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Resilience & Adaptability: The Future of Work

Resilience & Adaptability: The Future of Work

Our #WednesdayswithMDBInsight post this week features Trudy Parsons, EVP talking about foundational skills for competitiveness in the labour market of 2020 and beyond.

Changes to the way we work, and the future of work, are near-constant topics of discussion these days. Driving these conversations are things like the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Artificial Intelligence, autonomous vehicles, nanotechnology, and other emerging realities including environmental sustainability. But we’d be wrong to think of these changes in the future tense. Our world of work is already changing and has been changing for many decades. Advancements in technology, progressive ideas, systems, platforms, automation and digitization have been changing the world of work since the First Industrial Revolution. Knowledge, technology and innovative advances continue to force workplaces to adapt and jobs to be revamped or replaced. We are moving from traditional production and creation of things to automated, interconnected, and intelligent solutions that drive productivity, improve efficiencies, and yes, change the structure and types of jobs.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report shared a popular estimate, claiming 65% of children who are just entering primary school will work in new job types that do not yet exist. Imagine how this world of work will evolve for these young people who have grown up in a world where smart technology has been an integral part of their lives. Now consider the impact and implications for workers who have a long history of being active in the labour market. What adjustments will they need to make to ensure ongoing and active employment? New skills, new knowledge, and adaptable behaviours will be the foundations on which workers propel themselves into the future of work. 

So, what might that look like five years from now, and beyond?

Automation can assist human workers, allowing them to focus on more strategic and creative tasks as well as tasks that never existed before – tasks that will be created in an automated future. Remember that The Talented Mr. Robot – Impact of Automation on Canada’s Workforce (Brookfield Institute) indicated 42 per cent of the Canadian labour force was at high risk of being affected by automation in the next decade or so. Jobs cited as most at risk included routine work (physical and cognitive) such as retail salespeople, administrative assistants, food counter attendants, cashiers, and transport truck drivers. We see this today. Your McDonald’s order can now be processed through an automated kiosk, and shopping at Lowe’s now involves OSHbot, a retail service robot that can guide you to the item you are looking for and even help staff with inventory scanning.

While routine, methodical tasks are being replaced through automation, it is important to note that automation has not yet mastered the human mind. Jobs that fall into the routine stream may well go by the wayside, but those requiring creativity, negotiation, persuasion and care for others will be less impacted. 

The Brookfield report identified occupations at risk of being affected by automation and with the most employees:

  • Retail salespersons, 92% probability of automation and more than 656,000 employees
  • Administrative assistants, 96% probability of automation and nearly 329,000 employees, 
  • Food counter attendants and kitchen  helpers, 91.5% probability of automation and nearly 313,000 employees, 
  • Cashiers, 97% probability of automation and nearly 309,000 employees, and 
  • Transport truck drivers, 79% probability of automation and nearly 262,000 employees.

Those offering lower risk of impact due to automation included:

  • Retail and wholesale trade managers, 20.5% probability of automation and more than 363,000 employees, 
  • Registered nurses (psychiatric included), 0.9% probability of automation and more than 291,000 employees, 
  • Elementary and kindergarten teachers, 0.4% probability of automation and more than 271,000 employees, 
  • Early childhood educators and assistants, 0.7% probability of automation and nearly 188,000 employees, and 
  • Secondary school teachers, 0.8% probability of automation and nearly 174,000 employees.

Thinking about the differences in these occupations, we see that those at lower risk require cognitive skills, people management, and creativity. So, when we look to the future and think about the skills that will be foundational to remain competitive in the labour market, we need to consider the importance of adaptability and resiliency.  

Reinforcing this, Fast Company recently reported the top skills areas for the future of work, including:

  • Technology and Computational Thinking
  • Caregiving
  • Social Intelligence & New Media Literacy
  • Lifelong Learning 
  • Adaptability & Business Acumen

The reality is our work and its demand for skills and knowledge has evolved throughout history, and this evolution will only continue. We can’t predict the future with certainty, nor can we know today all the job options that will be available for the graduating class of 2025. What we do know is that career pathways will continue along a spectrum that requires exploration, consideration, and a realization that change is inevitable and we will need to adapt, be resilient, and never lose our desire to learn.

Trudy 2018-2To learn more about Trudy and the other members of our team, go to

Our Wednesdays with MDB Insight posts feature the thinkers and doers on our team sharing ideas and talking about what’s important to us as professionals. We have very diverse backgrounds and a range of interests to share with you. We hope you’re enjoying these posts and that you will join the conversation with us and let us know what’s on your mind mid-week.



Brookfield Institute. (2016). The Talented Mr. Robot: The Impact of Automation on Canada’s Workforce. Toronto: Lamb, Creig. Retrieved from  

Harvard University. (2017, May 25). Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg Commencement Address. | Harvard Commencement 2017. Retrieved from

Moran, Gwen. (2016, March 31). These Will Be The Top Jobs In 2025 (And The Skills You’ll Need To Get Them). Fast Company. Retrieved from 

World Economic Forum. (2016). The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Retrieved from; Retrieved 11-23-17

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