By Andrew Hoseck – Chief Operating Officer at In2IT Technologies
Job Simulator is a virtual reality game set in the future, where machines have replaced all human jobs. In this game, players can relive the “glory days” when people did regular work, such as being a chef, or working a 9-5, caffeine-fueled desk job. If research is to be believed, we are in the midst of a massive workforce transformation, and the world envisioned in Job Simulator isn’t too far off.
One of the largest takeaways from the predictions such as the claim that 47% of American jobs today will be automated by 2037, and PwC’s findings that 37% of today’s workforce are concerned about automation putting their jobs at risk, is that there exists a very strong likelihood that today’s jobs won’t exist some twenty years from now. So, what jobs will be in existence and, more importantly, what skills will be required in order to do them and how can organisations and individuals begin planning for the skills required to power their businesses in the not-too-distant future?
Tomorrow’s workplace is already emerging
Automation, particularly in manufacturing and production, is not a new concept, and technological advancements are fast absorbed into work environments to increase productivity and improve efficiency. However, technology can also open the door to new business opportunities.
Rapid developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI), cloud computing and data analytics have made it possible to take automation beyond operational improvement. We live in a world of instant gratification and the faster things happen, the faster we expect them to. As customer and business expectations evolve, technology rises to meet this evolution.
Omni-channel engagement and automation strategies are enabling consistent, real-time interactions and transactions, and have become business imperatives rather than competitive advantages. The concepts of business hours and location have all but evaporated. Technology is briskly nudging us through the door of workplace transformation, new job requirements and the host of new skills required to meet them.
Add urbanisation, increasing congestion, and rapidly improving connectivity and a new vista is presented. One where more and more business is conducted digitally, at any time of the day, with very little human interaction or intervention thanks to automated and integrated sourcing, manufacturing, distribution and sales processes. Where employees may work from anywhere, at any time. Where communication is via group chat and managers have never met their staff members face-to-face.
A world of new jobs and skills
Any job where productivity, efficiency or quality is constrained by the ability of a human to perform that task is a natural target for automation. What has changed though is that not only can machines work harder, faster and longer than people, now they can also work “smarter”, making decisions based on complex “thought processes” which opens up the opportunity to automate tasks currently performed by “knowledge workers”. However, automation doesn’t spell out the eradication of jobs but, rather, the creation of new career opportunities.
Automated processes need to be designed, developed, monitored and improved. This means a likely increase in demand for automation experts, business process specialists, subject matter experts, enterprise architects, process modelers, testing specialists, integration specialists, network and communication specialists, software developers, business analysts, etc. The common thread here is one of specialisation, either in a business field or in technology.
The requirement for human interaction will always be there and customers or partners expect to be able to contact a person if required. Very often, this will be when something goes wrong so communication skills, conflict handling and decision making remain valuable skills.
Anywhere, anytime operations require an advanced support infrastructure. Business, operational and technical roles will still be required, along with the prerequisite skills in people management, logistical support, operational management, HR, Finance etc.
Lastly, a great deal of technological awareness, flexibility and adaptability from staff will be required as the tempo of change increases. Knowledge, ideas, people skills and creativity is – and will be – of more value than the ability to do manual work, crunch numbers or shuffle papers.
Merging today and tomorrow
The current workforce spans multiple generations, is geographically dispersed and has varying degrees of technological enablement. Businesses need to adapt accordingly.
Instant gratification and immediacy extends internally as well. The business of the future will need to ensure that employee communication and engagement takes place consistently across multiple channels and should make use of automation to speed up traditional employee support processes.
Tomorrow’s workforce will require a flexible approach with respect to policy, process, communication, work hours, working environment, etc. Changing customer demands will inevitably fuel a change in employee demands, especially in an anywhere, anytime organisation. Employee support processes will be the glue that holds this together.
The future workplace is not one comprised entirely of robots and empty desks. Rather, it is an exciting collaboration of human creativity, thinking and innovation, enabled by technology and automation. Best we prepare ourselves, discard our human tendency to cling to the familiar, and embrace an evolving world of emerging, ever-shifting skills where specialised knowledge carries gravitas.