The nature of work is changing. While we’ve seen increasing levels of automation in workplaces over the last 300 years or so, it’s only been over the last decade that machine learning has improved to the point where it can replace humans in tasks that go beyond the repetitive and mechanical.
Greg Muller from Gooroo and Jarrad Skeen from Affix are seeing these changes first hand in their roles in recruitment and the development of high performance teams. And while they see different sides to this change, there’s one thing they absolutely agree on; being able to adapt to the change will be critical if you want to keep working.
Gooroo uses neuroscience, big data and machine learning to help determine high performing teams. Affix offers a new type of recruitment service that charges its fee over the first twelve months of a candidates tenure, meaning they only get paid if they do their job properly and the new recruit remains in their role for the long-term.
“The reality is whilst the nature of work you’re doing, the nature of the tasks you are currently are doing might evolve and be done by a different type of role or a technologically driven tool or process. Jobs aren’t going to go altogether but jobs will be created as a result of this change. You’ve got to be able to adapt to that change,” said Muller.
The challenge is that you need to look at what you are doing today and then try to predict what you’ll need in future and where you can get those skills. But there’s lots of confusion.
“We know the technology will be a core driver of the change. If you want to be part of the future you need a greater level of appreciation of technology,” he added.
It’s impossible to discuss the jobs of the future without a segue into artificial intelligence. Inevitably, critics of AI say it will destroy employment whereas proponents say that, while many of the jobs we see today will disappear, new ones will be created.
Skeen said “There’s a fair bit of debate out there as to whether AI will create more jobs than it replaces. I’m not sure that anyone knows what’s happening – it’s way too early to know. I think what is clear is that it’s going to change quite a lot. And with any form of change there are winners and losers. Anything that is largely process driven and repetitive will come under threat. Professions that require a fair degree of human thought and problem solving are going to be potentially big opportunities”.
While we’ve seen futuristic concepts such as Amazon’s concept store, Skeen noted that one of his clients is looking at how technology can deliver new experiences in retail.
In healthcare, Skeen says he’s seeing the use of IoT increase and change the nature of how patient care is delivered. For example, one client has a platform that collects data and delivers it to doctors. Some of the devices can be implanted into patients during surgery, with the data securely transmitted to physicians.
This will require the knowledge of doctors to create so that it delivers the best possible patient outcomes but changes how information is collected and analysed. Potentially, this will lead to a “consolidation” in the number of jobs in that sector as the some of the repetitive tasks, such as collecting patient data and processing post-operative reports, where there is limited critical thinking become automated.
One of the areas in healthcare which is likely to see new roles created, said Skeen, is around the ethical use of technology. He expects to see people employed to give advice on how automation impacts patient care.
Skeen says we’re already seeing some jobs change. For example SaaS accounting software has changed the role of the modern accountant and diminished the need to have an expert complete documents or generate regular reports. But that’s given rise to an expansion of business advice consultancy as the creative and leadership skills of accountants emerge as being important.
Developing those new skills will require changing how we look at professional development. Muller said that’s driving a world where ‘just in time’ learning is becoming important and the need for formal qualifications and certification is being challenged. And that’s coupled with the need for individuals to take more direct control of their own professional development.
One of the other shifts that is occurring is that companies are moving away from just delivering products and services towards the creation of user experiences. So, while activities like mining or retail will continue, we need to change how we think about work as the way those services will be delivered. And while there will remain a need for highly manual tasks in some areas, we can expect automation to take over more repetitive tasks.
“If your skills are at risk you need to think about how you develop your analytical skills, your creative skills, your problem solving skills and decision making an entrepreneurial skills. It”s the ability to use your mind will be the currency of the future,” said Muller.
Another issue is that the nature of employment is changing with the opportunity to define how you want to work evolving. And while the destruction of full-time or part-time work, in favour to casual work contracts or the so-called ‘gig economy’ we’ll technology facilitate that move and new types of work interactions.
Muller added “Interaction and exchange is going to become more dynamic. As an individual, you who need to be more in control of your ability to be able to process that interaction, understand the opportunities and decisions you have in front of you and make decisions. Importantly, those decisions will be around the use of your intellect rather than whether or not you can build something, outside some specialised tasks”.
So, what are the key takeaways from all this?
There are certain key skills that machine learning, AI and automation won’t replace any time soon. These are problem solving, creativity, decision making and entrepreneurialism – the ability to take an idea and drive it forward.
Any job or task that has a repetitive element will be targeted for automation. But that doesn’t make the person in that job redundant if they are able to adapt.
For example, while the role of a forklift driver, picking up a load from one location and safely moving it to another can be automated, the ability to program that forklift to fit within the broader operation of an efficient warehouse is a new skill that will be valuable.
That will require an ongoing commitment to professional development and the courage to make the leap from the comfort of today’s role which might have a limited future to a new one that requires new skills and a desire to keep learning.