Technology may not necessarily replace people, but it will certainly change the skills that they need
by Tom Brown, Chairman, Gooroo
These are uncertain times for employers and employees alike. Employers are struggling to define the workforce of the future; employees are worried that the workforce won’t include them. One thing is certain, the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ will create winners and losers.
The convergence of AI, machine learning, biotech, VR and AR brings uncertainty to what the role of humans will look like. According to Accenture’s latest report ‘Harnessing Revolution’, 95% of people believe they will need new skills to stay relevant at work. The challenge is both complex and urgent.
Just to demonstrate the point, IKEA recently announced that it would hire 16000 people over the next 12 years and confirmed it was hiring for roles that didn’t exist a few years ago. In an interview with the country HR manager, Richard Harries said “It’s not so much about jobs disappearing, for us it’s more about how the jobs are changing — we always need to be thinking ahead.”
When I talk to CHROs and CEOs about what keeps them awake at night, the impact of the future of work on the workforce is right up there. Technology may not necessarily replace people, but it will certainly change the skills that they need. Senior executives want to know what they can do today to sustain their organisation into the future.
Here are my tips to on how to set your workforce up for future success:
1. Conduct a future of work assessment
Once the management team identifies skills gaps, it can move to close potential deficiencies with ‘upskilling’ and ‘reskilling’ programs to help attract and retain a more effective workforce.
Telstra for example has recently announced it has developed a skills mapping system for its 32,700 strong workforce that can track an individual's abilities and knowledge, and map these against skills that will be needed as automation and artificial intelligence change many occupations.
The system, called MyCareer, allows Telstra to cross-skill and develop its technical and non-technical staff for existing roles and jobs that don't exist yet.
2. Accelerate re-skilling
You can’t protect jobs impacted by technology, but organisations have a responsibility to their people. Contrary to popular thinking, employees are ready to embrace the new digital reality. According to the previously mentioned Accenture report, 84% of employees report being excited by the prospect. Organisations need to harness this willingness to be adaptable and agile but they need to act now as the change is already underway. They also need to be bold and unconstrained, preferring bigger leaps to baby steps.
3. Invest in skills training and ongoing learning
One of the biggest fears that employees have about upcoming years is that their current skill sets will become obsolete in the workplace. To address this skills gap, employers need to provide ongoing training to help workers keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date.
Training must be interactive and continuous. Millennials have grown up in a technology-dependent age, expecting to receive the information they seek quickly and on the go, rather than preparing ahead of time.
And preparing the workforce for the digital world does not apply only to the general workforce. Senior leaders and executives will need new leadership skills to lead in this era of disruption. Hierarchies are becoming obsolete in this new world, replaced by the agile, networked organisation. The age of the ‘digital leader’ is upon us.
4. Embrace technology to drive further change
A good example of this came in a recent conversation I had with the CHRO of a large Australian company about how technology has allowed them not only to change how they operate but also how its allowed them to demolish gender barriers in traditionally male dominated areas.
The technology now allows them to run their operations remotely and has radically changed their view of the skills and capabilities needed. The occupations where these skills and capabilities existed gave them access to a far greater degree of diversity in the available talent base, changing the face of a very male dominated profession forever.
Technology can also be used to build your organisation of the future. At Gooroo, we have built a scalable unique platform that uses Artificial Consciousness (AC), combining Artificial Intelligence(AI) and the science of human thinking (Neuroscience) to empower individuals and unlock capacity. By understanding how people think, Gooroo gains insights that help individuals, teams and organisations make better and more confident decisions from hiring to managing major transformations such as mergers and acquisitions.
Clearly, there are no easy answers, just as there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, but in my experience, the best performing organisations are consistently focused five to 10 years ahead. Progressive HR leaders I talk to today see both the challenges and opportunities that are on the horizon and use these to shape their future workforce.