The world is in a constant state of evolution. Labor markets are focusing on the use of artificial intelligence and nearly every aspect of the world is becoming digitized in some form. The skills required to maintain a job and use new technology are different than they were in years past. Employers no longer care what you were able to do with older technology; they only care if you will be able to do those same things with current and newer technology. Organizations need workers that can adapt; that is why lifelong learning is the future of the working world.
The Evolution of Technology
The first personal computers hit the market in the year 1974 and were essentially over-sized calculators. In four decades, these devices that were limited to solving basic mathematical equations evolved into hand held devices that can be used to reach anyone in the world at any given moment.
Technology evolves at an accelerating rate. This means that obtaining the next major technological advancement becomes easier with each previous progression. In thirty years, technology will be a billion times more advanced than what we are experiencing today.
These technological advancements are being implemented into the labor market. As the world progresses into the industry of digitization, employers are finding that their employees lack the skills required for this digital future. This doesn’t mean that employers are turning their backs on employees though.
In previous generations, the unqualified worker would be fired and replaced with someone that is qualified. This is no longer the case. AT&T displayed this recently with their complete restructuring of their business model.
In 2013, AT&T upped their spending on digitizing their services to $20 billion annually after coming to the realization that the future of the company lies in the data services and cloud computing industries. This left the company with 280,000 employees that weren’t trained to do their job. Rather than beginning the process of replacing these employees, AT&T fired no one and instead announced an opt-in retraining program.
The reason AT&T chose to retrain their employees instead of firing them is that employers do not care as much about qualifications anymore; they care about the employee’s ability and willingness to learn. An inclination to participate in lifelong learning leads to a more successful career in today’s world.
AT&T’s chairman and chief executive Randall Stephenson said it himself:
Lifelong Learning Leads to Success
With the technology that we use at work changing as often as it does, it is impossible to be an efficient worker without adapting. You can’t show off your knowledge without having a basic understanding of your industry or the equipment that is used.
Employees that worked through these early eras of technological advancements are good examples of what will be required from present and future generations of employees. If you walk into an average office, you will see a room filled with computers and other forms of technology; this wasn’t the case when the previous working generation began their careers.
Before technology exploded in popularity and usefulness, paper and pen were the main tools since computers were not quite as useful. Once computers appeared on the scene, employees were left with two choices: adapt or fall behind. Those who adapted moved up the chain; those who fell behind remained stagnant or lost their jobs.
This situation presented itself often and the results stayed the same. Keeping up with the ever-changing intricacies of your industry is the key to success.
The Future of Work
Although the fear of machines and artificial intelligence stealing jobs from workers is very much alive, it is not entirely based in reality. Most estimates say that around 5% of jobs can be automated and replaced with technology. Technology won’t completely replace most jobs. It will, however, alter how jobs are done.
45% of the work activities can be automated. The automation of these activities will result in jobs being redefined. New duties will be bestowed upon employees and it will be up to the employee to adapt. Although it is impossible to know what the requirements will be for a successful employee in the future, one thing is for certain: lifelong learning will be a part of the equation.
Future employees will have to embrace the proactive and flexible lifestyle that comes with lifelong learning. Similar to what the past generation of laborers dealt with, the future will bring a significant amount of change to technology and the labor market. The only way to set yourself up for continued success is by continually learning.