The growth of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will reshape the workforce and the skills employees will need.
Skill shifts have accompanied the introduction of new technologies in the workplace since at least the Industrial Revolution, says a new report from McKinsey, but the disruptive technologies emerging now will see this process accelerate.
The demand for physical and manual skills and basic cognitive skills is likely to fall as AI and automation take over roles such as assembly line workers, checkout operators and data-entry clerks.
But at the same time, new roles will be created and they will increase the need for other skills.
For instance, research by McKinsey suggests that demand for technological skills will increase by 55%. This includes basic digital skills as well as advanced technological skills such as programming.
There will be an increase in the need for workers with finely tuned social and emotional skills — skills that machines are a long way from mastering. McKinsey expects to see a rise in demand for entrepreneurship, initiative taking, leadership and managing others.
Higher cognitive skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, decision making and complex information processing, will also be in greater demand.
These changes will require workers in all sectors to deepen their existing skill sets or acquire new ones.
Meanwhile, companies will need to rethink how work is organised within their organisations to stay competitive.
To address skill shortages, firms will need to retrain their existing employees, redeploy workers to other tasks, hire new people with required skill sets, and/or use contractors, freelancers and temporary workers.
“Firms in the forefront of automation adoption expect to attract the talent they need, but slower adopters fear their options will be more limited,” McKinsey says.