Companies around the globe are deciding if they need new business models in the post-COVID-19 era. Some say it goes beyond automation and artificial intelligence.
Some of the jobs lost during the pandemic will come back and others will not. In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated 14% of the worldwide workforce would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation or AI.
COVID-19 made this a much more urgent question, and in a recent survey, less than half of companies said they didn't know how to address the problem. McKinsey Chairman James Manyika said in a May 29 Council on Foreign Relations virtual meeting we're going to have to think about how to create work.
"The skill profile of these workers is going to be quite different. So, I would actually point to the biggest challenge with automation. It's almost a skilling question to compliment what people actually do while they're working alongside machines," he says. "I'm not worried about automation destroying jobs, certainly not in the next two decades."
He says the federal government needs to help workers re-skill. "There's lots of amazing innovations but the critical question to ask is, how many people went through that program? And what you typically find is we're talking about small numbers."
What Changes Are Companies Going To Make?
The McKinsey Global Institute gives the example of a pharmaceutical company with 10,000 sales representatives. During the pandemic, they were all working remotely. Going forward, it plans to retain part of that model with 30% continuing to work remotely, leveraging some of the newly developed skills workers have.
"Companies that used to have to close their books with the person in the office instantly had to do it digitally and I think the advantage of that is that it will sort of up everybody's game and will affect all communities because more and more jobs are going to require this kind of digital connectivity throughout an organization," says Jody Greenstone Miller, CEO of the global Business Talent Group.
She also wants freelancers to have more rights as businesses hire more remote workers. "This is one of the last categories where government actually allows discrimination," she says. "You are not treated the same. So I think the opportunity here is to really address what's happening in the world." Greenstone Miller wants the creation of a regulatory system that protects remote workers while also helping the government collect its taxes.
A recent Gartner CFO survey showed almost three in four plan to "shift at least 5% of previously on-site employees to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19." McKinsey says leaders should pursue a broad re-skilling agenda that develops employees' digital expertise and their cognitive, emotional, and adaptability skills. It says companies can't be resilient if their workforces aren't.