Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/2/2018 (755 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The news earlier this week that Shaw Communications was transforming the way the company operated, and doing it after hundreds of job cuts, was evidence of the way today’s workplace is changing.
In a memo to employees, Shaw president Jay Mehr said, "In the midst of these dramatic changes driven by our customers and technology, we have a critical opportunity to redefine all aspects of our operating model — from how we deliver products and services to how we manage our business."
For the organizers of a two-day conference in Winnipeg called DisruptED — The Future of Work, it was a real-world, real-time example of what’s in store.
There are no definitive answers to many of the important questions in the scenario of how automation and artificial intelligence will impact the workplace, other than it is clear many jobs will become obsolete.
The second-annual event organized by the Information and Communication Technologies Association of Manitoba (ICTAM) is a forum to help industry and educational institutions deal with the implications of change together.
Stephen Harrington, the national lead on talent strategy for Deloitte Canada, who co-authored a paper that came out in October called The Intelligence Revolution: Future Proofing Canada’s Workforce, said the intelligence revolution is different from economic transformations of the past for a number of reasons.
The report notes that many studies suggest up to 50 per cent of today’s jobs will be lost due to the adoption of machine learning, the impact of exponential growth in computing power and the coming day when machine intelligence exceeds human intelligence (some think that has already happened).
"But we prefer to focus on the opportunities, to help people get into more human forms of work," Harrington said. "And there are opportunities for Canada and Manitoba. What is the social innovation that will be the Canadian invention in the intelligence revolution? That is what we need to think about."
Not surprisingly Harrington and Kate Morican, the national lead for strategic transformation and change services at Deloitte Canada, are swamped with work advising companies.
Morican said, "The impacts will be significant. Technology will drive change faster and there are many more unknowns."
But they have found that most organizations of all shapes and sizes are doing something.
"The main reason is because most organizations know there is a technology or two out there that’s really out to eat their lunch," Harrington said.
"They are thinking about how their business model needs to change in the future."
Kathy Knight, the president of ICTAM, said the hope for the event — which drew close to 500 people, twice as many as it did last year — is that it will be a catalyst to get people thinking and to continue to take action.
"It is really about kick-starting the conversation around the future of work and what we have to do to prepare for it," she said.
"Business leaders know that millennials are coming into the workplace and they need to know the workplace is going to be disrupted. Their older workers need to be prepared for that."
She is also aware of the importance of having industry leaders talking with educators "in order to come to the solutions we need to come to in order to be prepared. We all agree as organizations it has to be collaborative."
Haider Al-Saidi, chair of the applied computer education department at Red River College may be better prepared than some for the changes we’re in the midst of.
He’s already got his students working very closely with the private sector and he said in the next couple of years there will be even more dramatic changes in the way the college delivers material.
"We are looking at getting rid of the concept of the classroom," he said about his department. "We are going outside the classroom and learning everywhere. We will give them a project and, as educators, we will become facilitators. This change needs to happen."
Among other things, the exercise that Shaw is going through will eventually leave about 650 people out of work.
But Al-Saidi said, "In my opinion, let’s not be afraid of the changes. Let’s prepare the new generations on how to deal with these changes."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Friday, February 2, 2018 at 7:10 AM CST: Photo added.