"The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power"
A couple of months ago, I was part of a discussion with a legendary gentleman and he said, “Don’t ask your kids what they want to become. Chances are that job won’t exist by the time they grow up unless they want to be a policeman or a fireman. Ask them how they want to be when they grow up!”
This rings so true, especially in today’s evolving world. What we are seeing today is a digital revolution amplified by human potential. A fast-changing business and customer experience landscape due to AI, Big Data and Machine Learning, among other emerging trends. According to a study that analyzed 12 developed economies, AI has the potential to double their annual economic growth by 2035. Another report also estimated the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) could add $14.2 trillion to the global economy by 2030.
Alongside staggering tech advances, this digital revolution has unleashed the aspirations of the people. By one popular estimate, 65 percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. In such a dynamic and evolving job setting, the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skill requirements and design jobs accordingly will be critical for businesses, governments, and individuals. It’s no surprise then that a survey body believes that 40 percent of the IT & ITES workforce in India will need to reskill themselves over the next five years, which means 1.6 million need to learn new skills!
What about human potential in all this? Over the last year, we have watched, and sometimes been a part of the significant debate on the shape that technology is taking in today’s world and how it is outpacing humans at an incredible speed. This is seen more strongly in the work sphere where jobs that existed a decade ago are either extinct or renewed. Instead of depending on a postman, we use online shopping delivery and digital assistants. New products and platforms now occupy an important space in our lives which didn’t exist a decade ago viz. iPhone, Uber, Airbnb etc. Even some of the roles that didn’t exist a few years ago like drone operator at social gatherings, app developer, Uber driver or something as simple as what we play on an everyday basis – being a Whatsapp group admin – are thriving today.
While there is no denying the fact that technology has been able to replace jobs, an evolving landscape in careers in itself is nothing new. We’re already seeing that jobs that are in ‘run and maintain’ mode are slowly ceasing to use human effort and are instead being automated or robotized. But if we think deeper, jobs are not going away. Instead, attributes for valued jobs are going up!
Therefore, we are seeing an intersection of fast-changing technology and human adaptability, however, there is a disparity. To bridge this, organizations have to be fast evolving to stay ahead of the curve. Organizations that continue to learn faster and govern smarter will survive.
So what should we tell our future generations?
- In order to stay in the game, they need to continuously adapt, be agile, engage with others, be conversant with data and technology, yet retain core human values
- It’s not just about what they learn but about how to learn
- Learning not just new things but new ways of thinking will be a lifelong asset
- Have many forms of talent (skills) – not be a one-trick pony
Looking at the ever-changing job setting, the below ingredients would be necessary for both organizations and individuals:
The greatest challenge in the next decade for organizations will be to embrace technological change and yet retain core human values. While it would be difficult to predict which hard skills will be required to perform the jobs of the future, what is certain is that it would be more important to teach how to learn rather than what to learn. There will also be an ever-increasing focus on developing soft skills – the humanness’ factor. Thus, organizations will be looking for people with a blend of hard skills (mathematics, pure science, coding), tough to teach human skills (empathy, resilience, creativity, negotiation, critical thinking) and digital savviness.
As John Dewey said, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we will rob them of tomorrow.”
Learning will have to be an amalgam of traditional modes of learning like in-person classroom learning and an amplified focus on going digital – Online, Mobile, and crash courses. Learning on the go, anywhere and anytime, will be the dish of the day.
Traditional skills may become redundant and be replaced by new skills. Two aspects that would be critical for businesses to grow and survive would be Talent refactoring and Reskilling in adjacent skills. Essentially, developing new skills and strengthening existing skills in use. There will also be growing focus on role reversals as well as reverse mentoring for different generations to leverage both experience and energy.
Higher importance will be placed on individuals displaying T-Leadership – breadth of work performed with depth of knowledge.
Online Talent Mart
One of the biggest challenges today is finding the right talent and not necessarily lack of talent. The solution is having a dynamic and digital platform to bring individuals and employers closer and meet the demand and supply of the much-needed skills. Platforms that help employees chart their own career within the company with features such as reskilling opportunities, internal job postings, mentoring and networking are the way forward.
The nature of how work gets done is starting to see a change. People with skills readily available will be leveraged as freelancers as against traditional full-time employees. Also, more and more employers, as well as individuals, are focusing on getting the work done rather than from where it is being done through Flexi-work & remote working. Work will cease to be a place, it will be more just a thing that gets done.
Analytics, Big data, AI will act as enablers to amplify human potential. Organizations and individuals will need to ideate and redesign their work to enhance business and personal results. A collaboration that fuels a singular purpose for the organization is also a must-have workplace feature for the millennial generation, and a company that fosters collaboration as opposed to individual success will be sought after by the new gen.
Talent refactoring and analytics
These two features, especially the latter when it comes to analyzing people data to create space for data-driven decisions will be crucial. Companies gather so much data on their employees but seldom leverage it towards making a better employee experience. With analytics, it is possible to create a seamless, tech-driven, customized employee experience towards greater engagement and retention.
Alliances and Co-creation
Organizations have started both backward and forward integration when it comes to learning. Tie-ups with online platforms, universities, and institutions while also going back to these very institutions in defining the curriculum to make it more real-time and dynamic will be the norm.
Organizations will lay emphasis on transparency. Empathy, a key component in the design thinking approach, will help organizations to engage on aligned purpose thereby driving a Win-Win situation — enhance the employee/customer experience while bringing organizations, its people and communities closer. Ultimately, a company’s culture will determine its success and stickiness factor. Therefore, careful attention must be paid towards building a culture that fosters collaboration, innovation, new thinking, all on a foundation of values and continuous learning.
Organizations will have to place their societal purpose at the heart of their business strategy. For organizations today, becoming efficient with resources is not only socially responsible but also economically beneficial. We will witness more open workplaces designed keeping the future in mind!
There’s so much to be gained from a balanced relationship with technology. For, after all, it’s often said that while machines have intelligence, we hold wisdom. The future will need the best of both, and it’s in our interest to be forward-looking to prepare for the workplace of the future. With dynamically changing workforces and spaces, emerging tech trends and evolving careers, the potential held in the future for success and new businesses is immense. It is up to us to realize this potential.
“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be”
- Wayne Gretzky, ice hockey legend.
(The article draws on various sources of inspiration and data from the public realm. All views in the article are personal)