How the Business World Can Improve Talent Through Technology

Companies can improve the quality of their workforce and collective skills through innovative workplace technology.


Air Date: September 21, 2021

Moderator: Cheryl A. Oldham, Vice President of Education Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Featured Guests: Laurens Grant, Write, Producer, Director, The Future of Work (PBS), Martha Ross, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, Jeremy Bird, Deputy Policy Officer, Lyft, Adam Bry, CEO, Skydio

With the advent of new technology, such as smartphones, social media, and artificial intelligence, the workforce as we know it has been changing.

Further adding to these changes is the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a majority of businesses to adapt to remote work systems. Now, companies are being forced to confront the future and assess how they and their industries will move forward.

The gig economy and automated work systems are just some of the ways the workforce is innovating. However, for everyone to benefit from that innovation, there needs to be greater equality in technology access and new ways of thinking about work to reflect the current remote-first, flexible working world.

Here’s how companies can improve their existing team’s skills and recruit new talent through the right workplace technology.

Everyone Needs Equal Access to Workplace Technology

Before technology can help enhance the workforce, we need to ensure that everyone has access to it. As workforces around the country adopt hybrid or fully remote workforces, there is a growing need to have equal access to technology across the country. Every citizen needs to have the same internet speeds and abilities to work like everyone else.

“Assuming that technology is going to have a central role in our economy, in our society, we need to ensure that everyone has a baseline level of access to technology, broadband, devices, software, user-friendly ways to learn the basics, and some version of a help desk,” said Martha Ross, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“One thing the pandemic made really clear was how unequal access to technology is,” she continued. “This kind of thing isn't going to immediately help a worker, but it is going to set us up better to be more prepared for lives as citizens, as family members, as workers, as students, [and] as consumers.”

The Government Must Reclassify Workers to Reflect Modern Flexibility

As the workforce evolves away from the traditional 9-to-5 working hours, the government must create laws and reclassify the way we identify workers. These laws were created decades ago when a majority of workers’ days mirrored one another. Now, workers have more flexibility in their options, such as working for a ridesharing company like Lyft.

While this benefits a worker's independence, it also makes it more difficult for them to access general social insurance programs like unemployment insurance.

“We created laws in the 1930s of which we have two classifications of workers in this country, either 10-99 independent contractors or [W2] employees,” said Jeremy Bird, deputy policy officer for Lyft. “Those laws were written decades ago … The answer is to be able to have the independence and flexibility that the independent contractor relationship provides, but couple that with unique and different benefits that make sense for the work.”

Automation Will Change, Not Displace, Jobs in America

Anytime a new technology has emerged, from the printing press to the assembly line, there has been a fear of job displacement. And while some jobs may become obsolete, these new technologies will create new opportunities.

Workers in certain industries like manufacturing, administrative work, and other repetitive-task fields fear their skillset may become completely automated, rendering their roles useless. However, new technologies like AI and automation can, “if deployed thoughtfully, open up incredible new opportunities,” said Adam Bry, CEO of Skydio.

“The way that companies think about inspecting their infrastructure will change over time, but that doesn't mean there's fewer jobs involved,” Bry continued. “It typically means … there's different jobs and the people who are performing them can be more effective, they can be safer and ultimately make more money.”


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