By Debra Bass
COVID-19 hasn't just fundamentally changed the way the world operates temporarily. Experts are sure that many changes will be long-lived, if not permanent.
The handshake greeting may not return, but up to 40 percent of pre-coronavirus employment won't either.
A UC San Diego webinar titled "Innovation at the Edge: The Future of Work" hosted a discussion of some likely scenarios and how we should all start preparing.
Even those who continued to work throughout the health crisis can't expect that they'll return to work as usual. Usual no longer exists.
Presented by the UC San Diego Office of Innovation and Commercialization, a panel discussed the brave new world of work: "As we train our workforce for the future ahead, what will the reality of the market look like? In today's webinar (recording above), we look at the trends of telework, locally and globally and the current state of the job market."
Josh Shapiro, Director, Center for Research on the Regional Economy at UC San Diego Extension
Roberto Alvarez, Executive Director, Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils (speaking from his home in Brazil)
Elizabeth Lyons, Assistant Professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego
Taylor Williams, UC San Diego alumnae and Illumina Product Engineer
Although advancements in technology continue to evolve the skills needed to work, the panelists all said that one of the most crucial job requirements in a post-coronavirus work environment will be "soft skills," meaning intangible interpersonal communication.
Mastering a computer program, machinery or software is tangible. Quantifiable. You can do it or you can't. It's a skill set that our education system does a good job of teaching.
Learning (and judging) a technical skill, however, is much less daunting than acquiring communication skills, especially in a virtual work environment. The rules of interpersonal communication are different, and there's no telling how that will affect future employment. We can't expect happy hours, water cooler discussions and breakroom interactions to help build camaraderie and trust.
The panel explained that teams will have to learn new ways of collaborating without well established physical and social cues, or traditional team-building practices. Team leaders are going to have to learn new ways to engage and retain team members' energy when video conferencing, direct messages, and phone calls are the only means of interacting.
Shapiro explained that a University of Chicago study estimated that 42 percent of the jobs lost during coronavirus are unlikely to return. He called the figure "very sobering." However, he noted that some estimate that the figure is closer to 14, but the reality will likely be somewhere in between. He estimates that it will be closer to 25 percent.
Either way, that's a huge shift.
"We knew things were changing," he said. But, automation and robotics were progressing relatively slowly.
He said that everyone thought the economy would find smart ways to replace a high percentage of the jobs lost to automation, "slowly over time .. new jobs will emerge to replace them." We thought.
Now we've had this radical shift of huge job loss, virtually overnight. And it's not in the industries most economists expected.
So now what?
Tune in for the candid panelist discussion:
- What combination of technical and soft skills are essential.
- What jobs will return and how will they be different
- The importance of diversity
- What's wrong with the "old educational model" and what does lifelong learning really mean
- How will this change regional competition for labor
- The underappreciated role of immigration on innovation
- How will this change the international workforce