Suits The C-Suite

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), said: “we stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another.” The WEF calls this evolving paradigm the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Based on the World Economic Forum Report issued in 2016, concurrent with this technological revolution are a broader set of related socioeconomic, geopolitical and demographic developments.

While these notable developments will result in job creation, they also present major challenges that will require businesses, governments, and individuals to proactively adjust and transform their work force strategy. The reality today is that the accelerating pace of how these factors drive change is transforming the skills that organizations need and shortening the shelf-life of existing employee skill sets.

Technological disruptions (i.e., Big Data, crowdsourcing, robotics, artificial intelligence, etc.) are viewed as very significant drivers of industrial change while demographic and socioeconomic shifts (i.e., changing work environments and flexible working arrangements, rise of the middle class in emerging markets, climate change, rising geopolitical volatility, young demographics in emerging markets, women’s economic power, changing aspirations, among others) are forecast to have an influence on the changing business and organizational structures nearly as strong as technological disruptions.

The World Economic Forum Report identified job families, which are job groupings that tend to require similar types of knowledge, skills and competencies, have a distinct compendium of knowledge, skills and abilities, and a defined career progression. Disruptive changes may have a significant impact on such job families.

Some of the job families that will benefit from greater efficiencies and reduced man-hours include computer-related and mathematical industries, architecture and engineering, sales-related functions, business and financial operations, management, education and learning. On the other hand, disruption and automation may reduce the need for manpower in areas such as office and administration, manufacturing and production, construction and extraction, arts, design, media and entertainment, legal, installation and maintenance.

The rise of technology is also expected to dramatically influence traditional work force roles. For example, process automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence will eventually be able to substitute for or make office and administration job roles redundant. Resource efficiency and workplace flexibility may also undermine the need for maintaining large work force complements within these roles. Increasing use of new technologies, such as 3-D printing, may result in a decline in manufacturing and production as it replaces more traditional labor-intensive manufacturing processes.

As companies continue to navigate their way through the Fourth Industrial Revolution by heavily investing in new technologies and in Big Data analytics, more organizations will require skilled science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) talent. Other factors that contribute to the increasing demand of STEM-skilled individuals are the rapid urbanization in developing countries and rising geopolitical and privacy issues in emerging markets.

Two job groups that are foreseen to have flat employment outlooks are business and financial operations and management. Both will be impacted by various drivers of change, therefore whether employment will be positively or negatively impacted will depend on the scale of transformation and the upskilling needs these industries will undergo over the coming years.

It is clear from the World Economic Forum Report that these changes are well underway and that the future of our work force depends on how we proactively manage near-term and long-term talent management transition requirements.

People as assets are at the core of almost every business. It is imperative that we understand the future requirements of our operations and bridge the gap of our existing talent skills against future requirements. This means looking beyond the existing job descriptions and roles of our people and looking at how we can upskill or reskill to adapt to future requirements.

Based on the results of a WEF survey conducted across global Chief Human Resource Officers, more than one third of all jobs across industries will require complex problem-solving core skills by 2020. Also, social skills such as emotional intelligence, persuasion, and coaching ability will be in higher demand across industries. Content skills (Information and Communications Technology literacy, active learning, etc.), cognitive skills (creativity and mathematical reasoning) and process skills (active listening and critical thinking) will be a growing part of the core skills required in the future.

Because businesses may eventually require skill sets that may not even exist in our organizations today, it is critical to prepare our existing work force for future demands through highly relevant fit-for-purpose learning and development programs using the latest technologies.

Learning and development specifically aligned to job families and employee roles and responsibilities will become more effective. There are also various training channels that are now available such as mobile learning, online courses, and even streaming YouTube videos. These new modes of learning are important channels that can help employees understand, accept and comply with the rigorous continuous learning requirements that are now a part of today’s work conditions.

Other ways of learning are capability uplift through collaboration with professional services or consulting firms. This allows for flexibility learning through combined teaming and peer coaching. In these cases, consultants can help the business identify their capability gaps, develop a learning module that would meet their specific requirements and be ready to coach the employees through learning sessions.

In order to meet the talent and skills gap driven by disruptive changes, businesses would need to place talent development and future work force strategy at the front and center of their growth. Businesses cannot remain complacent, i.e., taking a passive approach and assuming that they can just recruit new talent to supplement their existing skills and capabilities.

Businesses should also consider uplifting and prioritizing their HR function by providing HR with the right tools that will help them align their future business operations with their talent management strategies.

Moreover, businesses should encourage their work force to take on an attitude of continuous pursuit of knowledge through the various channels of learning available to them.

Progressive and dynamic organizations need to foster a collaborative mind-set that would allow them to engage with other businesses, professional firms, educational institutions and government bodies in building and upskilling talent capabilities. In SGV, for example, we have transitioned from a traditional accounting firm into a multi-disciplinary company that recruits skill sets to meet our digital strategy platforms. We have also embarked on upskilling programs to help our people attain the right level of technical skills relevant to their roles. We in the process of automating certain processes and robotizing certain functions. It would also be beneficial for companies and industries to partner more closely with educational institutions in order to catalyze necessary revisions to current curriculum to help future professionals adapt to evolving business requirements.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.


Adeline G. Lumbres is a Partner of SGV & Co.