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Digital economy, digital future, digital everything. Let’s stop a minute. Fast-forward twenty years and all the talk about the digital future will have well and truly evaporated; digital will be a given. And using the term may even get you laughed out of your sensory-driven working pod. In this future, we’d have resolved our relationship with the robots, namely: who does what jobs. Everyone knows their role, and everyone’s happy (so we hope).
But, we’re not quite there yet. Workplace automation, AI and robotics are relatively new and we still need to define our place in all this. In particular, what roles we humans want to retain and develop and which ones we’ll throw to the machines to churn through.
It seems despite the sophistication of our technologies; business productivity is not keeping up with the pace of technology uptake. This is due to a gap that’s been created by inadequate human capital strategies, including how we actually deploy people in business.
Moreover, a contributing factor is a lack of appropriate digital-ready skills that can help businesses adapt to the changes brought about by the tech tools they’ve unleashed.
Our humanity (even we aren’t always logical) is what will keep us elevated above the machines - after all, we can perform functions such as critical thinking and analysis thanks to our unique soft skills.
Yet, while the demand for these skills is increasing, business continues to recruit for talent with a strategy based on the late stages of the industrial era. Candidates are chosen if they look good on paper for technical skills and experience, without identifying and utilizing the soft skills that will be required in the complex brave new world where machines are our co-workers. These restrictive recruitment processes only reveal a fraction of a candidate’s story and can actually mask not only a person’s weaknesses, but sadly their strengths as well, like collaboration and influencing. Emotional intelligence just can’t be faked.
And despite the unquestionable computation capabilities of AI, humans will still need to provide executive skills. An Accenture report provides an illustrative example of the skills that will be required. To make AI systems work, humans will need to provide the ‘smarts’. For example, to interpret the output of AI systems, humans will need to work as ‘explainers’. To optimize the effectiveness of AI systems, humans will need to work as ‘sustainers’; and to feed AI systems’ capacity for judgment, humans will need to work as ‘trainers’.
So, if all goes to plan, humans will not become cyborg captives. We will be the clever handlers that work a short week and likely have a very pleasant lifestyle. But the way we structure and train our labor force will need to evolve.
The workforce of the future will see many repetitive, unskilled roles removed from the economy. Plus, the augmented workforce will increasingly push humans up the chain to do the more quintessentially human things that machines can’t (not yet, anyway). That requires more advanced cognitive capabilities, such as logical reasoning, creativity and good old-fashioned common sense. All of which means we can manage other humans and communicate better than machines.
This shiny new future will require different skill sets to deal with different task allocations that will start to evolve as economies grapple with where best to deploy automation and AI.
And to remain competitive, HR processes will need to reflect the future of work. If you don’t, your competitor will.
So how can your business start to turn your ship around from pre-digital age recruitment processes to a more agile, informed HR strategy?
The HR function is about to join the C-level suite. In fact, a Deloitte report indicates, HR can become the gateway for adaptation for your business. This means HR will need to deliver skills to the workforce that are more nuanced than simply technical. HR will need to bring in (and develop) talent that can respond to the new economy. You can see an example of the relationship between the emerging drivers and skills on the Future Work Skills 2020 Summary Map. Skills such as sense-making; novel and adaptive thinking; and social intelligence will be where it’s all at in the future.
Plus, we’ll need emotional intelligence, empathy, collaboration, strategic thinking and decision making. Hmm. How does an HR professional even begin to seek out these qualities in their candidates? Certainly, most application forms don’t capture these crucial soft skills. Plus, recruiters aren’t trained to identify these skills during the selection process.
Soft skills and attitudes can now be quantified. The world-first F4S toolkit can assess and discover these talents in candidates, making life easier for HR professionals, while also providing important insight for job seekers about their own strengths and weaknesses. And most importantly, it prepares both sides for the future of work.