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The rise of AI was hardly unforeseen…

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… just ask the talent world’s Mystic Meg aka me!

With all the talk about the impact of AI on jobs, here’s another run out of something I wrote in 2019. I’m not saying ‘I told you so’…

The election ‘elephant’ that wasn’t even in the room

Way back in 2019, I reflected on the December election, which lacked debate on the very topic that will defi ne the decade to come – the impact of technology on jobs. Now that some of the dust has settled from the election (with a few sandstorms since), for me what was striking was the absence of debate from any of the major parties about the impact of technology on jobs. I happen to think this is the biggest and most urgent challenge our society and economy faces right now.

Yes, even more than climate change and the NHS. And whilst we seem to have reached a consensus that climate change is real and must be addressed, it also seems to be generally accepted that ‘AI’ (note to purists, I’m using the term as a catch-all) will create more jobs than it destroys. It will also improve productivity and increase GDP. I pretty much subscribe to this view, but the social dislocation and potentially profound impact for millions of peoples’ livelihoods seems to be hugely underestimated.

The beginning of AI’s impact

There are a variety of reasons for the loss of jobs in recent years; fundamentally it is being driven by technology-led innovation leading to new consumer behaviour. And yet, in many respects, the impact of AI is only just beginning. There have been numerous studies trying to assess the impact of AI on jobs with the most conservative seeming to suggest that only 10% of jobs will disappear. Only 10% – that’s three million people! And, if the impact on the high street is replicated across other sectors it’s really not hard to see how we get to that number pretty quickly.

The flexible way of hiring also extends to young people and the re-balancing of opportunities between apprentices, direct school leavers and graduates.

For those of us old enough to remember the impact of rapid change on traditional industries in the 1980s without the provision of government support, the prospect of this happening across multiple sectors simultaneously is terrifying.

The solution(s)?

So, what can those of us involved in the world of talent actually do? On a practical level, we are already seeing employers move away from hiring for ‘relevant experience’ to hiring for ‘relevant attributes’ – attitude, empathy, flexibility and resilience, for example. In short, it’s hiring for long-term employability. Another development is a greater shift towards much more flexible employment patterns (for both temporary and permanent workers) to engage with a more diverse pool of talent. The flexible way of hiring also extends to young people and the re-balancing of opportunities between apprentices, direct school leavers and graduates.

From an organisational standpoint, what we are seeing is the integration of talent acquisition and talent management and ultimately a move towards ‘workforce solutions’ or total talent management. Finding the balance between technology and optimum workforce management will be neither quick nor easy and, with politicians struggling to catch up on the broader implications of what this means for society more generally, employers are going to do a lot of heavy lifting on their own. From our position at TALiNT Partners, what is clear is that the amount of energy and time being deployed to find solutions (because there won’t just be one) to this challenge is enormous. Ultimately, this is something that will benefit all of us and in ways we’re only just beginning to understand.

If you haven’t guessed it already, my New Year’s resolution is to share more of the insight we get from our work in a regular weekly blog! Make sure you have a read.