Over the last couple of years, I have participated as a volunteer in a global IEEE initiative aimed at identifying and exploring the top trends and technology which will shape the future of work. This initiative was created by the IEEE Industry Engagement Committee and the IEEE Computer Society and includes input from IEEE members and non-members from all over the world.
Some of the data in the resulting Future of the Workforce report was gleaned from a series of 10 panel interviews with groups of people in industry, government and academia, as well as discussion and analysis by leading industry professionals and a comprehensive survey of IEEE members on various aspects of the future of the workforce. Overall, over 10,000 engineering professionals and 200 interview panelists were contacted. This free report identifies important practices that will be necessary to support and foster the continued growth and development of the new global labor market.
The report explores how work is transforming in response to changes in technology, social expectations and of course, the pandemic. The pandemic disrupted just-in-time supply chains leading to “deglobalization” efforts including customized regional products. It also increased remote work, escalating the use of a global workforce and strengthening the gig economy. This decreased demand for corporate physical infrastructure but it increases the need for connectivity and new tools for more effective remote communication.
Automation and AI are changing the types of work we do. In many ways, we are moving away from a white collar/blue collar to a new-collar workforce, with humans doing work that we are uniquely suited for and machines doing the rest. But much of this work involves knowledge and familiarity with technology and so reskilling, upskilling and continuous education are needed. It also involves humans working in collaboration with automation. New, more immersive, and low code ways will be used to create models and applications and these will help us better understand data and its implications, including the use of virtual and augmented reality and digital twins.
With remote work, these jobs may be done using worker supplied equipment as well as corporate computing resources. New communication technologies such as 5G and quantum communication, as well as new computing capabilities such as quantum computing, could enable advanced capability in cities. Drones for communication as well as physical delivery could create decentralization of some urban infrastructure and may help to bridge the digital divide between wealthier urban regions and poorer rural areas.
With many workers spending more time at home, they want their work to be a means of fulfilment rather than just a way to make money and pay the bills. They also want to feel that their work is doing good. In addition to changes in the way people work, many workers are also concerned with environmental and societal impacts that their work may have. For many workers, breaking with the traditional work environment is also providing opportunities to create more diverse workplaces that focus on interdisciplinary co-design of products and services.
The figure below shows some of the insights from the 10 international panels with about 200 participants. There are common themes between these regions as well as distinctive differences between some insights from the different panels.
The figure below shows some insights from a survey of IEEE engineering professionals. This includes several insights and suggestions on how to best create an ethical and productive environment for the future of the workforce.
Finally, the following image shows some recommendations from the IEEE report on the Future of the Workforce. These include recommendations for industry, academia, governments and professional organizations.
The IEEE Industry Engagement Committee conducted research over the last two years on the future of work. This included results from interviews with people from industry, government and academia from all over the world as well as surveys of IEEE members. This information is available in a free report on the Future of Workforce.