LinkedIn's CEO: These Are the 3 Trends That'll Shape the Future of Talent

October 4, 2017

At the eighth-annual Talent Connect in Nashville, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner shared his view on the most important trends impacting the global workforce.

“There are really three themes that are worth calling out,” Weiner said. “AI and automation, the skills gap, and the rise of independent work.”

Those three trends will transform the way employers hire, develop and retain talent. And it’s important for all professionals and companies to prepare for these trends to maximize the potential of the global workforce, Weiner said.

Here’s a deeper dive into each one:

1. AI and automation

Many people believe that artificial intelligence has the ability to automate millions of jobs – eventually. But Weiner shared a revealing stat: using merely the technology that exists today, over 50 percent of the activities in the US economy are susceptible to automation.

Naturally, that percentage will only continue to increase as technologies advance.

Middle-skill jobs in industries like manufacturing, hospitality, food services, and retail trade are most prone to disruption, Weiner said. He gave the example of Shake Shack. Just this week, the hamburger chain announced they are going cashless and replacing cashiers with kiosks; a clear example of technology displacing workers.

2. Skills Gaps

Right now in the United States, there are more than 6 million unfilled jobs – the highest number since the Department of Labor started tracking the statistic. And yet, 7.1 million people are unemployed in America and 13.9 million are seeking more work.

One big reason is the skills gap. But one thing Weiner highlighted is there isn’t just one skills gap; instead, there are many skills gaps that exist across regions, for specific skills, at specific points in time.

For example, right now Detroit-based car companies like Ford and GM are incorporating more and more software into their cars. And yet, the talent base in Michigan is historically manufacturing-rich, creating a skills gap in Detroit for software engineers.

Conversely, LinkedIn data shows there’s a skills gap in Washington D.C. for law enforcement professionals. In San Francisco, there’s a skills gap for recruiting pros. And in Salt Lake City, the booming gaming ecosystem has led to a skills gap for game developers.

Worsening this problem is a lack of geographic mobility among Americans. Mobility among American workers – i.e. people moving to another state for work – is the lowest it’s been since World War II, Weiner said.

3. Independent workers

The third big trend that’ll shape the global workforce is the rise of the independent worker, defined as freelancers, short-term contractors, and gig economy workers. In the United States alone, there are 60 million independent workers, and that number should only continue to increase.

Why? There are three reasons, according to Weiner:

  • Rise of millennials: Millennials are expected to comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025, and the data shows millennials are hungry for more autonomy “and a good side-hustle,” Weiner said. And both of those are possible via independent work.
  • Growth of online marketplaces: Uber, Lyft, Postmates, and Instacart – among thousands of others – require droves of independent workers. Today only 15% of independent workers leverage digital platforms to find work, and Weiner believes this trend will only continue to increase.
  • Cost efficiencies: Frankly, it’s often cheaper for companies to use a contract worker, as opposed to hiring a full-time head. That also leads to a bigger demand for contract workers.

All of this mean fewer full-time, traditional employees and more independent workers potentially working for several companies at once. “We believe this is an irreversible secular trend,” Weiner said.

What you can do to prepare for these trends

How can individuals and organizations prepare for these three sweeping changes? There are many theories, but Weiner prefers looking at the hard evidence.

“When I’m in a meeting where people start throwing around subjective opinions, one of the first things I’ll do is ask for the data,” Weiner said. “And this where we think LinkedIn can make a difference.”

Specifically, he pointed to LinkedIn’s Economic Graph. By having a digital representation for each professional, skill, job, school, and organization in the world, LinkedIn can give the data professionals need to move their career or their organization forward.

For example, say you are a mechanic in Boise, Idaho looking for work. By using LinkedIn data and LinkedIn Learning, you can both identify and learn the skills you need to advance your career and find the best areas in the country to look for a job.

Conversely, for organizational leaders, by using the new Talent Insights product you can identify the skills your organization has, teach the skills your organization needs and identify where you should best recruit new talent. Perhaps you are like one of those car companies in Detroit moving to more of a tech focus; you can both teach your organization the skills you need and identify the best areas and schools to recruit new talent.

The bigger point is that the world is changing, fast. Only by combining both your own instincts and talent insights can you and your organization best prepare for the world of work.

“Imagine a world where you have the data and you have the tools to anticipate what skills and talent you’ll need before you need them,” Weiner said. “Well you won’t need to imagine any longer. Because the next era of talent is here: Talent Intelligence.”

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