At the end of 2017 the Center for the Future of Work published a landmark report titled 21 Jobs of the Future. This report laid out 21 jobs that are going to emerge over the next ten years based on trends observed in technology, culture, and the labor market. We categorized the jobs into three C’s: coaching, caring, and connecting. Rob Brown of The Center for the Future of Work sat down with Dave Krupinski, co-founder and CTO of a pioneering company bringing such jobs to fruition. Care.com unites caregivers with families in need of their services.
Rob Brown: One of the 21 Jobs was the role of the Walker Talker. When we think about that role it aligns to two of the three C’s: connecting and caring for people. In discussing what your company is doing, it was almost one of those “spotted in the wild” moments. The future of work is a funny thing because it's always in the future but in this case, speaking with you about the things that you're doing at care.com it sounds like the Walker Talker is something that is very much in the here and now. The future is now. Can you talk a little bit about some of the things that you are doing at care.com to bring this notion of caring and connecting people to life?
Dave Krupinski: Sure, Rob. I'll just say a few words about what care.com does and then relate it specifically to 21 jobs of the Future and the Walker Talker. Care.com is a company that's been operating for about 12 years now and our focus is on connecting families with caregivers. We do that in the areas of child care, senior care, special needs care, and even pet care.
Our fastest-growing care vertical is senior care. Why is senior care growing so quickly? Because there are roughly 50 million seniors in the u.s. today and between now and 2060 that number is expected to double to close to a hundred million seniors in the U.S. We see the overwhelming majority of these seniors prefer to age in place, to age in their homes. As they're doing so, a lot of family members will think about things like home modification and other things to make their seniors more comfortable at home.
But what they don't often think about is perhaps what's more important. That’s the companionship side, the caring side, and what they need to provide for their family members in order to age in place, relationally. One of the key things there really is - what sparked the conversation we had, Rob, about the walker talker - which is an individual to provide that level of companionship. Without such companionship, loneliness is shown to increase the odds of developing dementia by over 60%. So having someone who is able to provide that companionship to a senior really helps throughout the aging process.
Brown: That’s right. All of us of a certain age have parents that are going to be aging very soon. So we're all going to confront this. Perhaps not be parents, it could be loved ones. I think that your point about the statistics, the graying of the population, this is coming at us. That’s not a future thing. It’s a today thing.
I think the things you're doing at care.com gets into one of the things we talked about in the role of the Walker Talker. This notion of continuity of care. That there may be individuals in that Walker Talker role that sort of cycle through the same subject but through increasing levels of application of AI platforms that do a conversational whispering agent into the ear of the Walker Talker. This would remind them of what they talked about before with a client. What are their interests? What are their likes? There could be prompts that are whispered in the ear of that agent to coach them to really get maximum engagement for the client.
When we think about the future of work implications for this type of role, the major skillset this person is going to have to employ is human empathy to engage their client. Literally to talk with the customer, to walk with the customer, to listen to the customer. But technology again fosters this notion of a continuity of care for the individual client. I think is also a really exciting blend of man and machine together into a future role.
Krupinski: We've looked at our business as a combination of AI and what we call HI. That means artificial intelligence or augmented intelligence and human intelligence or human interaction. You get the best of machine learning and artificial intelligence when it comes to the algorithms we have in place to help match families and individuals who need care with someone who can provide that care or companionship or the right Walker Talker for that family.
But then as you mentioned that individual also needs the very human attributes of empathy and judgment and the ability to act in a non-scripted way to provide authentic interaction with the person that they are caring for. That's where we see these two very different but complementary elements coming together. We see that even more so in this scenario of looking into the future. The Walker Talker is enabled by technology and it perhaps can enrich the level of interaction but you still absolutely need the authenticity and the empathy of the human side of it as well. We view it as leveraging the best of those two sides.
Brown: It’s interesting you’re talking about HI technologies and I've been seeing here recently where Care.com is involved in things like child care. I saw a synopsis for an upcoming conference that was engaged with care.com to provide child care at the event for traveling, working parents. Sometimes you can’t get away to the conference because somebody needs to be with with the kids back at home, so this is a perfect market fit.
I think we're starting to enter this realm, whether it's seniors or kids, where there will be services that connect and care for people. Thus allowing us all to be able to do the things that we want to do in life. These services will take away some of the difficulty of caring for family by providing an extra pair of hands or an extra pair of ears to assist. When we wrote the Walker Talker job description in 21 Jobs of the Future we had thought from the perspective of a fictitious company. We talked about this company's mission statement: the two ears one mouth philosophy of allowing our customers to enjoy engaging in the world. And I think that we're going to see a lot more opportunities like this tethering in sophisticated technologies and algorithms of AI to allow us to get there.
Krupinski: Yeah that's right. We're also changing the nature of the relationship between companies and employees where there are fewer boundaries between work and life that takes place outside of work. As a result companies are stepping up to provide greater support for families as they need to manage all aspects of their lives. And one of those key aspects is care. Care for their children, care for their homes, care for their parents. You referenced some of the services that care.com provides to large companies. And these companies make it available as a benefit to their employees. So they can call on care.com and our caregivers in a time of need during a crisis or even in a planned manner to help balance the demands of work and life. That is also something which is not too far in the future, but happening today. Companies are stepping in to fill that gap that the government does not fill through through subsidized child care or through other services that other countries make available. Companies are stepping in because this is a major budgetary item for families.
Brown: That’s absolutely spot-on. If you kind of look down range into the future, you're going to see more and more services of this type. When we set up 21 Jobs of the Future it was sort of a ten-year window running from 2018 out to 2028. One of the job descriptions that we had in there was the personal memory curator. For people who are suffering through dementia or early onset Alzheimer's there's groundbreaking research these days into things like neuroplasticity. Something like a personal memory curator could be offered by care.com or somebody else in the market. They're all sort of vectors in a similar swim lane.
If we were working on 21 More Jobs of the Future what do you see in your crystal ball through a care.com lens that we need to be looking for?
Krupinski: I'll just expand a little bit on the thing you mentioned of a personal memory curator. As we think about the seniors amongst us we can’t forget about their skills, their wisdom, their understanding of history. Really being able to leverage that for a richer, more well-rounded society is important. So I would really expand upon the theme that you brought up with a personal memory curator and just talk about how much there really is to leverage there as we interact with these elder members of our society.
Brown: That's great, Dave. It’s an absolutely fascinating topic. I’m sure we'll have lots more fodder for future discussions as well. I appreciate the work that you're doing and at care.com on this subject. It's important from both a technological perspective, and socially too.