How will the corona virus affect the future of work?

The biggest news story in the world now, and in the foreseeable future, is the corona virus. Its not as big a threat as the FLU, but it is having a more severe effect in terms of public anxiety and business disruption. What will all of this mean for the future of work? I speculate. | Special thanks to ProactiveTalent.com.

Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast, brought to you (in part) by Proactive Talent, a recruiting and employer brand consulting firm that will revolutionize the way you attract and hire top talent.

The biggest news story in the world now, and in the foreseeable future, is the coronavirus. Its not as big a threat as the FLU, but it is having a more severe effect in terms of public anxiety and business disruption. What will all of this mean for the future of work? I speculate on that, after this word from Will Staney, Founder and CEO of Proactive Talent.

For all the attention that the Coronavirus is getting in the media, the FLU poses a much bigger threat, at least in terms of the health of the general public. Listen to this recent quote from USA TODAY.

There’s a deadly virus spreading from state to state. It preys on the most vulnerable, striking the sick and the old without mercy. In just the past few months, it has claimed the lives of at least 39 children. The virus is influenza, and it poses a far greater threat to Americans than the corona virus from China that has made headlines around the world.

“When we think about the relative danger of this new coronavirus and influenza, there’s just no comparison,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and health policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Corona virus will be a blip on the horizon in comparison. The risk is trivial.”

To be sure, the coronavirus outbreak, which originated last month in the Chinese city of Wuhan, should be taken seriously. The virus can cause pneumonia and is blamed for more than 800 illnesses and 26 deaths. British researchers estimate the virus has infected 4,000 people. A second person in the U.S. who visited China has been diagnosed with the Wuhan virus, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. Public health workers are monitoring 63 additional patients from 22 states.

Influenza rarely gets this sort of attention, even though it kills more Americans each year than any other virus, said Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor of pediatrics, molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Influenza has already sickened at least 13 million Americans this winter, hospitalizing 120,000 and killing 6,600, according to the CDC. And flu season hasn’t even peaked. In a bad year, the flu kills up to 61,000 Americans. Worldwide, the flu causes up to 5 million cases of severe illness worldwide and kills up to 650,000 people every year, according to the World Health Organization.

And yet, Americans aren’t particularly concerned.

To be clear, no death is insignificant. But consider this, at the point of this recording, there have been 3,569 deaths in the world caused by the Corona Virus. And as I have already said, the FLU kills 650,000 people every year. Clearly, the FLU is the bigger threat to our health but thanks to public anxiety as fed by the news media, the Corona Virus is a bigger threat to our way of life.

According to Investopedia, Official estimates suggest Chinese exports amounted to $2.097 trillion in 2017. Since 2013, China has also become the largest trading nation in the world. (The United States previously held this position.)

China has many dominant industries that create products and materials for export. The most prominent amongst the finished products exported from China are electrical goods, data processing technologies, clothing, and other textiles, and optical and medical equipment. And here is a fun fact, 95 percent of all the antibiotics in America are manufactured in China. I repeat, 95 percent of all the antibiotics in America are manufactured in China. Let that sink in. Look, I’m all for global trade, in fact, I encourage it, but relying on one partner for 95% of all antibiotics. That’s a bit much.

I predict that once the Corona Virus hysteria has subsided and vaccines are in place, companies will begin to rethink their supply chains. I predict that President Trump will begin offering tax incentives and other goodies to bring manufacturing back to America on an unprecedented scale so we can reduce our dependency on China and any other country for that matter. Once that happens, there will trigger another boom in jobs that might shatter the already historically low unemployment records. I think automation will increase out of necessity and the companies that supply that technology will see their profits go through the roof.  And even with the help of robots and automation, they can only do so much and will eventually break down. So, I imagine there will be a boom in trade education – maybe things like, “robot repair” will be the hot new profession. As the need for such skills increase, look for “robot repair” to be taught in high schools the same way automotive tech was taught in an earlier generation.

But, I digress. The corona virus may trigger a new wave of manufacturing jobs and that’s at least something good that could come from this. However, its not the only prediction I have. I have at least, umm… 1 more. I’ll share it after this.

Before we get to the point of a manufacturing boom, or rather, an even bigger manufacturing boom as manufacturing jobs have grown at their fastest rate in 23 years (more or less), there is the in-between time, that point between now and when the even bigger-boom of manufacturing jobs happens. And during that time, I predict a subtle change in the job market. And when I say, subtle, I am being sarcastic.

People wanted telecommuting jobs before the corona virus hysteria. How much more do you think they want it now? If the corona virus hysteria continues for an extended period of time, I predict that some companies will take advantage by offering jobs that pay less but make higher demands on their workers. The argument that they will likely use is that the money they would have paid you is offset by the money you save working exclusively from home. And it won’t be a hard sale as some workers will graciously take a significant paycut to work exclusively from home. Listen to this clip from ABC news which reported on remote working in San Diego. {cite the cost savings from this clip}

So, let’s recap.

  • The corona virus is not as dangerous as the FLU in terms of health, but the public anxiety over it, makes it a threat to our way of life.
  • I predict that once the corona virus hysteria subsides, America will bring more manufacturing jobs home in order to reduce our dependency on China.
  • I predict trade schools will boom as well as high school programs teaching things like “robot repair.”
  • I predict that some companies will pay less and demand more from 100% remote workers and few will complain about it, especially during this period of corona virus hysteria.

And one last prediction, I predict that you will share this podcast with your network, on social media and ask them to subscribe to it. Time will tell, how accurate my predictions are.

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Computational Thinking? Its a thing…

Computational thinking is the edge you need to be competitive in business.  But what is it? Tune in to hear Jim Stroud explain what it is and explain its significance to not only business but future jobseekers as well.

TRANSCRIPT

Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast!

Think about a very difficult situation, no matter what it is. Maybe it’s a business issue, or some sort of personal dilemma, whatever it is, you feel frustrated because it’s just too hard to figure out. Well, maybe, just maybe, the answer to your problem is how you think about it. A problem-solving technique that is growing in popularity is something called – computational thinking. In a nutshell, it’s figuring out the answers to a problem the way a computer would. I’ll go deeper with that after this…

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Computers can be used to help solve problems. However, before a problem can be tackled, the problem itself – and the ways in which it could be solved – needs to be understood. Computational thinking helps with this. It allows us to take a complex problem, understand what the problem is and develop possible solutions. These solutions can then be presented in a way that a computer, a human, or both, can understand. At least, as described by the BBC.

Computational thinking itself is comprised of 3 steps: decomposition, abstraction and algorithmic thinking. Let me talk a bit first about decomposition. Or rather, let me quote the BBC as they describe it.

Decomposition involves breaking down a complex problem or system into smaller parts that are more manageable and easier to understand. The smaller parts can then be examined and solved, or designed individually, as they are simpler to work with.

If a problem is not decomposed, it is much harder to solve. Dealing with a complex problem is much more difficult than breaking a problem down into a number of smaller problems and solving each one, one at a time. Smaller problems are easier to understand and can be examined in more detail.

For example, suppose that a crime has been committed. Solving a crime can be a very complex problem as there are many things to consider.

A police officer would need to know the answer to a series of smaller problems:

  • what crime was committed
  • when the crime was committed
  • where the crime was committed
  • what evidence there is
  • if there were any witnesses
  • if there have recently been any similar crimes

The complex problem of the committed crime has now been broken down into simpler problems that can be examined individually, in detail. Once the individual information has been gathered and collated, the police officer may be able to solve the crime.

Step one in computational thinking is ‘decomposition.” The second step is “abstraction” which is the process of ignoring the non-essential details of a problem. From this, an idea of what is to be solved can be created. This idea is known as a ‘model’ and… Uh oh! I think I’m starting to lose some of you. Umm… let me show you an example of what I mean by abstraction.

Have you ever traveled on the New York City Subway? I have. The first few times it was intimidating because when you look at the map, its easy to be overwhelmed by all the places you could go by train and when you add bus routes to the mix, OMG! However, if I focus solely on going from Brooklyn to Manhattan, I can ignore all the other destination options on the map. Also, I don’t have to think about how many miles there are between subway stations, how many steps I must take from the train to the exit or, how deep underground the subway station is.  All that is irrelevant to my solving the problem so, I ignore all of that extra, unimportant information and focus solely on the subway route that will get me where I want to go.  Make sense? When I block out the information I don’t need and keep what I do, that’s abstraction.

Decomposition is breaking down a big problem into smaller solvable parts.

Abstraction is getting rid of the clutter and focusing on what matters.

The 3rd step in computational thinking is algorithmic thinking, which is basically creating a step-by-step action plan. If you have ever followed a recipe then, you understand how algorithms work. When following a recipe for example, at least as the original author intended, the desired outcome is expected. You beat so many eggs, add so much flour, bake for so long and badda-boom, badda-bing, something delicious comes out the oven. {See if you can find a sound effect for – Nailed it!}

Now, was my explanation of computational thinking simple enough to understand? Good! I’m glad you think so because you will have to master this way of thinking to stay competitive in business and the job market. More on that, after this.

Even if you cannot code a computer, being able to think through a problem with computational thinking will become more and more important as times progress. For example, if you are in talent acquisition, developing a candidate journey from discovering a job description all the way to hire, requires breaking it down to simple steps and putting it into algorithmic sequences that can be tracked and tweaked over time. If you are a retailer, designing a user journey requires the same type of insight. And if you are an employer, computational thinking will likely be at the core of most of your future jobs because as technology becomes more sophisticated and pervasive, you are going to need people who can routinely figure out complex problems.

And just in case you think computational thinking is just the latest buzzword floating on the internet, its not. Case in point

  • In the US, the National Research Council (a scientific think tank, created by President Woodrow Wilson), is ahead of the curve, working on CT for the past eight years.
  • The Carnegie-Mellon University has a Microsoft-sponsored Center for Computational Thinking to advance computing research and computational thinking to improve society.
  • The National University of Singapore has gone a step further and made CT compulsory, regardless of what course they are studying.

If you want to learn more about computational thinking and how it could be applied to business, maybe take an online course in it, check out ComputationalThinking.org. You’ll be glad you did.

MUSIC IN THIS PODCAST

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When it comes to machine bias, the struggle is real…

Everytime I read something about how algorithms (or robots) are not bias, I always think about examples like this one. The tweet speaks for itself and marks a legitimate concern. I hope the powers that be take note and get it right. If you want more of my thoughts on this, listen to this episode of my podcast.

What happens when you wear a Burqa to work?

The Retro Lounge Podcast Series
[Original air date: 05.06.2010]

In addition to The Recruiters Lounge, Jim and Karen produced a mini-series called “HR Smackdown” where we tackled the most controversial HR issues. It was short-lived because we decided to just incorporate those topics into our regular podcast. Anyways, this episode is from our HR Smackdown series and it was (as promised) quite controversial. Here is the original description.

THE BURQA BLUES

Jim and Karen fight like cats and dogs over Burqas in the workplace. Karen thought it was fine. Jim, not so much… And what was intended as a 15 segment turned into an hour long verbal slugfest! Still, even with all that, Jim and Karen managed to cite other stories in the news like the Arizona controversy and Recruiters who landed in hot water after pursuing (what they thought) was easy money. (Who thought charging people for job seeker assistance could go so horribly wrong?) Tune into the podcast drama that is – The HR Smackdown.

A few highlights from the podcast:

02:14 – Do you like 4 letter words?
02:33 – Do you need a public speaker for your next meeting or event?
05:00 – If it hasn’t happened in your office yet…
08:42 – Will the dash in front of our names ever go away? Will we just be American?
14:04 – Illegal immigrants.. Hispanic, Indian and Korean
19:22 – What’s going to make him or her “look” illegal?
25:38 – Do you have the right to change your religion from Baptist to Catholic?
31:20 – Can I put in my Employee Handbook that women have to wear the Hooters uniform and not a Burqa?
37:45 – So he’s a good terrorist because he has a heart now?
41:10 – Can you tell me one incident that a woman in a Burqa killed someone in the workplace?
47:08 – It doesn’t take a Burqa to commit a crime
54:00 – I would have it in my employee handbook that you could not wear something that hides your entire identity.
56:30 – We talk and argue like this all the time

Tune in to hear a lively debate as it was originally aired on 05.06.2010. How have things changed since then? Please leave a comment below.