HOW often do you think about the future of your workplace? How many of the skills that you use daily were required when you started your career?
The new world of work and future workplace skills are often associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The World Economic
Forum, Harvard Business Review, Deloitte and McKinsey Global Institute, among others, regularly report on insights, trends and
challenges that relate to 4IR.
Like what has happened during and as a result of the previous three industrial revolutions, the current industrial revolution has already
caused fundamental changes in the world we live in. Think about the impact of the cloud, the internet, 3D printing, big data and increasing
computing power on how we live, work and communicate.
These cyber-physical systems involve completely new capabilities and intelligence not only for people, but also for machines. Artificial
intelligence is all around us, from self-driving cars and drones to robotic vacuum cleaners, chatbots and software that direct us to our
Fear of being replaced
Many of these advancements often dominate our thoughts with fear that employers may replace us with technology that can fulfil our
roles more efficiently and effectively than we can.
These fears are often amplified by predictions that up to 50% of work could be replaced by existing technology.
Because artificial intelligence is drastically changing the nature of work, organisational structures are continuously redesigned. The
results of a recent survey done by Deloitte showed that only 30% of Generation X had expected to work at a company for five years or
The reality of high employee turnover, therefore, poses another justifiable threat to employees, which helps to maintain fears about the
future of work.
Technological literacy is now a basic competency for everyone, regardless of age, generation or industry, but with it comes various social
and emotional challenges. Staying connected 24/7 (as many employers expect) results in longer working hours, working at higher levels of
intensity and removing the boundaries between work and private life. Proper human interaction is replaced by communication via emails,
conference calls and video chats.
The demands caused by expectations that requests must receive almost immediate attention, no matter what time of the day or day of
the week, often makes it difficult to distinguish between work life and personal life.
The McKinsey Global Institute recently published a report that showed that jobs that involve basic cognitive, physical and manual skills,
as well as a lower level of data input are most likely to be taken over by machines.
Fortunately, the report also predicted a dramatic increase in demand for more employee hours across jobs that involve:
1. Higher cognitive skills, such as advanced literacy and writing, quantitative and statistical skills, creativity, critical thinking and complex information processing;
2. Social and emotional skills, including advanced communication and negotiation, empathy, the ability to learn continuously, to manage
others and to be adaptable;
Technological skills – from basic to advanced IT skills, data analysis, engineering and research.
Creativity, complex information processing and advanced IT skills may appear to be out of reach for some people. But what is exciting
is the fact that social and emotional skills, also commonly referred to as emotional intelligence, will also get more airtime.
The McKinsey report predicts that from 2016 to 2030, there will be a 26% increase in the demand of these skills. The good news is that
it is social and emotional skills that distinguish human beings from and put them ahead of machines.
Game of survival
To conquer our fear of artificial intelligence, we need to develop our emotional intelligence. This refers to the skills needed to identify,
understand and manage our own emotions and those of people around us. When someone has a high level of emotional intelligence, he or
she knows what they are feeling, what their emotions mean and what the effect of those emotions are on other people.
Although some of these skills may not come naturally to everyone, but they can be developed.
What employees can do better than any smart machine is to manage their own emotions and that of their colleagues and team members. If
we can be outstanding motivators, leaders or listeners and if we can manage our stress and solve problems when things are getting tough,
then we will still have a critical role in the workplace where technology changes the world around us.
Karina de Bruin is the managing director at JvR Academy.