The Corporate Challenge Of Fitting The Future Of Work With The Workforce Of Today


Despite the increase in automation, people remain at the top of the corporate agenda. Ironically, technology demands more from humans. Contemplate all the new jobs of today — cybersecurity guards of all types, AI managers, robotics maintenance. Then envision the jobs of the future: space tourism, drone delivery pilots, highway car-charging maintenance, digital project managers for remote teams. We’re speeding toward a bold new way of life with jobs in every corner of the economy.

The confidence people should have with today’s low unemployment and jobless rates is impeded by their anxiety that robotics and artificial intelligence will shortly make most people unessential. According to a Pew Research study, 72% of Americans are worried about robots replacing human jobs.

The jobs are here, and more are being created every day thanks to innovation. Humans can offer the complementary skills needed to drive innovation, enhance production and maintain the ever-evolving devices, machines and robots of the digital age. But concerns won’t dissipate if companies do not offer employee development that helps them match the pace of innovation.

For every dollar invested in technology upgrades or disruptive services, companies must recognize the value of matching that investment in retraining their people. They not only require the technical skills for today but the mindset to remain agile and reinvent themselves with every innovation, transformation or new environment.

It’s Not All Tech

New ideas come from people who have the mindfulness to explore new formulas of service, efficiency, quality and usefulness in tomorrow’s economy. Technical instruction will certainly be needed, but workers of tomorrow should also be trained to rethink applications using creativity to evaluate options and to team across different functions. People will be more tech-savvy, but also need a spectrum of human skills and emotional development. Innovation, mindfulness and empathy will result in the best products and services.

For example, retail businesses are shifting to selling the human experience, including retail-tainment. Consider virtual experiences for customers, such as a refrigerated room to try out cold-weather gear or other in-store demonstrations, while sales occur online. The new concept comes from a mindful approach to online purchasing, empathy for the experience and technological innovation that led to an innovative working environment in-store. It also redefines in-store jobs from sales to host. A host creates positive experiences with customer empathy that inspires comfort with new technology.

Top New Skill: Agile Thinking

As an organization redesigns and realigns with perpetual change, it will garner more connectivity and valuable contributions from crossover teams that have explored evolving jobs and reskilling, and that have been piloted on that flexibility. More than preset knowledge, job confidence and motivation will stem from having a shared purpose, and the agility to seek and welcome change.

In addition to the perpetual evolution of today’s jobs, the future of work will create entirely new skill sets and jobs. Skills development can’t materialize fast enough. Yet many potential employees are unaware of the new opportunities out there.

Bringing Work To School

In the past, companies had about 10 years to upskill workers, which naturally synced to the evolution of skills taught in the education system and its minting of new graduates. That time cushion has worn flat as innovation outpaces the education of our future workforce. To meet that need, companies are developing learning centers and academic alliances that co-develop curricula for success.

Some new courses focus on technical skills such as data visualization, analytics and robotic development. Others focus on each student’s ability to think, applying mindfulness, teaming, empathy and creativity.

Given the demand for these new aptitudes, companies will be seeking workers who can:

• Apply current technologies in innovative ways.

• Develop new technologies or understand emerging AI, blockchain, etc., and how to apply these cutting-edge technologies.

• Remain composed and productive amid perpetual change. To help, leaders must lead differently with purpose, meaning and teaming to align and maintain the future workforce.

One car manufacturer no longer recruits people from outside to maintain its robots, knowing instead that it needs to nurture that talent from within. It is doubling the size of its apprentice mechanic program and forming partnerships with colleges to support students financially as they learn and work on-site.

Top Talent Retention

Once employed, the right talent is more likely to stay on the job if these steps are taken:

• Train and retrain. Workforce comfort with constant change is important to ensure everyone performs to their full potential. Aside from technical training, organizations need to provide behavioral training at all levels, not just leadership.

• Engage employees by imbuing them with a sense of purpose and meaning. Offer an environment where more demographics are comfortable, and counsel people to speak openly — particularly about topics that may take courage in a corporate setting. Younger employees and women have demonstrated their willingness to leave corporations that don’t provide meaningful jobs that keep them engaged.

We are facing an employee shortage not just today, but for the jobs we have not anticipated. A top academic resume is not always necessary for these new professions, where success might be predicated on exposure, opportunity, education and the confidence gained with experience.

Forbes Human Resources Council is an invitation-only organization for HR executives across all industries. Do I qualify?
As the Americas Leader of People Advisory Services for EY, George leads a world class team of over 3,000 professionals.


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