Workplace Skills Have Changed. Upgrade to Out-Automate

You don’t have to look very far to see that the working world is changing. Every day there is a headline about how technology and artificial intelligence are replacing or significantly changing many jobs. The pace of change is exponentially faster and its impact is far wider than we saw coming.  And it’s changing not only the work that we do but also the very skills that we need to do it.

Remember when Uber drivers were replacing cab drivers?  Now driver-less cars threaten both.  When robots can make 350 burgers per hour what happens to the fast food jobs?  Many people think the effect of automation impacts just low-skill jobs, but the reality is that the automation is impacting a far broader scope than people realize. Whether you’re a factory worker, a financial advisor or a professional musician: automation is coming for you. To thrive in the emerging new workplace you will need to change the value that you provide.

This isn’t just theory. H&R Block, one of America’s largest tax preparation providers, is using IBM’S Watson artificial intelligence platform to do the analytical work of the traditional tax preparer. Johnson & Johnson has an FDA-approved device that can deliver low levels of anesthesia automatically — no anesthesiologist required. Lawyers are paid to predict the outcome of major cases, but even they can be replaced. A statistical model created by researchers was able to predict the outcome of almost three quarters of U.S. Supreme Court cases. The effects of this change will be far reaching. McKinsey and Company published a study that identified 30% of tasks in 60% of occupations could be automated.

H&R Block, one of America’s largest tax preparation providers with over 80,000 employees is using IBM’S Watson artificial intelligence platform, to do much of the analytical work of the traditional tax preparer.

So what is driving all of this change? It is the simple need for companies to survive. Companies today need to either disrupt their industries or face being disrupted themselves. In their book Built to Change,  Edward Lawler and Christopher Worley found that companies are coming and going at an increasingly fast pace and that even being one of the 20 largest companies in the world offers no guarantee of long-term success.  The age of disruption has arrived and it hits even iconic companies such as GE and Kodak, and startup darlings like Yahoo.

A recent study by KPMG confirmed that leaders are trying to react to the rapidly changing reality. They surveyed 1,300 CEOs from the world’s top companies, and found that fostering innovation is the top strategic priority over the next 3 years. In fact, 77 percent of these CEOs say they are now specifically including innovation in their business strategy with clear targets and objectives.  If they haven’t done this already they may be late to the game as there is an increasing amount of evidence that organizational agility and innovation matter. A study done by MIT that shows Agile companies grow revenue 37% faster and generate 30% higher profits.

Rupert Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox

“The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.”

Mark Zuckerberg – CEO of Facebook

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Lynne Doughtie, Chairman of KPMG

“The corporate playbook is being rewritten and replaced by one that takes business agility to a level we have never seen before”

A 2017 study by LinkedIn looked at years of job postings and resumes and highlighted that the most sought after job skills today are skills like collaboration, adaptability, and communication which are some of the very foundational skills that enable people to initiate and execute change. Simply put companies require people with the interpersonal and mindset skills to enable genuine creativity, deal with the unpredictable and build complex relationships with others.  Employees who initiate change have been shown to have a 43% more-positive impact on their companies than those that just have the capacity to change.  Technical skills will come and go.  But social intelligence skills remain the foundation of effective performance.  These skills cannot be automated or outsourced.  They are the job skills of the successful future.

Agility is best achieved when lots of small ideas come together

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