How skilled are your staff really?
March 19, 2019 / Networking / Greg Atkinson
The workforce of the future will operate in a significantly different environment from that of today. With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), the shift in focus for business, and the increased importance of soft skills, many employees’ skills will become outdated. For the employer of the future, knowing what skills will be valuable and how to find them, will be the key to success. A skilled and future-ready workforce will be defined by the following:
1) Technical skills for tomorrow
Many employees may have been taught theoretical knowledge in universities, technical colleges and training courses. But while that made them qualified when they first applied for the position, stagnant knowledge will not be useful to employers for very long. In fact, in 6 out of 10 occupations, at least 30% of skills are already obsolete. And as technology and methodologies advance at ever more rapid rates, learning must be a constant and lifelong process. Both the employer and employees must take responsibility for keeping the latter’s skills up to date and relevant.
Employers who invest time and attention into training their people reap benefits from the get-go. Instead of having people who (through no fault of their own) have no idea what they’re doing, well-trained staff means everyday tasks are handled competently, minimising the risk of backlogs. Problems can also be resolved quickly, and customer satisfaction preserved. Employee engagement and morale also improves. In fact, the availability of training and mentoring would make 86% of respondents stay at a position, according to a 2018 survey by Bridge, a leading software-as-a-service technology company. And the lack of such training would make 67% of employees leave.
Employees must also take responsibility for upskilling themselves. In the absence of (or in addition to) employer initiatives, employees should seek new knowledge, training, and mentoring opportunities. Many technical courses are geared towards working professionals, with a syllabus and class schedule designed to work around busy work lives. Online academies provide excellent tuition, and courses can be completed at the student’s own pace. Mentors can also be sought to provide intellectual and emotional support.
When both the employer and employee commit to continually improving employees’ skills, one of the major challenges of the new working world – the rise of AI – will not be perceived as a threat. No longer restricted to programmes on a computer, AI will enjoy physical bodies that work alongside their human counterparts. These robots will be quicker, faster, stronger, and more durable than humans, so they’ll easily be able to outperform humans on manual tasks. Additionally, outpacing us in terms of computational power, AI will also be able to replace many of today’s ‘technical’ skills. From hospitality, to construction, to real estate, to accountancy, to law and many more, AI is set to take over at least 40% of jobs in the next 15 years. But for employees who are constantly learning, the skills overtaken by AI will be replaced by new, more relevant ones. Experts believe that the definition of technical skills will change as a result. While AI will perform the actual task, human operators’ ‘technical’ skills will lie in overseeing. So, while doomsayers focus on the startlingly high numbers of jobs made redundant, more optimistic and pragmatic companies will focus on redefining these jobs for the future.
The Agile workforce is one that is quick to respond to challenges, linear and democratic, and places an equally strong emphasis on teamwork and personal responsibility. Autocratic leaders issuing orders down to powerless subordinates is fast becoming an anomaly. Instead, small, egalitarian teams jointly agree to the work and the best way to do it. Individuals undertake their portion of the work, with the authority to do what’s needed to get it done. The individual also takes full responsibility for the work. Leaders guide and motivate, instead of ordering and demanding.
Each person is given the opportunity to be ‘creative, free and powerful’. Instead of performing tasks without understanding how it fits into the greater whole or without any sense of personal attachment to it. Each individual takes ownership of their work – enjoying both the power and freedom this gives.
Agile teams have proven effective in both responding to business challenges, and in improving employee morale. But the foundation of any Agile process is the ability of the organisation to identify the skills needed to complete the task, and the ability to deploy these skills. For that, companies need tools that help them surface skills quickly and accurately. A tool like Kalido is invaluable for this. Kalido users complete full profiles, showcasing all current skills. This includes secondary and new skills which do not appear on CVs, and may otherwise never be discovered by employers. Users’ interests, availability, and location are also visible. Skill providers can present all relevant information about themselves. Skill seekers can see who’s most suitable for the task, and advertise opportunities available. Kalido’s smart algorithms will then match skill seekers to skill providers.
For companies, this means both internal and external expertise can be found quickly and economically. For employees, this means their secondary or hidden skills can be utilised. And for freelancers and outside consultants, this means they’ll be easily reachable by potential clients. By facilitating an open and transparent marketplace for skills, Kalido assists in the compiling of Agile teams, and creates opportunities for everyone.
3) Soft skilled
Just as the definition of technical skills will be updated from its actual performance to its overseeing, soft skills will be promoted from a secondary ‘nice to have’ to a crucial and necessary skill. As AI floods the workplace, humans will need to outperform in 2 critical areas: social and creative.
While many actions and functions will indeed be taken over by artificial actors, there is no substitute for human connection. Eye contact, a handshake, a hug – all of these convey messages and evoke feelings which are the essential domain of human beings. Empathy, ability to manage conflict, communication skills, kindness – these will all be essential qualities of the ‘skilled’ employee of the future. In fact, 67% of recruiters would hire a candidate with strong soft skills, even if technical skills were weak. 60% of employees would stay at a company they felt were ‘empathetic’. Good relations among colleagues contribute directly to morale, enjoyment at work, and ultimately productivity.
Equally, creative and strategic thinking will overtake computational skills. With AI able to gather and sort vast amounts of data, this function will no longer be required of humans. Instead, employees will be called upon to use their imagination – not only to analyse the data – but use it in driving ambitious projects. Creative thinkers will have all the data in the world at their fingertips to draw inspiration from. While computer simulations will be able to provide companies with the logical outcomes based on the data, human actors will be needed for their intuition, for their sparks of inspiration that produce surprising results.
Therefore, for any company that wants to ensure its staff is ready for the brave new world of the 4th Industrial Revolution, continual learning, soft skills, and the ability to work with both human and AI colleagues must be encouraged.