In January 2016, the World Economic Forum published a report titled The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (the Report), which provides an in-depth analysis of the current impact and prospects of technological developments on employment patterns globally. An analysis of the Report and its bearing on Zimbabwean Creative Industries revealed the following pertinent issues worth noting by industry and government in their pursuit of employment creation and retention in local creative industries.
The Report covers the whole spectrum of economic industries including creative industries. The following analysis is both general and specific to creative industries in locating local creative industries in the global employment, skills and technological development matrix.
The Report identifies five barriers to technological change for industry namely:
- Insufficient understanding of disruptive changes
- Resource constraints
- Pressure from shareholders, short-term profitability
- Workforce strategy not aligned to innovation strategy
- Insufficient priority by top management
The Report further observes that the impact of technological, demographic and socio-economic disruptions on business models will be felt in transformations to the employment landscape and skills requirements, resulting in substantial challenges for recruiting, training and managing talent. In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist ten, or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate. By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. In such a rapidly evolving employment landscape, the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the aggregate effect on employment is increasingly critical for businesses, governments and individuals to fully seize the opportunities presented by these trends – and to mitigate undesirable outcomes. It is therefore imperative for creative industries to seek to understand the current and future impact of key disruptions on employment levels, skill sets and recruitment patterns locally and in those countries where local creative industries have economic interests, either existing or potential.
Collectively, technological developments are very significant drivers of industrial change to the respondents to the Report. Among these, growth in cheap computing power and the ubiquity of the mobile internet have already had widespread impact on existing business models. Additionally, even technological trends whose potentially far-ranging implications have not yet fully materialized – such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things – are expected to be well underway in specific industries in the years leading up to 2020 with a direct bearing on creative industries. Demographic and socio-economic shifts are expected to have nearly as strong an impact on business models and organizational structures as technological change. Application of technology has already changed when and where work is done in practically every industry, as workplaces of the industrial age give way to work practices of the digital age, including remote work, flexible work and on-demand work. The rising role and importance of women in the economy is transforming not only the composition of the talent pool but also the nature of products catering to them specifically – and, by extension, the skills profiles of the jobs required.
Further, impacts already felt include; mobile internet and cloud technology, advances in computing power and big data, crowdsourcing, the sharing economy and peer-to-peer platforms, rise of the middle class in emerging markets, young demographics in emerging markets, rapid urbanization, changing work environments and flexible working arrangements, climate change, natural resource constraints and the transition to a greener economy. Considering the future, we anticipate advanced robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The Report projects strong employment growth in the Architecture, a subsector of creative industries, and a significant decline in Office and Administrative roles, comparatively favourable expectations around robotics, pointing to the latter’s potential for labour-complementing productivity enhancement rather than pure job replacement. Conversely, 3D printing, resource-efficient sustainable production and robotics are all seen as strong drivers of employment growth in the Architecture considering a continued and fast-growing need for skilled technicians and specialists to create and manage advanced and automated production systems.
Creative Industries will require data analysts who will help them make sense and derive insights from the torrent of data generated by the technological developments. Further, in sales, practically every industry will need to become skilled in commercializing and explaining their offerings to business or government clients and consumers, whether due to the innovative technical nature of the products themselves, due to their being targeted at new client types with which the company is not yet familiar, or both. Office and Administrative functions are poised for major redundancies. Those in the arts and culture sub sector need to re-envision or remodel the concept and practice of arts/cultural management. One set of jobs affected by this, for example, are customer service roles, which will become obsolete due to the use of mobile internet technology to monitor service quality online as a means of maintaining effective customer relationship management.
In addition to the quantity of jobs, disruptive changes to industries and business models will also affect the quality, skills requirements and day-to-day content of virtually every job. There shall be an overall increase in work-life balance in all industries except the Consumer sector, where the outlook for this dimension remains stable. Expectations are less clear about overall job security.
Given the overall disruption industries are experiencing, it is not surprising that, with current trends, competition for talent in in-demand job families, such as Computer and Mathematical and Architecture and other strategic and specialist roles, will be fierce, and finding efficient ways of securing a solid talent pipeline a priority for virtually every industry.
Regarding skills stability, the accelerating pace of technological, demographic and socio-economic disruption is transforming industries and business models, changing the skills that employers need and shortening the shelf-life of employees’ existing skill sets in the process. For example, technological developments such as robotics and machine learning – rather than completely replacing existing occupations and job categories – are likely to substitute specific tasks previously carried out as part of these jobs, freeing workers up to focus on new tasks and leading to rapidly changing core skill sets in these occupations.
The impact of disruptive change on existing skill sets means that prolonged periods of time currently taken to build the training systems and labour market institutions needed to develop major new skill sets on a large scale will not be feasible nor an option.
For example, current technological trends are bringing about an unprecedented rate of change in the core curriculum content of many academic fields, with nearly 50% of subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree outdated by the time students graduate, per one popular estimate. A focus on the state of the talent pipeline for traditional formal qualifications and hard skills therefore risks dramatically understating the scale of impending skill set disruption if a large part of the existing subject knowledge of the current workforce will be outdated in just a few years.
Beyond hard skills and formal qualifications, employers are often equally concerned about the work-related practical skills or competences that current employees (or prospective new hires) can use to perform various job tasks successfully. Focusing on a core set of 35 work-relevant skills and abilities that are widely used across all industry sectors and job families (see Figure 1) the Report finds that these practical skills, too, will be subject to accelerating change and significant disruption in the immediate future. On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.
Core work-related skills
Resource Management Skills
Complex problem solving skills
The highest expected level of skills stability over the 2015–2020 period is found in the Media, Entertainment and Information sector, already profoundly transformed in recent years. As noted earlier, in the face of rapidly rising computing power, an ability to work with data and make data-based decisions will become an increasingly vital skill across many job families as employers scramble to build a workforce with solid skills in data analysis and presentation (e.g. through visualization) and the amount of potentially useful digital information generated and stored keeps increasing exponentially.
The increasing ubiquity of mobile internet combined with the coming-of-age of the Internet of Things promises to transform the daily routine of many frontline roles in the Sales and Related, Installation and Maintenance and Production job families across all industries, requiring a much higher level of technology literacy than in the past.
Growing computing power and large amounts of data are increasingly making it possible to understand and anticipate changes in labour markets in near-real time, and to re-shape education and training policies in a timelier manner to help narrow the widening skills gap.
For example, hundreds of millions of workers across the globe have added their professional information – including their education, skills, and past and present jobs – to online talent platforms such as LinkedIn, affording these providers with unique insights into changing skills supply. To map labour market changes, LinkedIn’s analytics describe each job function as an agglomeration of skills, enabling the platform to now-cast changes in the skills landscape as members update their professional information. This enables the platform to identify clusters of skills that are particularly associated with the profiles of members with common job functions and titles and to map how these change over time. It also allows for identifying nuances and differences between the skill sets of common job functions in different industries or geographies. By tracking skills that were recently added to members’ profiles as a percentage of those who already reported that skill, it becomes possible to identify skills whose supply is on the rise in each industry or geographical location. This supply-side analysis can be complemented with analysis of skills demand – whether based on job listings, within-job hiring rates, governmental forecasts, or employer surveys such as the one presented in the Report – to identify emerging skills gaps and inform training and skills programmes to prepare the workforce for future requirements. On the supply side, by tracking members’ profile changes about their home geography, the LinkedIn platform can track the rate at which countries are losing or gaining in-demand skills. Data on both demand and supply is critical for informed decision making on talent mobility policies. the potential net job creation in absolute terms in the STEM field alone will not be sufficient to absorb strains on other parts of the labour market. What we have found instead is that disruptive changes will have a significant impact on skills requirements in all job families and that they are creating a range of opportunities and challenges in all industries, not just narrowly related to ‘hard knowledge’, technical skills and technology. To manage these trends successfully, there is a need for potentially reskilling and upskilling talent from varied academic backgrounds in all industries efforts to place unemployed youth in apprenticeships in certain job categories through targeted skills training may be self-defeating if skills requirements in that job category are likely to be drastically different in just a few years’ time. Indeed, in some cases such efforts may be more successful if they disregard current labour market demands and past trends and instead base their models on future expectations.
Finally, basic skills are also traditionally acquired during formal education and before entering the workforce, but are relatively straightforward to acquire compared to cognitive abilities. This is a field in which companies have an opportunity to take a proactive approach to building their talent pipelines by working much more directly with education providers. Industry needs to monitor closely the new arts education curriculum launched by government in 2016 to ensure that the teaching and learning is benchmarked on global best practices to ensure that learners are relevant to the future job market.
The Information and Communication Technology sector reports a comparatively good understanding of drivers of change and instead sees resource constraints as its main barrier, whereas the Media, Entertainment and Information industry, perhaps the sector that has seen the largest scale of disruption of its traditional business model to date, reports a very good understanding of the nature of disruptive changes ahead and is instead mainly concerned about short-term shareholder pressures.
The Report identifies nine future workforce strategies, which are; investment in reskilling current employees, supporting mobility and job rotation, collaborate with educational institutions, target female talent, attract foreign talent, offer apprenticeships, collaborate with other companies across industries, collaborate with other companies in the industry, and hire more short-term workers.
For local creative industries, it is recommended that, while the implications of accelerating disruptive change to business models are far-reaching, even daunting, for employment and skills, rapid adjustment to the new reality and the opportunities it offers is possible, provided there is concerted effort by all stakeholders. For government, it will entail innovating within education and labour-related policymaking, requiring a skills evolution of its own. For the education and training sector, it will mean vast new business opportunities as it provides new services to individuals, entrepreneurs, large corporations and the public sector.
The immediate focus therefore should be:
- Reinventing the HR Function: As business leaders begin to consider proactive adaptation to a new talent landscape, they need to manage skills disruption as an urgent concern. They must understand that talent is no longer a long-term issue that can be solved with tried and tested approaches that were successful in the past or by instantly replacing existing workers. Instead, as the rate of skills change accelerates across both old and new roles in all industries, proactive and innovative skill-building and talent management is an urgent issue. What this requires is an HR function that is rapidly becoming more strategic and has a seat at the table – one that employs new kinds of analytical tools to spot talent trends and skills gaps, and provides insights that can help organizations align their business, innovation and talent management strategies to maximize available opportunities to capitalize on transformational trends.
- Making Use of Data Analytics: Businesses will need to build a new approach to workforce planning and talent management, where better forecasting data and planning metrics will need to be central. Earlier mapping of emerging job categories, anticipated redundancies and changing skills requirements in response to the changing environment will allow businesses to form effective talent repurposing, strategies within their company, their own industry and across industries. HR can add significant strategic value in predicting the skills that will be needed, and plan for changes in demand and supply. To support such efforts, the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs project provides in-depth analysis on industries, countries, occupations and skills.
- Talent diversity – no more excuses: As study after study demonstrates the business benefits of workforce diversity and companies expect finding talent for many key specialist roles to become much more difficult by 2020, it is time for a fundamental change in how talent diversity issues, whether in the realm of gender, age or ethnicity are perceived and well-known barriers tackled. In this area, too, technology and data analytics may become a useful tool for advancing workforce parity, whether by facilitating objective assessment, understanding typical careers paths and cliffs, identifying unconscious biases in job ads and recruitment processes or even by using wearable technologies to understand workplace behaviours and encourage systemic change.
- Leveraging flexible working arrangements and online talent platforms: As physical and organizational boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred, organizations are going to have to become significantly more agile in the way they think about managing people’s work and about the workforce. Work is what people do and not where they do it. Businesses will increasingly connect and collaborate remotely with freelancers and independent professionals through digital talent platforms. Modern forms of association such as digital freelancers’ unions and updated labour market regulations will increasingly begin to emerge to complement these new organizational models. For policymakers, an important set of regulations concerns the portability of safeguards and benefits between jobs and the equivalent treatment in law of different forms of labour and employment types.
- Rethinking education systems: Technological trends will create many new cross-functional roles for which employees will need both technical and social and analytical skills. Most existing education systems at all levels provide highly siloed training and continue several 20th century practices that are hindering progress on today’s talent and labour market issues. Two such legacy issues burdening formal education systems worldwide are the dichotomy between Humanities and Sciences and applied and pure training, on the one hand, and the prestige premium attached to tertiary-certified forms of education – rather than the actual content of learning – on the other hand. Put bluntly, there is simply no good reason to indefinitely maintain either of these in today’s world. Businesses should work closely with government, education providers and others to imagine what a true 21st century curriculum might look like, regrettably not the one that has just been launched by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education!
- Incentivizing lifelong learning: Government and businesses have many opportunities to collaborate more to ensure that individuals have the time, motivation and means to seek retraining opportunities. For example, Denmark allocates funding for two weeks’ certified skills training per year for adults, and the strong emphasis the country places on in-work training helps explain its very high degree of employment mobility, with 70% of workers considering mid-career transitions a ‘good thing’, compared to 30% or less in most other European countries. At the company-level, technology can be continuously leveraged to upskill and reskill employees.
- Cross-industry and public-private collaboration: Given the complexity of the change management needed, businesses will need to realize that collaboration on talent issues, rather than competition, is no longer a nice-to-have but rather a necessary strategy. Businesses should work with industry partners to develop a clearer view on future skills and employment needs, pooling resources where appropriate to maximize benefits, and work more closely with government to map a future view of skill demand versus supply. Resources should then be put into place regionally to upskill those out of work to fill high priority employment gaps. Such multi-sector partnerships and collaboration, when they leverage the expertise of each partner in a complementary manner, are indispensable components of implementing scalable solutions to jobs and skills challenges. While a single business can form one-to-one partnerships for its own talent needs, partnerships between multiple businesses, educational institutions and accreditation providers can result in an overall increase in the quality of the talent pool, at lower costs and with greater social benefits. Businesses also need to engage with government on strategically redeploying redundant skills between sectors, addressing cost concerns and social stability.
There are five universally recognised rationales for gender parity in industries overall, which are; fairness and equality, reflect gender composition of customer base, enhance decision-making, external pressures, reputation and government regulation.
Although women are, on average, more educated than men globally and now participate more fully in professional and technical occupations than 10 years ago, as of today, their chances to rise to positions of leadership are only 28% of those of men. Women continue to make up less of the labour force overall than men, and where they participate in the formal economy their earnings for similar work are lower. The talents of half the world’s potential workforce are thus often wasted or underutilized due to barriers on the path to women’s successful workforce integration.
In general, women’s participation in the workforce is no longer perceived as a social issue alone, but also as a business issue; costing women, companies and ultimately entire economies. Promoting workplace gender parity, varying with the specific situation of different industries, is therefore critical. The UK has some of the world’s most ground-breaking initiatives monitoring and advocating for a level playing field for women in creative industries particularly in film, television and broadcasting.
Globally, Media, Entertainment and Information sub sectors of the creative industries are part of the businesses that have a comparatively high proportion of women in junior positions but they are, however, profoundly thin on senior positions, including governance and ownership.
The globally recognised barriers to gender parity in industries overall are; unconscious bias among managers, lack of work-life balance, lack of role models, lack of qualified incoming talent, women’s confidence, aspirations, societal pressures, unclear career paths, lack of talent, leadership development for women and lack of parental leave.
Shaping the new and emerging landscape of flexible working presents an unprecedented opportunity to rebalance the gender divide, for example by providing companies with a chance to explore results-driven rather than presence-driven role evaluation. However, there is a risk that these trends and drivers of change might sustain or worsen other existing gendered inequalities. It is important to emphasize that these interventions do not work as a checklist of actions that will each independently produce results. Flexibility in the workplace is, alone, not enough to guarantee improving gender equality. It must be accompanied by a holistic set of priorities and long-term commitments, and by a deep understanding of the corporate, industry, and cultural context, as well as the organizational culture and local policy environment.
The World Economic Forum’s online Repository of Successful Practices for Gender Parity pools information on the practices that have been successfully used in leading companies worldwide to close gender gaps at the company level, as well as along the companies’ supply chain and surrounding communities. The repository suggests six dimensions around which to focus an organization’s gender parity efforts.
- Measurement and target setting: Achievable, relevant recruitment and retention targets at all levels, with an embedded accountability mechanism, are critical. Developing a disaggregated database can help to evaluate the causes of gender imbalances and track progress. Transparent salary bands to track and address male and female salary gaps are additional useful tools to understand the status quo in organizations.
- Mentorship and training: Companies have benefitted from programmes that promote guidelines on the value of diversity as an underlying culture of the organization, and impart knowledge on how to manage a more diverse workforce and how to attract, retain and promote female talent. These training programmes, for both men and women, can be relevant for shaping an environment within the broader employee base for women to successfully lead. In addition, many companies have formal mentoring schemes for women seeking leadership positions, although they also find that high-potential women lack the sponsorship and tailored training needed to move into the executive ranks. A repositioning of the human resources function beyond a focus on systems and administration to talent development and training can help address specific roadblocks for women, in addition to better overall talent management.
- Awareness and accountability: The focus of many companies on building awareness indicates that the case for change still needs to be built to make progress. Accountability of the senior management and transparency of career paths and opportunities have proven to be effective practices. Ensuring that management policies, processes, systems and tools do not harbour gender-based discrimination, as well as enhancing the understanding of unconscious biases, can also make inclusive leadership more tangible.
- Work environment and work-life balance: Women are often the primary caregiver for both children and the elderly in most countries. Ensuring smooth on- and off-ramping and appropriate childcare options, and developing guidelines on implementation of work-life balance policies and mentoring for women going through a transition are important levers to ensure a sustained career progression towards management. For those companies that already offer parental leave, flexible working hours and other work-life balance programmes, the next steps lie in accelerating their use and acceptance by female and male employees.
- Leadership and company commitment: Visible leadership by the chief executive and top management on supporting women in management has proven to be one of the most important levers for progress in achieving gender diversity in a corporate context. This includes concrete and symbolic actions by top management and, in many cases, establishment of a position or department to lead diversity efforts. Regular communications by senior management on gender equality have been found to be critical.
- Responsibility beyond the office: Many companies have leveraged the opportunity to exercise external influence along the value chain, including diversity training for suppliers, distributors and partners and training to support women-owned businesses in the organization’s value chain. External influence can also be exercised by ensuring gender neutrality in advertising, engaging girls and young women to display possible career paths and developing partnerships with gender parity-focused civil society and public sector initiatives.
The moral case for gender equality has, in the most part, been won. The business and economic case is also increasingly understood. The technological industrial revolution now presents an unprecedented opportunity to place women’s equal participation in the workplace at the heart of preparations for the shifts to come.
With the above global perspective of the Impact of Technology on Employment in Zimbabwean Creative Industries, the responsibility now lies with the respective sub sector creative industries to develop tailored strategies to address future challenges and employment needs posed by the technological developments.
Creative Economy Outlook Zim (CEOZ) is a portal on the status of creative industries in Zimbabwe. The purpose of the CEOZ Portal is to provide data, analysis and tools needed to promote and support the growth and development of creative industries in Zimbabwe. The CEOZ Portal’s vision is to ensure that Zimbabwe provides the best possible business, regulatory, technical and fiscal infrastructure to enable Zimbabwe’s creative businesses to flourish commercially and to increase overseas investment and trade in Zimbabwe’s creative industries.