Workers Struggle to Keep Up With Pace of Technology

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By Genevieve Douglas
June 7 — As technology and digital media rapidly evolve, it's increasingly difficult for employees to keep up with the skills they need to perform their jobs, Ravin Jesuthasan, managing director and global practice leader of Willis Towers Watson, said June 7.

Speaking at the WorldatWork Total Rewards 2016 conference in San Diego, Jesuthasan warned that this technological trend will have "a very negative effect on companies' ability to compete in the future."

"The pace of change is orders of magnitude greater" than previous industrial revolutions, Jesuthasan said, and the global economy is starting to see "rapid fragmentation" of work.

To further complicate matters, most current in-demand occupations or specialties didn't exist 10, or even five, years ago, he added. According to Jesuthasan, two forces are driving this change: the democratization of work and empowerment through mobile technology.

The global marketplace has created at least one solution to the problem through technology platforms that allow companies to get work done through freelancing, Jesuthasan said.

Platforms have the ability to improve employee productivity through better talent matches to jobs, greater employment overall and higher labor force participation, by linking individuals who are currently inactive in the workforce to projects for part-time and freelance work, Jesuthasan said.

Jesuthasan also noted declining value given to technology skills and the increasing adoption of robotic technology to accomplish tasks throughout the globe.

For example, 35 percent of all investments in robotics are made in China, mostly for assembly line work, essentially replacing the already low cost of labor in that part of the world, he said.

In the U.S., declining education standards in technology have created a stark shortage of workers for these jobs, he said. In fact, Jesuthasan said, 77 percent of organizations list missing skills as the single biggest impediment to finding employees for digital jobs.

According to Jesuthasan, organizations need to shift fundamentally to address these issues. Companies will need to become the organizers of work and talent, as opposed to simply the places that contain employees.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris in Washington at tharris@bna.com