Pitting people against technology is not the answer to future recruitment and retention. Training is.

Written by Helen Jamieson on 23 November 2018 in Opinion
Opinion

Echoing our blog post earlier this week, Helen Jamieson points to training and upskilling as the way to combat automation.

Reading time: 4 minutes

The last two years has seen a rapid and fundamental shift in the way we work. Movements such as #metoo, the boom in zero-hours contracts, and a new regard for mental health has seen much-welcomed debate about working culture. 

It has, however also given rise to a worrying trend of navel gazing, as employers seek to respond to the latest headline issue, rather than take the time to assess the direction of their workforce as a whole. 

Predictions point to a workforce that by 2030 will see the traditional employment model a thing of the past. We know jobs for life are obsolete but we are now seeing a trend towards jobs-for-a-day, with over 1.6m employees on zero-hour contracts. Echoing this, the self-employed have risen from 3.3m in the early 2000’s to over 5m in 2017

We should also consider the new occupations that will gain momentum in the next ten years. A report commissioned by the UK government explored the types of jobs that will become the norm in 2030:

  • Nano-medic: Nanotechnology advances mean sub-atomic treatments could transform healthcare.
  • Space pilots, tour guides and architects: Space tourism will allow for space pilots, tour guides and the architects that will allow them to live in lunar outposts.
  • Vertical farmers: The future of farming is straight up. Vertical farms in urban areas could significantly increase food supply.
  • Climate change reversal specialist: Regardless of what you think about human-induced climate change, it’s clear we’ll need scientists who specialize in altering it.

That’s also not considering the fact nearly 50% of current occupations will not exist by 2035. With the impact of automation, technology and artificial intelligence, how will businesses deal with this? Will they seek to retain and retrain staff to complement this new world, or will they stick to the belief that technology can answer for gaps in training?

Smart organisations will seek to adapt to this wave of change by adopting new technologies that are complemented by well-trained staff. As the sands of the workplace shift, retaining staff, growing loyalty and building cultures to be proud of seems like a big ask. It is a challenge, but not impossible, especially if plans are put in place now.

Technology isn’t a panacea for poor training

Earlier this year an Italian 3D printer company named WASP, demonstrated a giant, three-armed printer filled with mud and fibre to build cheap houses. By 2030 it is likely that such technologies will be the norm in construction.

What becomes of the displaced construction workers? Will they be pushed aside in favour of inexperienced graduates, savvy to the latest tech but not to the sector? Or should construction firms already be seeking to implement training schemes that will retrain and retain workers? 

Similarly, robots taking jobs from manufacturing workers has been happening for decades. Rapidly advancing software will spread the threat of job-killing automation to nearly every occupation. What many seem to forget however, is that any automated system also requires intelligent human input to keep it running, ensure it’s competitive and actually delivering what it needs to.

If we are to believe the research, it is our humanness that will be our saviour in the competition against tech. 

With many businesses relying on outsourced contractors for IT projects, in-house knowledge is often non-existent which can spell bad news for continuity and competitiveness. 

As CBRE identifies, a growing proportion of jobs in the future will require creative intelligence, social intelligence and the ability to leverage artificial intelligence. 'And for most people that will be a route to happiness and fulfilment,' its report states. 

Gone are the days when people can say ‘I’m no good with technology’ - we have to start dealing with this attitude as we need experienced people in our businesses, but we need them tech savvy too. If we are to believe the research, it is our humanness that will be our saviour in the competition against tech.

 

Without the training to bring out our very human skills, much of our workforce will be left out in the cold. 

An overabundance of under-trained, unemployed?

There is also a ethical question here. With millions potentially finding their jobs obsolete, without skills, business models need to focus on training not just as a business-critical strategy, but also as an underpinning cultural value.

If we wait, recruitment strategies will need re-writing to cope with upskilling individuals rapidly. Similarly, retaining talented employees may become even tougher than it is currently. With a large pool of newly unemployed workers available, those already trained will be highly desirable.

Therefore recruitment and L&D practices will also become trickier, decided on implementing new skills programs in the hope of gaining valuable workers rather than continuing to nurture retained talent. Training staff ahead of change, rather than as a knee-jerk response to it will be vital to ensure that our workforce has the talent needed to deliver innovation in harmony with technology - whatever sector. 

 

About the author

Helen Jamieson is CEO of Jaluch.

 

 

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