How will automation and technology shape the demand for talent and its deployment?

Will the talent of tomorrow need to commit to a lifetime of learning? Could client meetings happen in virtual reality? One thing we know for sure: the workplace of the future requires strong leaders who are prepared to start thinking differently today.

Contemplating the future of work can be a fascinating exercise, as we envisage how and where future generations will do their jobs, and the innovations that might power our future workplaces.

As technological advances quicken and future-watchers respond in turn, the latest predictions are that the office of tomorrow will be enhanced by innovations such as greener and more oxygen-rich environments, also known as ‘biophilic design’, 3D-printing and robot secretaries.

However, few predictions address the fundamentals of how leadership and our use of talent might change.

Analytical transformation

One force sure to transform the workplace and the decisions taken there is big data. Indeed, a priority for senior leaders will be to tap into a supply of high quality data.

In an interview with PageGroup, Larysa Melnychuk, CEO and founder of the International FP&A Board, a think-tank for senior finance professionals, predicted that artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced systems knowledge will give leaders of tomorrow a clear, real-time understanding of the exact numbers driving company success or failure.

Artificial intelligence and advanced systems knowledge will give leaders of tomorrow a clear, real-time understanding of the exact numbers driving company success or failure.

She says, “It’s all based on key business drivers, and about those 20% of drivers that explain 80% of the results, and, obviously, this then drives changes.” She cites a financial client in New York: where previously it took over a month to reforecast a balance sheet numbering in the trillions, it now takes under 36 minutes.

Key to this process, which she describes as ‘analytical transformation’, will be a growing need for advanced talent: including new roles for data scientists, information architects and storytellers who can help senior leaders to bring their strategy to life. These roles are likely replace those such as that of traditional accountant, whose work may soon be performed by AI-powered automation.

Protect people over jobs

There is no window-dressing it: the workplace of today contains many jobs that will be redundant tomorrow. That’s a difficult message for today’s CEOs, and one with serious implications for workplaces and educators alike.

Companies may not be able to ring-fence jobs that are made redundant by technology and automation, but they do retain a responsibility to their people, and for helping them to adapt and re-skill as new roles emerge.

There is a clear role for leadership during any transition phase. Laurence O’Neill, EU Core Infrastructure Coordinator for PageGroup notes that staying true to your service-centred path must remain a priority for CEOs: “While advancements in technology will shape the landscape of the future workplace, it will be up to people to ensure that we don’t lose focus of what makes us human and up to future leaders to ensure they facilitate this way of thinking.”

“While advancements in technology will shape the landscape of the future workplace, it will be up to people to ensure that we don’t lose focus of what makes us human.”

Laurence O’Neill, EU Core Infrastructure Coordinator, PageGroup

Similarly, at the individual level, staying ahead in the workforce of the future will demand that we continuously adapt and engage with others in that process, while retaining our core identity and values.

To protect livelihoods and maintain a competitive edge, our future leaders must be utilised for higher-order tasks, particularly finding new ways of answering our bigger problems, and building the models to help solve them.

Selling the idea to people that their formal education won’t come to a halt in their mid-20s, and that work should become an arena of continuing high-level re-skilling, might require rethinking how we view our adult careers. And if our talent has to constantly head back to school throughout their careers, what other buttresses of the post-war workplace, such as the fixed working week, will also be dismantled? 

Today’s online game-players will change the marketplace

Changing consumer expectations will also drive radical market change. As those currently immersed in playing games in online realms come of age, will they enter the marketplace demanding the same limitless immersion from everything from banking, to trading, meetings and e-commerce, all within one virtual marketplace? Time spent game-playing and analysing the games market may turn out to be time well spent.

There are already predictions that within a decade, most consumers will have a device in their pocket capable of delivering an impressive virtual reality experience. This could also help us overcome what Joss Godbold, Regional Director for Page Executive Australia, calls the “tyranny of distance” facing many global CEOs.

With an improved human-machine interface creating a more immersive experience, brand owners will have the potential to engage and connect emotionally with consumers in a way that today’s senior leaders can only dream of.

Brand owners will have the potential to engage and connect emotionally with consumers in a way that today’s senior leaders can only dream of.

Key takeaways

  • An analytical transformation will provide insight into the exact numbers driving business success or failure
  • Plan your talent strategy around protecting people not jobs
  • Craft your change narrative early, including (re)training key talent
  • Tomorrow’s workplace model won’t be solely office-based
  • Build the prospect of virtual reality and augmented reality experiences into your future service model

We hope you enjoyed reading this article, which is part of our ‘Executive Trends’ series where we explore the biggest challenges facing senior business leaders and executives today. The series is already in its 3rd edition, and you can access all previous articles by clicking here