Antony Edwards - 11 February 2020
“Succeeding in the age of automation will be all about how we approach the cultural and technological shift required within IT”, according to Forbes.
Part of this shift revolves around redefining roles and responsibilities for some human workers, as innovations like robotic process automation (RPA) enable companies to offload manual, repetitive tasks to machines. However, a much more complicated element is determining how human skills and expectations will evolve as automation becomes more frequently deployed across a variety of functions.
Technology naysayers like to stoke fears and claim that automation will rob people of their jobs, but those of us who work closely with this technology know that’s a misguided viewpoint. What is true, however, is that many employees are struggling to understand how they may fit into an automated future.
Seventy percent of IT professionals are not entirely confident they have the skills required for today’s IT environments, with AI, machine and/or deep learning and blockchain listed as technologies causing the majority of this uncertainty. The good news is that employees are actively trying to address the gap, with 98 percent of professionals working to develop a new technology skill in 2019.
While it’s, of course, critical for employees to hone their abilities in these areas, I’d argue that there are some other equally important soft skills for professionals to cultivate, among them:
- Interpersonal skills: Automation is changing roles and increasing collaboration between disciplines and departments that have previously been siloed. As this trend continues, there will be a growing need for IT professionals at every level to hone their interpersonal skills.
- Empathy and emotional intelligence: As interdisciplinary collaboration increases, employees will also need to develop greater empathy, emotional intelligence and other social skills. These capabilities will also be in high demand to augment automated functions.
- Flexibility: As Accenture once put it, working more closely with machines will “require employees to do different things, and to do things differently.” Success in this environment means that employees will need to adopt a more flexible mindset and be open to different approaches and experiences.
- Appetite for learning: As automation matures, we can only expect that human roles and responsibilities will continue to evolve. The love of lifelong learning is an essential skill in the automation age.
I believe that the jobs lost to automation will ultimately be made up by the myriad new opportunities created by AI, Machine Learning, and other emerging technologies. The key to this is ensuring that the workforce is trained in the new skills required for our automated era, including the less obvious but equally critical soft skills outlined above.