The impact of automation, Industry 4.0, and the digital revolution will not be limited to business models and processes. Accompanying these changes is an evolving role of talent, and thus, it becomes imperative for organizations to focus on building a workforce of the future.
Across industries today, new business challenges are constantly emerging on the back of changing stakeholders – customers, employees, society – and their demands. With digital and technological disruptions, the market looks starkly different from just a few years ago. So, how can businesses prepare for a future that will only see greater adoption of technology? Specifically, how can they enable their workforce to be future-ready?
The world of work is changing
According to a research by Capgemini Consulting, 87 percent of companies think that digital transformation is a competitive opportunity, and 27 percent of senior executives rate digital transformation as now being “a matter of survival.” Similarly, The World Economic Forum (WEF) says that machines will perform 42 percent of tasks by 2022, and 54 percent of all employees will require significant upskilling by 2022.
An oft-repeated fear in the age of technology is of artificial intelligence (AI) taking over jobs, leaving none, or not enough, for human workers. However, the WEF has also clarified more recently that AI’s adoption will be a net positive, which means it will create more jobs than it eliminates. Robots will displace 75 million jobs globally by 2022 but will also create 133 million new ones. AI will mostly handle repetitive, manual work, freeing workers to focus more on strategic decisions, and interpreting data examined by the AI system. The reorganization required by upskilling so many employees will allow companies to pivot their talent strategy where it is needed.
Paving way for digital readiness
As per Aon’s survey on the future readiness comprising over 1300 global organizations, only 15 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “Identification and development of internal talent form a key part of our digital strategy.” Doing so will be vital for an organization’s digital strategy. Additionally, only 25 percent of respondents said that their organization has a future-proof critical competency to navigate through digital transformation successfully.
An agile environment and culture also define an organization's future-readiness. A company with an agile environment will be able to operate in an uncertain environment with fluid structures, teams, and processes. In an agile company, team members will inspire each other, work towards common goals, and flexibly adapt to situational changes. As per the survey, only 25 percent agreed that their teams could work flexibly.
In the digital era, where innovative technologies are the norm, not the exception, organizations must future-proof their workforce and talent strategy and empower employees to evolve alongside their changing jobs. Success will be no longer limited to whether an individual can do their job well; it will be defined by the critical ability of an individual to work collaboratively in a virtual environment that relies heavily on digital tools and channels. Equally important will be an individual’s adaptability and learning agility that will determine their ability to stay ahead of the curve amidst a rapidly shifting work environment.
HR, too, has a pivotal role to play in the transformation journey of an individual. As technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics cause digital disruption, HR will be expected to navigate the organization through them with a successful transformation journey. To build a workforce of the future, HR professionals must identify, select, and develop digital talent. They will need to assess for future skills, help digital talent transition to the right roles, and empower employees to make their best careers and evolve alongside changing jobs.
So how can HR support organizations in closing the gaps, identifying digital talents, and developing a future-proof talent strategy? Aon’s ‘Framework for Delivering Change’ offers an answer. At a simplistic level, there is a five-step process to evolve new-age job architecture in the future:
- Quantify Change
- Plan for Change
- Develop Change
- Implement Change
- Drive Change
How jobs must evolve to be agile
To prepare a future-ready workforce, organizations will first have to identify the impact of automation on the current jobs, as well as future roles that will evolve, given the effects of digitalization.
Traditionally, jobs in the value chain are structured for tasks and specialization around the same. Jobs evolved over assembly-lines and were structured as discrete tasks. With the advent of the digital revolution and automation, jobs are now structured around outcomes, and hence, roles have collapsed into smaller job families. Furthermore, all employees are expected to be well-rounded with a better understanding of each other’s roles and the customer’s final requirement. This also enables a quicker turnaround.
Hence, jobs can be reclassified into newer job families that contain a mix of old and new expectations, KPIs, and competencies. Some of these job families will be titled differently, while others could be completely new. Now, to be ready for the future, an organization also needs to assess its employees against newer skills and behaviors that fit into redefined organization structures and team composition. Another essential aspect is an individual’s willingness to explore these paths and stay curious and willing to learn.
Based on our research on digital jobs and evolving skills, Aon has built a methodology of making such a transition for organizations, as well as assessing their employees’ readiness to make such a shift. Today, we are also able to craft job corridors which make is easy for an employee to shift from one job family to another without traditional “barriers” or unidirectional vertical paths. We believe the future lies in a honeycomb approach to growth. As technology and machines develop, what would your organization and individual readiness strategy be? Would you hire new talent from outside, or borrow from the gig economy, or nurture your internal talent? No matter the approach, there should be no doubt that the coming years will be extremely challenging, as well as exciting for the HR and business leaders as they grapple with the increasing and innovative use of automation and machine learning in the workplace.