The gap between jobs and skilled workers is continuing to widen as the unprecedented speed of technological development gives rise to innovations and new business models that have changed the face of global economies.
While 2019 proved to be a significant year for the technology sector, and 2020 promises even better technology, expected productivity and growth are being stifled as skills fail to keep up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
South Africa, like the rest of the world, will need skilled workers to take advantage of the technological revolution under way.
However, by 2030, there will be a shortage of 85.2-million skilled workers globally, costing nearly $8.5-trillion in lost revenue opportunities, says networking and analytics solutions company Citrix sub-Saharan Africa regional director Brendan McAravey.
Without mitigation, 4IR could lead to greater inequality, as the labour market becomes increasingly segregated into low-skill/low-pay and high-skill/high- pay segments.
“Technology is transforming organisations, skills needs are changing rapidly and businesses are struggling to find the talent they need, despite high unemployment statistics in many countries,” says ManpowerGroup South Africa MD Lyndy van den Barselaar.
South Africa has a current unemployment rate of more than 29%, which means some 6.7-million people are without jobs.
About 57% of unemployed South Africans have an education level below matric, while 33.4% only have matric.
Only 2.2% of the 6.7-million unemployed South Africans are graduates and 6.9% have other tertiary qualifications as their highest level of education.
“Identifying in-demand skills and providing access to employment will be the solution to the skills revolution, and, as leaders, helping people upskill and futureproof themselves will be the defining challenge of our time,” says Van den Barselaar.
With the right skills mix, people can augment rather than compete with technology.
Citrix believes that the trends for the year ahead have a deep focus on people, with peoplecentric computing, employee experience, the evolution of the CIO and the ‘gig‘ economy some of the predictions for 2020.
McAravey says the focus will shift towards peoplecentric computing in 2020, with the long-sought-after balance between user demand and the needs of information technology to be met with the adoption of an adaptive workspace.
While technology has been at the forefront of unlocking new waves of productivity for decades, the rapid proliferation of mobile devices, applications and chat channels has made work “ridiculously complex”, he says.
“There is a tendency to believe that the more technology you throw at people, the more productive they will be, but productivity has declined, as many workers are unable to cope with the technology overload.”
He explains that some employees are interrupted up to 400 times a day or every 40 seconds, spend more than 20% of their time looking for information among their many applications and channels and spend far more time than believed on undertaking menial tasks like approving purchase orders or expense claims.
“It is estimated that we only spend 15% of our time, or 1.2 hours a day, on actual mindful, meaningful work,” McAravey says, pointing out that all these well-intended tools and channels are actually making it more complex to get the job done.
The peoplecentric computing approach will “get technology out of the way” and focus on how an individual wants to work and adapt to that individual’s preference throughout the span of his/her employment.
“Employees want the same simplicity at work as they have in their personal lives.”
In line with this, a shift will be seen from the customer experience to the employee experience.
“In 2020, companies will leverage intelligent workspaces to deliver [the employee experience], automatically serving up access to all of the applications and insights people need to do their jobs in a unified and personal way that organises, optimises and guides work, and eliminates distractions and noise, so employees can focus on what they do — and do it best,” he says.
In the past, organisations weighted financial and human resources towards the customer experience, building digital platforms to engage with customers, and used them to retain customers and improve their customer net promoter score.
However, unsatisfactory employee experiences are leading to reduced employee engagement, which, in turn, reduces productivity.
“Currently, 85% of workers globally are disengaged, often detached from their workplace because of the frustrating user experience resulting from a lack in the necessary tools and from the use of complex applications,” he explains.
“The more engaged employees are in their work, the more productive, as well as more innovative and self-starting, they will be — critical attributes when business models and the competitive environment are changing rapidly.
“Having ready access to the data and insights they need to do their jobs, wherever they are located, does more to influence employee engagement and productivity, and ultimately their overall experience, than other technology factors.”
Last year, there was also a significant shift in what it means to do work and how work is done, with the workforce of today adopting an any-time. any-location or any-device style of work.
The emerging ‘gig-to-gig’ working market, a new generation of freelancers and solopreneurs, will keep redefining the conventions of work in the digital economy, he says, citing the success of gig economy companies such as SweepSouth and Uber.
Other trends predicted include artificial intelligence (AI) and bots, in the context of narrow AI and machine learning; hybrid cloud becoming the predominant mode going forward; everything-as-a-service technologies replacing existing on-premises applications; the evolution of the CIO role from just an information officer to that of an innovation officer; and the end of digital transformation.