The digital era and automation have brought in their wake the urgency to redesign work definitions and rethink roles people are currently performing. AI, sensors and cloud technologies have been invading the workspaces and have begun to disrupt the processes and workflows. With fresh talent coming into the organisations with digital skills and new abilities to learn and adapt, we should expect a sea change in the work environment. Almost half the workforce is made up of millennials who have familiarity with digital technologies. This would also mean readying the organisation and the current talent pool to work differently and acquire new skills and capabilities.
The key question which has been top of the mind for most is whether their current jobs will vanish and what are the new jobs that would get created. Depending upon the type of automation that is being planned and the tools that are emerging, it would be difficult to tell what new jobs will get created, however one thing that is certain is that whatever may be the roles, new skills would be required to adapt and be successful.
This is further substantiated by McKinsey report which states that less than 5% of the current jobs would be automated. The biggest hurdle for full automation of a role is that most jobs are varied and require adaptation to situations which cannot easily be simulated or predicted for robots to handle. Therefore while some of the standardised roles in retail stores or shopfloors which operate within predefined boundaries of tasks to be performed may be replaced by robots, there will be new digital roles that would get created and current roles are likely to be centered around technology.
Therefore, it would be important for employees not only to be able to learn how to adapt to digital technology and the changing flavour of the roles currently being performed but it would also be important to learn how to work along with the robots as co workers instead of humans as has been the case until now. Every employee would require to be digitally savvy and have good appreciation of digital technologies like IoT, cloud, AI and analytics and how to embed them in their work areas. Social and emotional intelligence would assume significant importance in every day functioning. While robots would make those roles extinct that involve carrying out routine and repetitive tasks, humans would be required to do all original thinking work and continue to play ‘high touch’ roles that would help build engagement with customers and other employees.
HR managers would require to find new ways of attracting and retaining talent with the required skill sets. The traditional approach of finding employees with ‘loyalty’ factor will no longer be applicable as large number of millennials would expect to work in the mobile work environment and prefer to work for a specific period of time with an organisation on the strength of their specific skills. Thus changes will occur in the relationships between employers and employees sand creating meaningful employee experience, as well as providing challenging work opportunities and flexibility in the work would require utmost attention of the HR managers.
Interestingly career growth or career ladder would no longer be of interest to the new generation workforce instead companies need to build strategy around creating career experience to attract talented personnel as this would determine the primary reason for association with the company. in the gig economy, skills would carry a premium and steady jobs would no longer be the attraction. New work and social contracts would emerge and businesses would need to cope with diverse set of workers – full time, part time, freelancers, virtual workers, assignment based workers and robots.
As a result the new work culture and new mindset towards work and organisation require to be managed very differently from the culture built over a period of time, thus giving way to more transparency and democratic decision making and priorities for quality of life and personal values as the basis for the choice of organisation workers prefer to be associated with.
Individuals today have easy access to what they want to learn and how they want to learn and are not necessarily guided by or restricted by what their L&D departments can offer. As the individuals take charge of their learning paths and career goals, L&D function would not be expected to direct and provide learning opportunities but would need to act as facilitators for learning – curating learning experiences based on dynamic needs of the individuals.
Traditional ‘one size fits all’ and standardised content made available through the learning management systems are being replaced with digital learning platforms that provide personalised learning experience through collaboration and knowledge sharing. In the absence of self directed and continuous learning opportunities, individuals will move away elsewhere and therefore learning cannot be any longer the responsibility of the L&D function alone but primarily that of the business units that should be able to cater to the aspirations of the individuals.
The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company