As we try to put 2020 behind us and we face the realisation that 2021 is starting with what might be the biggest hangover ever, we face an employment landscape that even prior to our introduction to Covid-19 is changing quicker than ever.
While we’re not commuting in flying DeLoreans or fighting the robots for our jobs just yet, artificial intelligence and machine learning are already transforming the way we work. And advances in technology mean new roles are opening up that require a new set of skills, both technical and human.
The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs report surveyed human resources heads and strategists from leading global organisations on what the changes will mean for them and their industries. The results can help businesses plan for the future of employment, understand the skills that we’ll need, and learn how to take advantage of new technologies to improve productivity and quality.
Change is a given. To keep pace, we need to be proactive in up-skilling and retraining our people to be agile learners. And to build a team with the right mix of skills to adapt to whatever the future holds to stay competitive and relevant in 2020 and beyond.
Advances in technology are blurring the lines between human tasks and those that can be performed, better, by machines and algorithms. High-speed mobile internet; AI; powerful big data analytics; and cloud tech are dominating as we tick over into the new decade.This doesn’t have to be bad for the workforce – businesses that adopt new technology will be more efficient; can grow into and compete in new markets, and respond to a digitally savvy customer base.
Businesses are seeing the huge untapped value in their data and are keen to start leveraging this asset.By 2022, 85% of respondents say they’re likely or very likely to make use of big data analytics. An equally large proportion also expect to expand their use of the internet of things. And as many will make more use of cloud computing.
Almost 50% of companies surveyed expect to see a reduction in their full-time workforce in the next decade. Although a significant proportion looks to moving people into more productive roles, freed up by advances in automation. Many businesses plan to use contractors for specific tasks and are keen to engage workers in more flexible, remote and decentralised ways.
In 2018, humans carried out an average of 71% of total task hours and machines were at 29%. By 2022 current data predicts this will be more like 58%:42%. A key chunk of this shift is data analysis, with a projected 62% of data processing tasks predicted to be performed by machines compared to 46% today.
The next decade will bring change to industries in different ways. People working in sales and manufacturing will need to be more technically skilled. And those in technical and industrial roles will need to improve their soft skills to make the best of the hard skills they already possess. The internet and cloud technology have already changed the way we work, collaborate and communicate. And artificial intelligence is evolving quickly, so the ability to complement these things with human skills will be critical.
We’re bombarded with new ways of doing things, new tools and tech; so, to take advantage of the changes, workers are going to need to be more creative. This skill is one we humans still have over the bots and will be one of the most sought after soft skills.
The sweet spot for recruiters will be a mixed bag of new technical skills and an increase in specific soft skills. Things like analytical thinking and innovation, active learning and originality. And initiative technology design and programming. They’ll be a need for critical thinking and analysis. Complex problem-solving. Leadership and social influence. Reasoning and problem-solving and systems analysis. Emotional intelligence is innately human and will be indispensable in 2020.
These emerging technologies will enable us to do things we can only dream of. And see efficiency and productivity increases like never before. But leveraging the latest in cutting edge technology doesn’t just happen overnight. We’ll need people who understand the tech and make it work for us. Roles like AI and big data specialists, automation and human-machine interaction experts, and information security analysts will come with new and unique skill sets and be highly regarded.
Preparing our work forces for transition and growth and new products, technologies and services, will depend on how well we understand the roles and skills that will align with them. Those surveyed expressed a growing demand for technology design and programming skills and other technical competencies, like data analysts and scientists, software and applications developers, and eCommerce and social media specialists. These roles are based on advances in technology and will be indispensable.
The majority of survey participants expect that by 20222, the skills needed to succeed in most jobs will have transformed, due to the tsunami of new technologies and disruptive trends, and realignment of labour between humans and machines. What that means is that 54% of all employees will need to be retrained or up skilled — time to get proactive.
We know that the skills equation is not one-sided, however. Soft or human skills are also increasingly attractive to employers. Skills such as creativity, initiative, critical thinking and persuasion will continue to be highly valued. As well as attention to detail, resilience, flexibility and problem-solving. Emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence and service orientation will be increasingly in favour.
Analytical thinking and innovation, as well as active learning and learning strategies, are going to be sought after too.
The report also shows that certain roles with more human skills are expected to be highly valued. Customer service, sales and marketing professionals, trainers, people and culture and innovation specialists require a skill set that can’t be gained solely through a qualification. Our tip would be to include behavioural questions in interviews to dig beneath the certifications and make sure you’re hiring people will the right soft skills to adapt to change and complement the team.
Advances in technology can drive business growth, new jobs and the need for specialist skills. But skills gaps can both fast track automation and be a barrier to embracing new tech and the ability to scale. So how can you address the skills gaps created by new technology and an increased focus on soft skills?
The report suggests businesses approach the skills gaps by automating roles that complement their workers’ strengths. This enables those employees to make better use of their broader, softer skills, free from the burden of heavy manual tasks. Employers also plan to recruit new staff with the right skills in place and retrain their current workforce. Up to two-thirds would look to external contractors, temporary staff and freelancers to manage the gap.
Skills gaps will slow your growth, so embrace new technologies to create new jobs, improve the efficiencies of jobs you already have and future proof your workforce to be able to take full advantage of their talents. By investing in your people for the long-term and promoting an agile mindset in employees and management, you’ll be better prepared to adapt to the unknown.
At the Project Lab, we actively focus our team on developing contemporary skills and adapting to emerging trends. We’ve created a Cyber Business unit. And we encourage our business analysts to develop their data analysis skills to guide machine learning, AI and big data business intelligence. Our project managers are skilled in change management. And we run monthly master classes that focus on fundamental soft and hard skills, enabling our team to be in-demand, cutting edge and adaptable to the changes occurring in the market.
We’re a passionate, proactive, multi-skilled team — we can help you build these skills in your business and prepare for success in 2021. Reach out today.