SumTotal Blog

Work Is Changing – Are You Prepared?

March 13, 2018



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Just a few years ago self-driving cars, medical robots, and autonomous databases were thought to be futuristic endeavors. Now they are a reality. Tesla has just sent a roadster into space, and this is only the beginning.

We live and work in one of the most exciting and challenging business environments that has ever occurred. Technology is causing unprecedented disruption at a pace that is accelerating daily; this digital transformation is changing the world as we know it.

Just how will our personal lives and our business lives be affected by these radical changes?

Over the coming weeks, I plan to answer by examining how current talent management processes are being disrupted and changed by technology and digital transformation.

The Skills Gap and Why You Need a Talent Supply Chain

In recent years experts have debated the current skills gaps and the impact felt by organizations as they retool their business models to get closer and more aligned with their customers.  Such workforce innovations are leading to the disappearance and potential extinction of many current jobs, while new jobs are beginning to emerge.  A 2014 Oxford University study forecast that over the next 3-5 years 47% of current jobs would disappear. 

Today we are right in the eye of this workforce storm, and many of the predictions are becoming mainstream. Accountants, lawyers, doctors, long-haul truckers, cab drivers and even teachers should all brace for change.

Already technology, in the form of computers and bots, is analyzing and comparing massive reams of data and making financial, medical, and process decisions more efficiently and accurately than humans.  This automation of decision making will impact salaries and careers. Income gaps will increase between those employed in highly specialized fields and the soon-to-be-displaced workers seeking new ways to earn a living. Like every other significant shift in society, there will be winners and losers as the nature of work pivots. Blacksmiths of the past and today’s computer programmers will share the common experience of the impact of societal shift and technological transformation.

Many of the new jobs emerging in this gig economy are likely to be in more specialized areas such as data science, mathematics, architecture and engineering. Knowledge, skills and abilities will be re-prioritized as competency models evolve to the tasks and activities of these new jobs. Already we are seeing a noticeable trend towards organizations implementing inventory management techniques to reduce costs and improve flexibility to have more time to focus on their customers. Yet, many of these same organizations lack a systematic approach to managing their skills inventory and talent supply chain.

What can organizations do to prepare?

The Senior VP of HR at footwear retailer DSW told me that he encourages his team to take stock of their competency inventory to reveal any gaps related to skills, experience or work styles that will impact their ability to fill roles in the next 12-24 months. Lincoln Financial Group, a Fortune 250 financial services company, conducted a job analysis study of a key business analyst position – not as the role is defined today, but as the job will be defined 3-5 years in the future. This study meant they could build a capability map detailing vital foundational skills and the use this information to populate internal career pathways. In other words, they looked at what they will need and then looked at what they must do to serve this need.  This forward-thinking will be a strategic advantage in the future.

Why it is Even More Important to Pursue Lifelong Learning and Development

While we’ll lose some jobs, others will continue to be created by advancements in new technology.  The downside though is that companies are only now beginning to assess their ability to develop these new skills and the news is not good.

In a recent CareerBuilder survey, 67% of employers reported that they are concerned about the growing skills gap. Further, workers feel unprepared for future roles with just 1 in 5 saying their professional skills are up to date.

What skills are needed?

While bots and machine learning can automate some analytic skills, the demand for interpersonal skills, particularly the very human qualities of empathy and cooperation, will grow as disruption by technology is less likely to happen here. What we will see is that workers who develop these highly desired interpersonal skills will be in high demand and will, therefore, command higher salaries in the coming years.

One of the best strategies for someone to stay relevant, or in demand, is to establish a continuous learning mindset and a willingness to reinvent themselves.  Today it is easier than ever to do this as learning content is readily available.  Learners should pursue a combination of social skills with analytic skills that make them easily adaptable in an ever-evolving workplace.

Why Adapting to the Changes is Key

While the ultimate impact of this technological disruption and digital transformation on the future of work is unclear, what we do know is that the effects will be profound. In the meantime, there are 3 proactive steps available to help us get in front of this wave.

#1

As organizations continue to analyze their skills inventory and evaluate their talent supply chains for future needs, individuals should take stock of their cross-functional knowledgebase.  The ability to re-invent ourselves will play a vital role in the future of work.

#2

For those already in the workforce, it is critical to evolve new skills through constant on-demand learning and development to retrain themselves and expand their versatility.

#3

Government and education agencies can also play a role in developing students not yet in the workforce to meet the future needs of potential employers.  Policy and curriculum transformation is well behind the evolution of technology, although there are some advancements beginning to appear.  Mercy Health Systems currently work with their educational partners by providing foundational information about what essential jobs they will need to fill in advance of the actual openings.  This education-vocation collaboration helps schools prepare students to fill roles when they graduate.  Aligning the needs of employers and the educational institutions that feed the talent supply chain ensures that critical skills will be available for open opportunities in the future of work.

The best prepared, most versatile and adaptable workers will fill the desirable jobs of the future.  Digital transformation will continue, and we need to be open to new ways of thinking.  Adapting to change and preparing for the future of work will make the coming years exciting and full of opportunity as technology continues to transform our lives and jobs.

 

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