The Future Skills Lab, a new centre for the exploration and analysis of tomorrow’s jobs and skills
Today’s jobs will not be tomorrow’s jobs. How do we reinvent the skills and professions that will make up the world of work? Launched at HEC Lausanne (UNIL) last year, the Future Skills Lab, aims to stimulate thinking on the urgent and complex challenges linked to the future of employment. Accordingly, it recently brought together over 40 key players in French-speaking Switzerland to explore the role of Human Resources in 2030.
“What’s the risk that I’ll be replaced by a robot or that my job will be downgraded or even disappear completely?”, “Will only some professions be affected, or will there be real upheaval in all kinds of occupation?”, “What skills do I need to develop and what opportunities should I grasp to thrive in tomorrow’s world?”, “What will the role of Human Resources be in the world of work in the future?”. These are all questions, uncertainties and fears affecting not only individuals facing the potential loss of their job, but also companies that need to manage their human capital.
The Future Skills Lab, an HEC Lausanne initiative scrutinising the future of skills and professions
The acceleration of environmental, societal, technological and economic changes is driving to an increasing obsolescence of knowledge. The gap is widening between the skills currently available on the job market and those that will be needed in the future.
Given these real risks of obsolescence, HEC Lausanne has launched a new entity, the Future Skills Lab, which brings together academic and professional expertise, collaborative intelligence and future-planning methodologies, to identify how professions and skills portfolios are likely to develop in the future.
Led by Isabelle Chappuis and in conjunction with academic experts from the school, the University of Lausanne and partner institutions, the laboratory launches and pilots research projects aimed at identifying the skills that will allow people to resist the rise of machines, or collaborate more effectively with them. At the same time, the results of the research will be used to update and develop HEC Lausanne’s programs, to train the next generation of people who will be driving the economy in ways that are both innovative and relevant.
Reflection driven by collective intelligence
The Future Skills Lab also aims to be the nerve centre of the question of the future of occupations and in particular, skills, notably by offering to some of the creative and brilliant minds in the local economy the opportunity to come together and reinvent the world of work. For one of the first sessions, on 31 January, the Future Skills Lab invited around 40 influential figures, all actively involved in HR issues in French-speaking Switzerland, to address the issue of the role of Human Resources by 2030.
By the end of this workshop, the Future Skills Lab had already outlined a number of possible directions, using methodologies that until now had been mainly used in the world of defence. Developed within NATO and the academic world, these in-depth prospective analysis techniques aim not only to understand possible futures by exploring a range of scenarios, but also to incorporate the scale of their socio-technical content. Although these methods are not explicitly predictive, they were used during the workshop on 31 January to highlight the range of possible futures for the HR function.
What were the findings of this first workshop?
While Human Resources departments were originally created to manage the workforce required to run a business or institution, their role could change radically. Isabelle Chappuis explains one of the future scenarios outlined by the participants: “In a world where all occupations are changing in response to technological progress or environmental constraints, an HR leader could well now be looking for and emphasising a whole set and mix of skills, rather than jobs with a predefined specification. Accordingly, and if we accept that in the future, work will be done partly through virtual collaborative reality, part of their role will be to divide jobs into tasks, identify the skills required for each and understand the dependencies between them. She or he would become in some sense, a manager or broker of skills portfolios in a virtual and global world.”
“Will my job still exist in 2030?”
While it is impossible to predict the future, the Future Skills Lab will encourage thinking on the directions or redirections to be taken and the measures to be implemented to develop the skills of the individuals who will be driving our economy.
Numerous projects will be launched shortly, to stimulate thinking about the future of occupations, in particular with the publication of a white paper. And what about a tool to measure the level of obsolescence of human skills compared with those of machines? Find out more in the very near future with the Future Skills Lab.
As Isabelle Chappuis concludes: “If we believe that the obsolescence of human skills is a threat to national security, we need to arm society to deal with it.”
par HEC Communication