Carnegie Mellon University

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January 22, 2018

World Economic Forum Taps Heinz College Students for "Future of Work" Recommendations

By Scott Barsotti

& Michael Cunningham

Shryansh Mehta
  • Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy
  • 412-268-5492

A team of students from Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy has compiled insights and recommendations for firms about the future of work. Their findings will be shared with global leaders at the 2018 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Jan. 23-26 in Davos, Switzerland.

CMU experts have led global conversations in Davos, in fields ranging from robotics to artificial intelligence since 2011. This year's theme is "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World."

"At Heinz College, we are deeply concerned with societal challenges that emerge at the intersection of people, policy and technology," said Ramayya Krishnan, dean of Heinz College. "The future of work has been a major research focus for us. Technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles bring with them both the promise of greater productivity and the challenge of significant social disruption. This project has empowered our students to address that challenge first-hand with an actionable solution."

Automation and the future of work will be major topics at this year's forum. In preparation for the event, forum leaders worked with a team of Heinz College students to create an assessment tool that will allow firms to gauge their organization's readiness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR, which Forum Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said is "characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres."

The students also provide insights and recommendations aimed at helping leaders more fully prepare for 4IR,Those recommendations range from awareness of emerging technologies and upgrading employees' skills to larger changes in corporate culture and the creation of "Innovation Councils."

"Research shows that as much as half of today's work could be fully automated by 2055, and most of Generation Z's jobs don't even exist yet," said project manager Victoria Zuber, a graduate student in public policy and management. "It's not a one-time adjustment where a switch is flipped and suddenly a company is ready. These shifts will be decades in the making, but the response has to start now."

The students created a body of research and insights that they wove together to form the "Seven Principles of Leadership in the Fourth Industrial Revolution." The seven principles are:

Organizations with a comprehensive understanding of the opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution will lead the change.

Organizational Changes
As technologies disrupt businesses, companies must adopt flexible organizational structures that enable digital and augmented workforces.

Continuous Learning
Creating a culture of continuous learning cultivates a workforce with the skills needed for new phases of technology.

Leadership Adaptability
To respond to the demands of change, leaders must adapt their skill sets and attitudes.

Evolving HR Strategy
Human Resources managers are at the forefront of a rapidly evolving employment landscape. They are uniquely positioned to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements and evolve existing talent management strategies. HR leaders can positively influence their organization's?human capital?pace of adaptation.

Empowered Employees
True employee empowerment is shaped by internal policy adaptation and employee influence in decision-making. Organizations that foster this working environment will have a competitive advantage.

Learning from the Success of Others
Leading companies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution display a commitment to their workers, increased agility, and cultural strength.

The students' assessment tool, a survey based on the famed Capability Maturity Model, will be shared with attendees at Davos. Respondents will receive a readiness score and receive recommendations targeted to their organization's 4IR maturity level. As an added benefit at the conference, respondents will be encouraged to attend specific sessions based on their readiness score.

"The team displayed a level of creativity and analytical thought that is quite rare," said Dominika Anna Merzenich, client-partner representing the forum. "They excelled in producing and delivering this groundbreaking assessment tool, which we are proud to share at the World Economic Forum."

The Capstone Project, titled "Examining the Future of Work," was completed by Brittany Dies, Chinmayee Joshi, Kathryn MacAulay, Claire Souchet-Jacquillat and Zuber . The project was co-advised by Krishnan and Jon Nehlsen, associate dean of Partnerships and Communication Strategy at Heinz College.

"We want our students to leave Heinz College as data-driven decision-makers, working for the public good," Nehlsen said. "I can't think of a better example of putting those learning objectives into action than helping companies understand what skills their employees will need to be active and secure in an ever-evolving labor landscape."

See the complete report, "Skillset Principles for Corporate Leaders: Enabling Employees to Thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution," on the Forum's website.