As technology rapidly features more in our daily lives, a natural response would be to fit jobs into the gaps that computers can’t handle. However, evolving technology means those gaps will become smaller and people will be squeezed out. At the same time, our planet is raising vital issues that we all must deal with, like the coronavirus pandemic and climate change. The answer is to adapt by gaining new, strategic skills throughout your career.
As an example of the need to change, artificial intelligence is quickly leading to the introduction of the self-drive vehicle. Within 20 years a major part of the workforce will be hugely affected by this – positively and negatively. Drivers of all types will lose jobs. Since these vehicles will reduce the number of accidents, related jobs will increasingly be lost, such as in vehicle repair, insurance, hospital emergency staff, rehabilitation workers and carers, etc.
On the plus side, people will be able to let their vehicle do the driving while they spend travel time reading, checking sales information, using their phone, doing admin tasks, etc – even doing mindfulness activities. Other improvements will include self-driving vans for home food delivery. All this will create a more productive day.
Likewise virtual and augmented reality etc, will have a huge impact on careers, along with other tech innovations like facial recognition, language translation, voice-operated devices and intelligent personal assistants like Alexa, Siri and Cortana.
Joseph Aoun, President of Northeastern University in the United States, reported in a February 2018 paper jointly prepared with Gallup experts, (“Optimism and Anxiety: Views on the impact of artificial intelligence and higher education’s response”):
The single biggest threat to future job growth in the United States is the surge of artificial intelligence. As many as 47% of jobs in the U.S. are at risk of being replaced within the next 20 years.
I am convinced that the answer to greater artificial intelligence is greater human intelligence…As machines continue to improve, we can too.
According to Professor Gerald Kane in the MIT Sloan Management Review of 7 December 2017, technological change will be uneven and unpredictable. Employees whose jobs will be at risk in one industry will need to be able to switch to a new career in another industry, with core skillsets enabling them to stay useful in a digital business world.
He says employers are more likely to build a workforce with central long-term employees who have strategic skills and who can use teams of contract workers for projects, creating more flexibility for the employer.
During my career I have commonly seen recruiters hire people with limited skills mainly because they have come from the same industry as the employer, rather than hiring people with better overall capabilities but who come from a different industry. This basic mistake is likely to happen less in the future as employers realize that strategic, transferable talents are more valuable than narrow, specialized capabilities.
Communication careers will be less disrupted than many other careers because our role requires a range of strategic and tactical communication and problem-solving skills, planning ability, social skills and professional judgment to confront widely varying situations. These capabilities will always be in demand. This New York Times article and interactive chart explain how these types of jobs are better placed.
Nevertheless, a study led by Jean Valin for the UK’s Chartered Institute of PR in 2018 estimated that 12% of PR skills were assisted or impacted by artificial intelligence.
Machines already undertake tasks such as data analysis, horizon scanning, and data management. Originally these were performed by practitioners starting out in their careers.Valin also found this proportion is likely to rise to 38% by 2023 due to the further development of software and machine learning. Artificial intelligence will impact key areas of public relations, including stakeholder mapping, risk analysis, auditing, and behavioral analysis. The likely extent of AI in public relations practice is shown in the chart below,
The lesson for communicators is that you will need to develop further skills throughout your career – not just basic implementation skills using the latest tech etc, which will become outmoded, but higher-level skills that will remain valuable and adaptable to new roles. This will require you to engage in lifelong learning. Those who think gaining new professional knowledge finishes at graduation will find they need to adapt to the new era of constant learning.
That’s why the information in this website is intended to be evergreen – to always be topical and valuable into the future, and to support you in discovering new skills.
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