By MORAG BARRETT
“Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”
– The Borg Collective from the Star Trek franchise
We are firmly in the embrace of the fourth industrial revolution, a digital revolution that impacts every aspect of our lives – at work, at play, and at home.
It is transforming what, how and where work happens. We may be able to run a business without Post-It Notes, but without technology? Not. A. Chance.
The time for us to opt out, or use it selectively, is long past. Technology is ever present, ever advancing, and ever pernicious.
The boundaries between historically diverse disciplines, healthcare and IT (information technology), for example, have become increasingly blurred and intertwined.
Technology disrupts industries and creates new opportunities. You can be a casualty of the disruption or reap the benefits of applied innovation. It’s your choice.
Be clear: no job, no company, and no industry is immune from its impact. To thrive the future of work can, and must, have a focus on continuous learning.
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The Tortoise and the Hare
The irony is that the industry of learning is perhaps the least prepared to meet the onslaught of the future-proof workplace. Traditional approaches to delivering early education have changed little over the years.
In the United States, it takes 18 years from entering kindergarten to exiting post-graduate education. Contrast this with the oft-quoted Moore’s Law which states that computing power doubles every 18 months.
The rate of change outside the academic world is lightning fast, the ‘hare’ to the education ‘tortoise’.
Is it any wonder we have skills gaps in any role or industry, let alone in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math?
It’s not just because students aren’t selecting these career paths; it’s because when they do emerge from their studies, the environment they are joining has already moved on.
Business leaders across industries are feeling the pain of this problem, too. A recent Deloitte survey reported 39% of company executives were either barely able or unable to find the talent their firms needed.
We’ve all been asked at some point in our lives, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
In both cases the expected answer is a job title – and a senior title at that. However, these 20th century questions don’t reflect the current reality.
Related post: Is Education Keeping Up With Industry 4.0?
Learning and re-learning is the 21st century imperative
It’s estimated that 65% of children entering primary education today will work in roles that don’t currently exist.
New jobs are continuously emerging: Uber driver, Android/IOS developer, data scientist, 3D printing engineer, or big data analyst, to name just a few.
Now consider the job listings of the future, what might that include? Robot repair technician? Hologram stylist?
Alvin Toffler wrote his seminal book, Future Shock, nearly 40 years ago. In his book, he proposed the high pace of change would cause people to recoil and experience “future shock”.
Essentially, he posited that too much change happening in too short a period of time overwhelms a population.
If you hope things might slow down, don’t hold your breath. Hold onto your hats, ladies and gentlemen, because the ride is only getting faster.
When it comes to navigating the future-proof workplace, or career, the skill of unlearning and re-learning becomes even more paramount.
Are you investing in your own learning and adaptability to ensure you are ready to embrace these new roles?
It would seem to us that AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics can only create long-term value if the new processes, systems, and apps augment the economic system as it currently operates.
When replacing one skill set, we – the organisation and the individual employee – need to plan for and train to enable us to contribute with a new, different skillset.
Economies, whether local, national, or global, operate by allowing the transfer of value (money) from one person to another, connecting the producer with the consumer through the efforts of the employer and employee.
Employees earn a paycheck that they can then spend (or invest) as consumers, transferring value back to the producer and employer. So the cycle continues.
Remove any of these players, for example, replace the employee with automation, and the cycle is potentially broken, unless that employee is able to earn a paycheck in a new role.
Bringing it all together
Ironically, the more technology and software impact our world, the more important true soft skills become.
It’s not just the digital interface that business needs to focus on, or that it rules the day. The human interface also matters.
The careers and companies that stay focused on the human benefits of technology will live long and prosper.
We’re at a crossroads. Will technology cause you to be sidelined or, at worse, your skills to become obsolete?
Or will you invest in continuous learning, able to pivot when the time comes? You have the power to choose.
Morag is also the co-author of her latest book, The Future-Proof Workplace, a survival guide for the new reality of business. Her experience ranges from senior executive coaching to developing leaders and teams across Europe, America and Asia. To share your thoughts or concerns on future workforce, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prefer an e-mag reading experience? No problem! This article is also available in our 8th September 2018 digital issue, which you can access here.
Morag is the best-selling author of Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships and CEO of SkyeTeam, an international HR consulting and leadership development company. Her experience ranges from senior executive coaching to developing leaders and teams across Europe, America and Asia.