The extraordinary pace of digital change is set to have a huge impact on the way we work, the places we work in and the skills we’re going to need to be successful in the future.
Big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, automation and global connectivity are just some of the topics being discussed by HR and recruitment professionals, with advances in these fields offering the opportunity to genuinely transform the way many industries and organisations operate.
Of course, the idea that machines are going to take all of our jobs isn’t new, but it does seem more prevalent today than ever before because of the ground-breaking nature of the innovations and the speed of change.
Technological advances are helping businesses across the world make cost-effective productivity gains and improving accuracy and efficiency levels in a growing number of disciplines, particularly those involving data collection, processing, analysis and highly structured and predictable work.
The lines between physical and digital are blurring more every day and delighting customers in the process, with the knock-on effect thought by many to be an unavoidable future of mass unemployment; but that’s not necessarily the case.
With a focus not only on the application of new digital improvements but also how these advancements will affect jobs and talent in the workplace, we can all adapt our working practices so that they start to help people develop the skills they need to thrive alongside machines, rather than be replaced by them.
This might feel a little overwhelming - and a source of major concern for a lot of people – but the truth is that most jobs consist of around 20 to 30 different kinds of activity and, while some may be easily replaced by technology, it’s unlikely that every aspect will be, so rather than be made obsolete, it could be that most jobs will simply change.
This means if you’re a business leader or manager, you have a responsibility to begin redesigning the way your company not only works with technology but the environment in which people operate and the way you recruit and manage talent.
Consider how your working models might change when there’s no longer a need for physical proximity in order to stay connected with your colleagues. Will you join the growing number of companies who are crowd-sourcing people with the skills they need for a particular contract? Perhaps you’ll utilise the more and more skilled people who are choosing to work as freelancers so they can pick and choose projects they are passionate about?
Whatever you do, it seems that, in the future, successful careers will most likely be built around learning and skills rather than specific jobs. If that is the case, we will all need to be recruiting people who not only have the right attitude and outlook but who can also solve problems, lead well, communicate expertly and have excellent technology skills.
Emotional intelligence, empathy, curiosity and the understanding and creative application of what we can do with the information that computers create will also be critical to the new way of working, which is also going to mean companies have to operate in a nimble and agile way – thinking big, but acting small.
Although it may feel like this workplace transformation is still a long way from impacting on your particular sector or business, as a leader it is your job to start preparing for the future of work rather than simply training people for today's jobs.
Some of the technological innovations we are seeing will be truly transformational and it’s imperative that we don’t slow things down. Instead, we need to embrace the opportunities because of the huge benefits they can bring.
At the same time, we also have to face up to the challenges of transition and try to help workers manage their way through this change. That’s the simultaneous challenge we have ahead of us.
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