The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs report made big news when it was released this time last year. Throughout 2016, companies and individuals continued to analyse the research, making comment on its, often controversial, claims.

The report claimed that within the next 15-20 years we will see technologies “blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres”. World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab highlighted that these changes “will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another.”

Recently, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, announced in a speech that up to 15 million of the current jobs in Britain could be ‘hollowed out’ as advances in automation are applied. This equates to almost half of the 31.8 million workforce potentially being replaced by robots over the coming years as livelihoods are ‘mercilessly destroyed’ by technological revolution.

Much of the coverage surrounding both The Future of Jobs report and Mark Carney’s statement has been focused on technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics, and how these will lead to widespread disruption in labour markets – or, in plain terms, the idea that people are going to start to be replaced by robots in the workforce, causing significant job loss.

Working in a very human-centric part of the technology landscape, we can envisage that people will continue to add value that robots and technology cannot. Teachers teach and students learn before being assessed – whether that assessment is carried out digitally or on traditional pen and paper. Using e-marking, we take advantage of technology in order to automate tedious or menial tasks such as tallying marks or solve logistical issues such as getting exam scripts to appropriate examiners for marking. It is still human examiners at the end of the computer however, assessing exam scripts and awarding marks.

Emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility

One section of the report that caught our attention focused on what skills people will most-need in order to succeed in this new and evolving landscape. Chief human resources and strategy officers from leading global employers were asked to select from a list of skills and rank in order of importance according to which they felt were the most relevant skills for the current working landscape. They were then asked to re-list and rank the skills in order of importance for the working landscape they envisaged five years into the future.

A number of skills remain on both top 10 lists as important, but some skills, such as ‘creativity’ and ‘negotiation’, shoot up or down the list in order of importance. ‘Emotional intelligence’ and ‘cognitive flexibility’ skills only emerge in the top 10 for 2020 whilst ‘quality control’ and ‘active listening’ drop out of the top 10.

 

It is somewhat reassuring to see that these business leaders think that ‘people management’ and ‘coordinating with others’ will continue to be important. Bringing together experts with complementing skill-sets will no doubt increase in importance, in order to optimise the use of technologies.

These changes demonstrate that as the workplace continues to evolve, the skills of the workforce must evolve with it. As such, workers need to regularly up-skill and ensure, wherever they can, that what they do adds-value. The emphasis on lifelong learning will be more important than ever. As the exponential growth of information continues, research skills will be critical in order to stay up-to-date and innovate. The ability to problem-solve both with technology and with other people will be essential for businesses to stay ahead of the competition.

With change there is always opportunity. As the technological landscape continues to enable automation in the workplace, the opportunities for people to explore, discover, think, learn and develop in their career could be stronger than ever.

Read the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs report.