It has often felt as though we have been reminded at every turn that the world of work is changing more rapidly and more fundamentally than ever. It is a truth that we are well aware of because we are living through it and have heard it talked about regularly over the past 18 months. The pandemic gave us no choice but to adapt quickly to sudden changes, overcome aversions to technology, rethink more deeply what the working day looks like, and step out of our comfort zones.
Now that we have reached September 2021 and are approaching Q4, we have come too far to turn back now. Now that we know we can do our jobs from just about anywhere, many of us will never work a full week in the office again. Now that technology has become more integrated into our working lives, it is likely that we will only continue to add tools to our arsenals rather than retiring them post-pandemic. Therefore, you should not expect that the job that you were hired for will be the exact same job you will be doing two, five, or even 10 years from now.
What does this mean for you? It means that you will need to refocus, reprioritise, and reskill or upskill sooner rather than later and more often than before. As your industry, organisation, and job function change, you will likely be forced to change with them. With the final quarter of the fiscal year drawing near, the time has come to begin your preparation. Here is a summary of what you need to know about the state of skills in September 2021.
In a PwC survey of 32,500 workers, more than one third of respondents (39%) think their job will be obsolete within 5 years. It makes sense then why only 50% of respondents reported feeling excited or confident about the future. These fears are not unfounded either. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs Report posits that by 2025, automation and technology will disrupt 85 million jobs globally. While these figures may be shocking, it is important to remember that 97 million new roles will be created. In both these disrupted and new roles, there will likely be partnership and collaboration between humans and technology with tech automating specialised tasks and humans having the advantage in activities involving management, decision-making, strategy, communication, and the like. As a result, the WEF report predicts that 50% of professionals set to stay in their current roles in the next five years will need reskilling.
BCG and Faethm recently released a report exploring the potential impact of various technologies on jobs in three countries over the next decade. Their findings revealed that the US, Germany, and Australia will all experience labour shortfalls in certain industries and sectors. The recommendations presented suggest that the solution to preventing widespread labour crises includes strategic workforce planning, the creation of cultures of lifelong learning, and investment into upskilling and reskilling by both organisations and individuals. But where should you focus your attention?
Based on our research and our day-to-day work with executives of all backgrounds, we recommend focusing your attention on developing or strengthening the following skills and capabilities in order to remain relevant and competitive in the future world of work.
Adapt to Overcome
In the most recent findings uncovered by Rialto Accelerated Leadership Index (RALI) released at the start of this year, we highlighted the need for agility in order to overcome many of the challenges presented by the pandemic. It is not just us who think this is an incredibly important capability for executives to have. Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) conducted a global survey of learning and development professionals. Of the top ten skills these professionals cited as being the most important this year, ‘resilience and adaptability’ ranked first.
Even with the lockdowns (hopefully) behind us and though we have surpassed the height of the pandemic, we are not yet out of the woods. Leaders have spent the past several months planning their next moves and as the time comes to bring them into practice, they may find that the plans they came up with were not as effective as anticipated or were not the best move for the business. It is important to remain flexible and agile during this period of trial and error. Do not become discouraged when a plan does not pan out, and quickly change course instead. That way, you can continue to help drive the business forward via the best possible course. That might require changing working models, or adopting new tools.
Digital and Technological Capabilities
According to the previously cited PwC survey, 40% of workers successfully improved their digital skills during the pandemic while an amazing 80% report feeling confident that they can adapt to new technologies entering their workplace. Given the way that our relationship with technology changed this past year and the speed at which many organisations have accelerated their transformation plans, it is understandable why tech skills are some of the most important to have. New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), Internet of Things (IoT), and more are reshaping how we perform tasks and achieve our business objectives.
Not only is it crucial to develop the necessary skills to properly use these tools, but also to develop the right capabilities to work alongside them. Many of these technologies are specialist tools designed to perform specific tasks and will require human oversight and partnership to run effectively. But just as important is a change mindset. Having both the capability to use these tools and the open-mindedness to adopt them into your professional practice will be incredibly valuable in the future of work. Those who resist technological change stand to be the ones left behind by it. The best thing you can do now is embrace this change, work to understand what is to come, and fill any gaps in your own capabilities.
Embrace your own humanity
But as important as technological skills are, it is human capabilities that will be most valuable in the future. In a recent survey we conducted, ‘People Skills’ were ranked as the most in-demand skills in the future of work, earning 35% of the vote. In the WEF’s ranking, human skills such as emotional intelligence, communication, creativity, collaboration, and mindfulness made up the rest of the top 10. While these ‘soft skills’ might seem less important than some of harder more technical capabilities, these skills can make those tech capabilities more effective and valuable.
That is because in the tech-driven workplace, humans will need to fill the gaps that technology cannot satisfy. While technology may be really good at performing the tasks it is designed for, it has its limits. Machines currently cannot replicate skills such as empathy, strategic thinking, and creativity. These areas will be where human workers will be able to add the most value.
For individuals, the task is to seek out learning opportunities and invest in their own skills. For leaders, the challenge is building diverse teams that offer capabilities spanning a diverse range of skillsets. You will always have your experts in specific areas, but those experts should also bring value in soft skills. Similarly, your excellent communicators or creative thinkers should also be able to operate and oversee the technological tools used for their job function. It’s all about creating a balance and ensuring strength in all areas throughout the organisation.
This can be done via the hiring process but can also be accomplished via your existing workforce. Consider investing in reskilling or upskilling initiatives to help your people develop the right capabilities and to ensure you have the necessary skills on your side. But at the same time, this investment should not just fall on your people. As a leader, it is essential that you continuously invest in your own skills as well. Lead by example and demonstrate the same skills and mindsets you would like to see reflected in your people. If you want your team to embrace new technology, then you need to champion it yourself. If you want to create a culture that values collaboration and communication, then you yourself need to work with other and communicate effectively.
As we move forward out of this challenging business period, the skills of the team will become one of the most valuable assets the organisation has available. If you are interested in developing your own skills or those of your team, get in touch with us about our leadership development and change, digital and business transformation programmes.
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