What the trends of 2021 mean for the workforce of the future

Technology is like toothpaste—you can’t get it back in the tube. And while this sort of “creative disruption” has always caused a permanent elimination of jobs, it has also always created more jobs through job shift. But we can’t count on this today due to the megatrends of today’s world.

Trends that were already happening have been accelerated by the unprecedented events of 2020. But if we focus on these five areas, we can better prepare for and adapt for the future:

  1. Identify repetitive reiterations. While we don’t know exactly what jobs will be permanently lost in the hospitality industry, we have a very good idea: anything that has repetitive tasks that can be replaced by automation technology. When we think about training, when we think about preparing teams, we need to focus on cross-training, work-based learning and other approaches to help transition incumbent workers into new roles.
  2. Develop high-touch skills. As the world becomes more high-tech, it’s the high-touch soft skills that will make people more valuable. Essential skills we have already made great strides in developing in our industry are problem solving, critical thinking, communication, teamwork and diversity. We need to find better ways to quantify these skills and the value of training.
  3. Evolve apprenticeships. The jobs that will be eliminated are front-line jobs, but we will still need supervisors and managers with front-line experience. The “earn and learn” approach of apprenticeships is a real boots-on-the-ground approach to developing a diverse workforce. Resources to find out more are the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s registered apprenticeship program and your local workforce board.
  4. Focus on skills, not degrees. Skills outpace academic achievement by far as a predictor of a successful hiring outcome. The more we can quantify, qualify and develop our employees’ transferrable skills the more successful they will be with us and in the future. Resources in this area include organizations like Skillful and Opportunity at Work’s STARs program.
  5. Make school a verb. Once people get past the age of 25, very few of them go back to school in a building. And with new options for skill development such as a boot camp, an online course by expert instructors or a credential program, learning can happen anywhere, anytime. We need to shift our mindset beyond school simply being somewhere you “go” to something that you “do.”

Looking back on 2020 gives us great foresight to develop the workforce of the future for our organizations, our teams and the people that we serve.

Josh Davies is CEO of The Center for Work Ethic Development.