AI will threaten many traditional white-collar jobs.
In the future, displaced employees will reskill and zigzag into new roles and disciplines.
HR must adapt swiftly to this new world and prepare for a ‘circular economy of people’.
A future where talent will be hired for their ability to learn and adapt, as much as the knowledge and experience they’ve amassed.
Many people have heard of the ‘circular economy’ – the opposite of a throwaway society, where the emphasis is on recycling and repurposing existing materials for as long as possible.
Yet as AI upends long-cherished linear career paths this notion is likely to extend to people.
According to a 2023 Goldman Sachs report, AI will displace or downgrade 300 million jobs over the next decade.
Unlike the automation boom of the 1980s that put pay to many blue-collar jobs, this new tech tsunami will impact white-collar jobs.
Lawyers, financial advisers, auditors, and even some software developers could see their jobs disappear.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. According to the Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), 75% of companies surveyed said they will adopt AI, with twice as many respondents believing it will lead to overall job growth than job losses.
What we can expect is fierce competition for the most sought-after disciplines, chief amongst them being AI and machine learning specialists, data analysts, and big data specialists.
Analytical and creative thinking will be highly prized, even trumping leadership skills in perceived value.
Of course, candidates possessing both will be highly prized.
What does this mean for HR?
HR is earmarked for profound change. Recruitment and talent acquisition will be transformed with AI removing human bias and increasing the accuracy of candidate assessment.
Employee service centers will become smarter thanks to ever more advanced chatbots.
I could go on and on, but the real revolution will be in the recasting of the HR department from career dictator to career enabler.
‘Learning and development’, barely on the agenda 15 years ago, will be elevated beyond the HR staple that they are today.
According to WEF, 44% of workers’ core skills are expected to change in the next five years.
Those who remain in the same role will also need to change or update their skills to be successful.
Facilitating reskilling for a constantly shifting circular economy of people will be a major undertaking for HR professionals.
We must transition to help employees develop horizontal career paths, as people zig-zag from one discipline to another.
This means empowering talent and giving them more say in their career direction – equipping them with smart tools to allow them to assess their options and navigate their careers confidently.
For example, aided by AI, team members will recommend the most appropriate learning paths based on skills, adaptability, historical inputs, and other factors.
Think of it like Netflix recommendations but more sophisticated.
Big data powers the circular economy of people
If ‘learning and development’ are the new rock n’ roll of HR, then ‘big data’ is the record label.
They will go hand-in-hand as the circular economy of people will be predicated on a deep understanding of people, business, and organizational needs.
Data analytics, for example, can be an early warning system to identify talent gaps per those needs.
Forward-thinking organizations will embrace the circular economy of people, so HR professionals have to be ready for it. That means adopting AI tools ourselves.
The trick will be to swim with the tide, not against it. Expect a lot of noise with AI but don’t get side tracked by headlines about mass unemployment.
In the circular economy of people, mass redeployment is the issue that we need to focus on.
Sign up to the UNLEASH Newsletter
Get the Editor’s picks of the week delivered straight to your inbox!