THAT THINKING FEELING
Depending on who you believe, new technologies are either set to make millions of j obs disappear, or l ead to the creation of millions of new j obs we can’t even i magine yet. Either way, Frances Valintine says adaptability will become the most valuable
I first heard the term ‘meat-based’ employees around a year ago and at the time I laughed it off. Then I heard it again recently.
This time it hit me harder and had me wondering if this is what we’ve come to? Is this a time in history when there are either biological employees or mechanical ones, driven by complex software and with advanced cognitive processes?
And then I wonder, what is all the scaremongering about? Undoubtedly, there are plenty of jobs being replaced by developing technologies, automation and artificial intelligence, but simultaneously we are facing unprecedented growth of new careers, and new industries that are desperately seeking talent.
A recent Manpower 2016/17 global talent shortage survey showed 40 percent of employers find it difficult to find skilled talent for open vacancies. This represents the highest global talent shortage in ten years. The difference today is this shortage is not limited to specific industry pockets, as almost every sector is experiencing the frustration of finding specialist capability.
In fact, many of these technological advances are establishing themselves in the form of aggressive startups that are built on technology platforms and new thinking and represent new worlds of opportunity.
From my place across the table consulting to large New Zealand businesses and Boards of Directors I see two distinct responses, one that breeds success and one that displays a resistance to change.
The first group responds at rapid pace to the calls from investors and shareholders to cut costs and decrease head-count in fear of falling margins, diminishing returns and increased competition. This response is common with organisations in media, finance, telcos, professional services, construction and logistics.
The second response is to lean-in and form brave new initiatives, to consider partnerships or look at mergers and acquisitions that recognise the rapid need for change and advancement. These businesses see progress as a benefit and they are highly responsive to seeding a multitude of new opportunities for business growth and market gain.
These companies are acutely aware that their trusted revenue ‘cash-cows’ seek to serve only a decreasing legacy market, and a new organisational Plan B needs to be resourced and supported to create new revenue streams through scaling to new markets and new customers. They understand that these new initiatives operate under fresh new business models that provide leaner, more agile market responses and maximise new knowledge and capability.
These break-through businesses adopt greater diversity of thoughts, more contemporary skills, and have a greater focus on the development of algorithms and automated software supported by the gathering of valuable data.
So clearly the solution to mass disruption and remaining relevant is the deployment of new thinking, smart talent and business bravery. Therefore it comes as a mystery to me how many businesses still operate on the basis that continuing the same way they have always done, with the expectation it will deliver a better outcome, still gets approval at the boardroom table.
And it’s not just about business. Now, more than ever is the time to look at the value each and every one of us brings to the workplace. With the proliferation of free online courses, flexible or work-based professional development, and badged online qualifications, the latest intelligence, knowledge and insight is at our fingertips.
Whether people accept their need for new skills and knowledge can only be determined by their own acceptance that the world has moved on and legacy and experience is no longer the foundation of employment certainty.
We need to put perspective into our decision making and focus our assumptions on where our future earning potential will be found.
I often watch the words of a million excuses flow from professionals as they claim they have of ‘no time’ and ‘no money’ to justify the lack of commitment to learning and developing new skills.
My standard reply hits hard and cuts to the chase. I merely reflect that an individual's future earning potential in today’s digital world is connected to our contemporary knowledge and the integration of new skills and practices in our careers.
To me an investment in exercising our brain, the very instrument that makes us our livelihood, seems like a better investment than a new car or a pretty new driveway.
But unlike other life-changing experiences that you can buy, the ability to learn, to become openminded, or to extend your horizons to be more adaptable can not be bought. This a personal journey that can’t be plugged and downloaded, it can not be traded or shared.
In this on you are on your own, but the rewards are there to be unlocked and harnessed.
Undoubtedly, there are plenty of j obs being replaced by developing technologies, automation and artificial i ntelligence, but simultaneously we are facing unprecedented growth of new careers, and new i ndustries that are desperately seeking talent.
Frances Valintine is founder and chairperson of The Mind Lab by Unitec, a public-private partnership which aims to educate children and teachers about digital technologies. In January 2016 she founded Tech Futures Lab, a technology education programme aimed at business leaders.