action within companies and within and across industries, including partnerships with public institutions and the education sector.


This B+P Insight is based on the World Economic Forum report “The Future of Jobs“. Read the whole report here: WEF Future of Jobs

Share this on...
Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn