Jobs of the future: Upskilling predictions from McKinsey

Last month, we at GetFive held our 81st HR network breakfast seminar, and it was a stunner. The topic was “The ROI and Reality of Reskilling,” and we assembled a killer panel who took this subject and shared some important insights. At the table that day:

  • Michael Leadbetter, CEO of Pivot Factory, an innovation consulting company that helps organizations deal with disruption.
  • Kelly Joscelyne, chief talent officer at MasterCard.
  • Jake Schwartz, the founder and CEO of General Assembly, the world leader in upskilling and reskilling programs.
  • Carla Arellano, a partner at McKinsey and Company, the global management consulting firm.

We thought what this prestigious group had to say about the reality of reskilling was too good not to capture. This is the third in a series of blogs about this seminar. Think of it as your chance to be a fly on the wall if you were unable to make it.

Increasing automation is taking place in most organizations, or it should be. How is this process of increasing automation going to change the kind of skills employees need?

McKinsey Global Institute has done extensive research on the types jobs that are going to be required in the future, and more specifically, the skills that are going to be required as increased automation takes place, explained Carla Arellano, a partner at McKinsey.

“One of the most interesting findings from that first batch of research is that, for most jobs, it is not necessarily the entire job that will go away,” she said. “There are parts of jobs that will go away. And I think that’s where this emphasis on reskilling and upskilling comes in, because we also need to then take the skills that we are going to need in the future and re-create new roles and jobs around those.”

Here are her predictions about the skills we’ll need in the job market, looking ahead ten years.

Physical jobs down, fine motor skills up

Arellano predicts we’re going to see a big decrease in demand for physical jobs, and jobs that require basic cognitive capabilities. However, jobs that require very fine motor skills will still continue to be in demand.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen some of those robots trying to tackle very, very small tricky things,” she said. “It’s a lot harder. The jobs that require big physical movement are easier to automate first.”

Soft skills up

Demand will be created for softer skills and higher advanced cognitive skills. Things like critical problem-solving, agile problem-solving, and emotional and social skills. Those are things that bots simply can’t do (yet).

Tech skills up

“One of the big things that we’re seeing in this increased demand for technical skills as well as the ability to be able to bring together many different disciplines and capabilities to actually get to an end result,” she explained.

Any given digital project that you might be engaging with today requires a range of capabilities and competencies from many different sources — developers, data scientists, data architects, engineers, visual designers, and UIX designers.

Collaboration and integration skills up

There will be an increased demand for the skill set around collaboration and integration of many different capabilities. But many training programs focus on hard skill development. So companies tend to think we need to create more data scientists, or we need to create more data engineers. But we also need to think about how to upskill the data scientists to be able to work with the visual UIX designer. And how do we upskill a manager to be able to pull that together?

Along with predicting the trends about the skills we’ll need in the future workplace, McKinsey itself is going through a digital and analytics transformation that requires upskilling, Arellano said.

“I started at McKinsey about 14 years ago, and back then, a great proportion of our population were classically trained, generalist consultants that were strong on problem-solving capabilities and business acumen,” she said. “Today, about a third of our population are data scientists and developers, because our clients are demanding different sorts of client services from us. What that has meant for the classically trained consultants is that they have to evolve their social and collaboration skills to be more of that integrator profile.”

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