Blog Post

Despite the Onset of Automation, the ILO Calls For a Human-Centered Future of Work

Cornerstone Editors

There is fear among leaders and employees across industries that the rise of automation, artificial intelligence and robotics will eliminate a multitude of jobs. The reality, however, is that these technological advances will likely create new jobs that require new skills, fundamentally reshaping the world of work.

But what can today's managers and executives do to prepare for what's to come? As part of its "Future of Work Initiative," The International Labor Organization (ILO) has issued a recommendations report, compiled by a commission of 27 global figures from think tanks, businesses, academic institutions, government and non-governmental organizations. In the report, the ILO issues a call for a more human-centered future of work, in which workers' ability to learn, grow and be respected are placed above all else, despite the inevitability of new incoming waves of technology.

From the investment that organizations should make in employee learning, to the emphasis companies should place on ensuring that their practices are environmentally and socially sustainable, below are three key takeaways from the ILO's report.

1) Access to Lifelong Learning Enables People to Be Better Employees

Governments, workers, educational institutions and employers have "complementary responsibilities" in building an effective and appropriately financed lifelong learning ecosystem, the report states. Learning must happen continuously on the job, because the need for new skills and knowledge will arise long after employees finish school or other training.

While employees should seek out learning proactively in an effort to build their skill sets, it's up to organizations to provide them with the resources to learn. "But how companies can provide for this on a large scale will be challenging," says Brett Wilson, director of thought leadership and advisory services at Cornerstone OnDemand."In addition to the report's recommendation that both private and public funding will be required going forward, I would suggest a much stronger emphasis on specific curriculums that support life-long learning skills, including soft skills to better communicate, analytical skills and design thinking skills. A fundamental shift from training for the job to training for self-improvement will prevail in the 2020s."

To deliver the kind of learning that the future will require, organizations will have to invest in learning content creation and curation, as well as in learning management systems that house learning modules, track learning interactions and recommend content to workers based on their specific interests or roles.

2) The Fight For Gender Equality—and Other Social Protections—Should Be a Universal One

In today's ever-connected society, home and work inevitably bleed together, so policies must be in place to ensure that home and family life are protected through organizational (and government) investments in public care services including healthcare, childcare and other forms of support.

A more tightly-knit social support ecosystem will also be crucial for "strengthening women's voice and leadership, eliminating violence and harassment at work and implementing pay transparency policies," according to the report. These elements are preconditions for gender equality, but they'll need the support of entire organizations to become reality. Gender equality should be everyone's fight, and technology can help, says Jennifer Burnett, senior principal consultant, thought leadership, at Cornerstone OnDemand.

"Hiring technology is very beneficial for eliminating highly subjective practices in the screening process, and allows for more immediate analysis and action related to the diversity of candidates being considered for specific positions. Using more advanced hiring tools such as targeted sourcing techniques, validated assessments, and structured interviews all contribute to reducing potential biases," she explains. "And, the incorporation of advanced technology such as machine learning and AI, despite recent criticism, can be used effectively to address inequity in hiring decisions."

3) Sustainable Practices Should Extend to Work Cultures

Despite the onset of an always-on work environment driven by mobile connectivity and increasingly global workforces, organizations will need to prioritize the sustainability of their work cultures. To prevent burnout and frustration while maintaining productivity, companies will need to provide their employees with greater autonomy over their schedules. "Harnessing technology to expand choice and achieve a balance between work and personal life can help them realize this goal and address the pressures that come with the blurring of boundaries between working time and private time," the report urges.

Though applying the ILO's recommendations will be no easy—or fast—feat, ignoring the trends and calls-to-action that the report identifies will prove risky. "The world of work is undergoing great changes. They create many opportunities for more and better jobs. But governments, trade unions and employers need to work together, to make economies and labour markets more inclusive," said Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who co-chaired the commission behind the report.

Photo: Creative Commons

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