How can business leaders make the new world of work better for people? PART II
CONTINUES FROM PART I
James Manyika: Do you think most CEOs think that way?
Jeff Weiner: I don’t know if I would overgeneralize across the board. I think it depends on the industry. It depends on the CEO, depends on the leadership style, depends on the talent they have around them. I think increasingly, people need to recognize it. I agree with everything John said, but I’m reminded of the old adage, “You can’t fix it if you can’t measure it.”
I think you have to start by measuring your workforce. You have to understand your workforce. And, as you well know, there are companies with gigantic scale on a global basis. And, surprisingly, leaders within some of those organizations don’t know where all the people are. They don’t know the skill sets of their workforce. They don’t know the fastest growing jobs. They don’t know where the skills gaps exist. They don’t know where there are geographic surpluses of talent and where they can tap that talent and where they should be shifting resources from one locality to another locality.
So, to the extent leaders can proactively get ahead of these trends, you don’t want to be on the reactive side of this. You don’t want to wake up one day and see that you’ve got a double-digit percentage of your workforce that doesn’t have the right skills for the work that any organization needs to undertake to remain competitive and to grow. So, you want to get ahead of that. And whether it’s LinkedIn, whether it’s ServiceNow, whether it’s any organization that’s now in the business of helping organizations digitally transform or better understand some of these future-of-work trends, you can measure it. You can get ahead of it. And then, once you measure it, you can do something about it. You can iterate and improve upon your workforce strategies. You can try to figure out how to make sense and make use of automation. As James’s team has reported previously, roughly half of all work activities and work processes are susceptible to automation.
I like that language, “susceptible.” It’s not that every worker’s going to be displaced. As a matter of fact, the more work you do and research that your team does, the more it appears that people won’t be displaced so much as they’re going to end up changing roles or needing new skills to take advantage of the work that exists. And so, how can you get ahead of that trend and see where people within your organization can be reskilled to take advantage of a job that’s going to be growing that your organization is going to become dependent on?
James Manyika: On that note, Jeff, you must have probably the most unique vantage point out of anybody in this ecosystem in the sense that you probably see more than anybody what’s happening in terms of what skills are in demand, because now recruiters come to you and employees are changing their résumés. What are you seeing in terms of the evolution of changes in skills?
Jeff Weiner: First, not surprisingly, tech remains king. And if you were to look at the fastest-growing, emerging jobs, unsurprisingly, they’re related to some of the trends that we’re talking about regarding data. So, machine learning, data science, big data engineers—three of the top fast-growing, emerging jobs. So, that’s one.
Two, maybe a little less intuitive because it’s kind of the converse, is that it’s not just about technology. And I think this is going to be a trend that people really start to embrace going forward. Computers, machines—all the things you see if you watch some of the videos circulating right now in terms of robots trying to replicate human behavior—we’ll see how fast that gap gets closed. But hopefully, it’s going to be a while before machines can replicate the human touch and intuition and creativity and interpersonal skills. And so, you see jobs that require those interpersonal skills that continue to grow very quickly. So, sales-development representatives, customer-success representatives—these are jobs that require interpersonal relationships.
James Manyika: Can you make a list so we can take notes?
Jeff Weiner: We can do better than make a list and take notes. We’ll distribute this information very broadly. We have a monthly workforce report, and we’re starting to do that on a global basis.
And then I guess the third is a trend we haven’t touched on yet; we’ve been focused on AI and automation. There are two additional areas that we may get into; one is what we believe are multiple skills gaps that exist depending on locality.
The third is the rise of independent work and independent workers. We see that manifesting itself in some of the fastest-growing skills and roles—for example, realtors. People becoming real-estate agents is a byproduct of the flexibility that is afforded folks with that kind of independent work. Also, I think, it is a reflection of the bounce-back in the housing market. It also demonstrates the rise of independent work and trends in demographics and psychographics. Is anyone here familiar with barre? It’s the barre in the dance studios, for those of you unfamiliar with this. People being certified in teaching workouts that leverage barre is one of the fastest-growing skills that we’re seeing. It’s off of a relatively smaller base.
James Manyika: Are you qualified?
Jeff Weiner: I am not qualified and, for the life of me, could not get my leg on top of that barre if you asked me to. So, anyway, these are examples that I think are somewhat illustrative of some of the secular trends taking place.
James Manyika: Go ahead, John.
John Donahoe: Just to build on that, I think there again, there’s a sense of, if you’re not a computer scientist, you don’t have a future. What a lot of these technologies do is to create jobs where you work with technology. ServiceNow creates ServiceNow administrators. They don’t have to have technical degrees. They’re working with the technology. There’s a whole host of jobs being created where you have to work with technology. You don’t have to be a technologist.
Some of the job reskilling and retraining is to get people comfortable with that. How do you build those skills? And those are skills for which you don’t need a four-year degree. It’s breaking down barriers and boundaries so that there’s a comfort of working with the technology, because a lot of the jobs of the future will be working with technology, not being the builder of the technology.
Jeff Weiner: I couldn’t agree more. And I think it’s so important. Oftentimes, when we talk about technology, it is in terms of advanced technology skills, but there are also basic technology skills that enable people to be better positioned.
James Manyika: Such as?
Jeff Weiner: Being able to use a word processor. Being able to navigate your way around a spreadsheet.
I think one of the reasons it’s so important is, not everyone has access to the kind of prestigious four-year universities that historically have been required to obtain jobs. And trust me, there are plenty of people out there that can do amazing work if given the opportunity and if organizations widen and broaden the aperture of the kind of talent they’re bringing into their organizations. But if, exactly to the point of your research, people are going to need to learn new skills, especially in a digital economy, this becomes a foundational element of that. And there’s kind of a slight pivot, a softer pivot, and a hard pivot. And if you have to start from scratch, it’s going to be very, very difficult to compete for those jobs.
James Manyika: But here’s the thing. Our track record on skilling and skill development has not been great—as countries, as societies and communities. The facts are not in our favor here. Companies are spending less on job training, and countries are spending less on job training. And the rates of success are not as high. We’re all saying that skills are going to matter and reskilling is going to matter. So, how do we break the fact that we haven’t been able to solve it and it’s probably about to get more challenging?
Jeff Weiner: For starters, companies have to step up, period, full stop. You know, there’s an ongoing debate—I don’t even know if it’s a debate so much as a discussion. Is it the responsibility of governments? What’s the responsibility of companies?
Companies are on the front lines. Companies see the trends; companies are doing the hiring. Companies are creating the jobs. Companies should be responsible for reskilling, upskilling, learning, and development. So, I think it’s critical.
John Donahoe: Just to build on that, what are the implications for their own employees? And then, for the implications of our products—particularly in technology, with the implications of what our platforms do—we have to take responsibility for that.
Jeff Weiner: Absolutely. And it’s not just up to companies. It’s not up to any constituency in isolation. We’ve been working with Markle, and NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] become critical. And we’re trying to figure out middle-skill jobs. We’re trying to figure out how to create opportunities for people that don’t have those four-year degrees, who can learn new skills, who can become certified, get their foot in the door, and kick ass. And we see it all the time.
We’ve got programs at LinkedIn designed to broaden the aperture. We have one guy who became homeless and developed an application to figure out how to assist people finding shelter. He was brought into this program that we call REACH, which is designed for people that don’t have the traditional engineering background but have been certified or have completed a coding boot camp. And these people have the growth mind-set. They have the resiliency, they have the perseverance, and they’re amazing. And of a class of roughly 30 people, we had 80 percent yield in terms of becoming engineers at LinkedIn.
Whether it’s LinkedIn or ServiceNow or any company, I think it’s incumbent upon us to get involved and to start thinking about how to create these opportunities to partner with NGOs. By the way, maybe governments aren’t doing as much as we’d all like, but there are governments that are allocating billions of dollars to reskilling. And hopefully, they’re going to be able to take advantage of data and infrastructure that didn’t exist previously to make those investments count.
James Manyika: So, are you both optimistic? At the same time, what do you worry about?
John Donahoe: I think the last ten to 15, maybe 20 years, have been sort of the glory years, if you will, of this new round of cloud-based, mobile-based technology. It’s Silicon Valley–based technologies that have enhanced the quality of our lives as consumers and increasingly at work. And so, there’s some very good news. It’s improved the quality of many people’s lives.
But there are the second-order consequences of that, which we’re talking about here. I don’t think Silicon Valley leadership stepped up to owning and at least confronting that no one can solve some of these unilaterally. But engaging in the dialogue on these.
James Manyika: So, let me press you on that. If you’re going to make a call to action to you peers, your business-leader peers, what would that call to action be, John?
John Donahoe: It’s to think about your business, your platform. Think about the impact it’s having, the positive impact, which we focus on a lot. But think about the second-order implications of what it’s creating and how you can use either your technology, your product, your innovation, or just yourself—as a platform, as a company, as an employer, as a voice—and engage.
The solutions aren’t going to be easy on any of this. And I don’t think any one company or any one NGO or any one government is going to solve it alone. We were talking earlier, one of the frustrating things right now is, there’s a little bit of a divide between government and business on constructive dialogue around this in this country. I sort of personally was hopeful. I didn’t particularly like the results of the election, but I thought one of the root causes of the election was this issue of people saying, “I have lost economic hope. And so, I want change, some kind of change.” I guess I was hopeful, given that was the case, that we would’ve had in our political narrative constructive engagement on this, because it’s not an easy solution. But it feels like it’s been the last thing. It’s been off the radar screen. And I think we need to take leadership roles in engaging with NGOs, with governments where that’s appropriate, to try to find solutions. “Try to find solutions” is almost the wrong term, because no one’s going to solve it, but try to make progress.
James Manyika: Would you add anything to that, Jeff?
Jeff Weiner: You asked whether or not we’re optimistic. I would say cautiously optimistic. I think if you look at some of the longer-term global secular trends in terms of quality of life, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s been doing a ton of work on this, and it largely goes overlooked in a society that increasingly wants to find the most titillating headline and the most negative thing to talk about. But there’s a lot of good things happening in the world in terms of quality of life improving for the seven-billion-plus people on the planet.
The caution comes in part by virtue of the unintended consequences of these technologies and the rate of advancement, the rate of innovation, which continues to accelerate. And I don’t know that we always have the time to fully understand or appreciate the implications and the consequences, particularly the unintended consequences.
So, the advice I would have is to manage and lead with compassion so that people who are responsible for these products and these services and these companies understand the impact that they’re having, not just on shareholders. It’s not just about long-term shareholder value creation. It’s about the value these companies are creating for society as a whole. And so, the more we understand those consequences, I think the more likely we are to have good outcomes.
James Manyika: Well, I’m glad the world has the two of you as CEOs. I’d like to thank both of you for being part of this session. Appreciate it very much. And thank you all for being here.