Technological change in the workplace is rapidly and continuously evolving, challenging employers and their cohorts to react with innovative solutions to move forward at the pace (and sometimes ahead) of change. Many of these new technologies are proving capable of having long-term, fundamental effects on existing products and processes, thus known as “disruptive,” while others are being integrated in a slower and less prominent way, earning the designation “incremental.”

Recently, the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan (WIN) released results from an extensive online employer survey for Michigan companies to utilize, sharing business leaders’ opinions on economic- and workforce-related effects of innovative, disruptive technologies. More than 230 company leaders provided insights through the survey. (Read the full Eureka! Report findings, here.) WIN defines these disruptive technologies as “Eureka” technologies if the process or product helps create a new market and value chain and eventually goes on to fundamentally alter an existing market and value chain, displacing an earlier technology, process, or practice.

But in an age when generations are converging in the workplace, how is the workforce reacting to such technological advances? What training will be needed to provide a diverse workforce — with differing strengths and learning styles — with necessary skills? It begins with addressing what Eureka technologies are expected to be the most disruptive, and helping the workforce to adapt and develop new skill sets.

In findings from WIN’s Eureka report, business leaders shared which technologies they anticipate will most greatly affect their business and workforce. Some of the Eureka technologies that business leaders identified as having the greatest impact, include: cloud computing, providing cheap and nearly limitless power and storage (54.2 percent); mobile Internet (48.85 percent); mobile workplaces (46.56 percent); tablet computers (45.04 percent); new types of social media (44.27 percent); business-oriented social networks (43.51 percent); real-time data (41.98 percent); increasingly sophisticated data analytical tools (40.46 percent); and smart systems — machine-to-machine communications (38.17 percent). (See chart, below, for more research and data.)

With technological changes, the workforce must adapt and respond with new training, skills development, and other professional development opportunities to keep current. Respondents in WIN’s Eureka report believe that more training and education are critical for preparing the future workforce with relevant education, but also with helping the existing workforce to adapt. When asked to indicate which of various training and education opportunities are the most important now to prepare for future workforce shifts, responses indicated a balance of training the current workforce and educating the future workforce: digital literacy for all workers (10.87 percent); increasing the availability of and access to computer science coursework (10.87 percent); professional development for the current workers focusing on technology (20.65 percent); coursework in high school and college on problem solving, critical thinking, and analysis (18.48 percent). (See below for a full chart with responses indicating other areas of importance from survey respondents.)

To keep up with technological advances, Michigan companies have to think about their future workforce but also invest in preparing the current workforce. By offering a range of education and training opportunities, partners like those that comprise WIN — six workforce development agencies and 10 community colleges — can help businesses and workers navigate and even manage technology disruption.  As a result, the workforce in southeast Michigan will be better equipped for the future of technological advances.

This blog was developed with data and research compiled by Lindsay White, communications manager at WIN.

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