In my career as a business school academic for nearly 30 years, I have been a participant in many discussions about the future of jobs and whether we are preparing our students to succeed in their careers. I was also invited a few years ago by President Obama to serve on a White House task force comprising peer Deans from many other top American schools to discuss strategies for supporting greater diversity, especially the inclusion of women in the workforce for the future. Social and workplace trends have often created a context in which many talented and educated minorities, especially women have chosen to either not participate in the workforce or do not feel supported to make the requisite transitions at key moments in their careers.
Governments, corporations and business schools need to cooperate on job retraining and enable individuals to learn marketable new skills throughout their lifetimes. According to McKinsey, hundreds of millions of people will likely need to find new jobs as automation advances, and even more will need to learn new skills, including how to work seamlessly with technology. In general, we have not succeeded in creating the conditions in which people displaced by globalization and technology quickly find new high-quality employment. The result for many individuals has been a series of lower wage jobs with limited opportunities for advancement.
Education reform should be high on the agendas for governments and societies in both developed and developing economies. Business schools and universities are stubbornly resistant to change, often due to resistance from multiple stakeholders including faculty. With a rapidly decreasing half-life of knowledge, education has to be retooled to become affordable, effective and flexible. This will help our alumni to smoothly transition from one job to another and make education a nimble, lifelong endeavor. The GBSN community, as an engaged group of business school leaders should strive to take a leading role in helping our alumni (especially women and minorities) transition effectively across jobs and create satisfying careers for themselves.
Traditionally careers were linear – people started out with a company after completing their formal education, progressed with the same company over their lifetime across different roles and eventually retired from the company and moved into retirement. Today careers rarely evolve this way. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker stays at her job for 4.4 years with the expected tenure for the youngest workers to be half of this figure. As technology creates more opportunities for job creation, this tendency to job-hop will increase. This in turn means that firms will have to become more adept at providing new interesting opportunities to their employees to retain them. There is evidence that employees, especially millennials are prioritizing new experiences and the learning of news skills as they change jobs.
Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott from the London Business School published a book in 2016 titled “The 100 year Life” which explored different aspects of living and working in an age of longevity. Jobs will also evolve as people live longer and are physically fit and able to work longer. People will hold multiple jobs over their lifespan including some in parallel thanks to the flexibility provided by technology in many cases. One will find multiple mid-career transitions to jobs and roles that each require a completely different set of skills for success. Non-linear careers will become the norm and employees will have to take responsibility for their own learning and skills evolution across multiple, possibly very different jobs.
Business schools will continue to be an important resource for the continuous re-skilling of people. We need to become geared for flexible, on-demand education as people take greater ownership of their own skills and career success. This is the best way to serve the needs of our alumni.
Soumitra Dutta is a Professor of Management at Cornell University and the Chair of the Board of Directors for GBSN. Previously he was the Founding Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell and Chair of AACSB Intl. He also co-chairs the Global Future Council on innovation ecosystems for the World Economic Forum.