The world is in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution that is fundamentally changing the world of work. Specifically, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and other cutting-edge technologies are adding efficiencies and transforming how we work, which in turn is changing the profile of the workforce. As technology becomes more of a horizontal that affects every industry vertical, the workplace evolves in lockstep. The future of work is heavily augmented with technology. Leaders need to develop the right skills to help an organization maintain its competitiveness, both in leading the charge for upskilling, and initiating mentoring and development for the teams.
Technology has a direct impact on staff. Every robot added per 1,000 workers, for example, results in a 0.2 percent decline in employment-to-population ratio. Thistranslates to a loss of about 400,000 jobs, according to the report "Robots and Jobs: Evidence from U.S. Labor Markets." The World Economic Forum expects that technology innovations in the workplace will ultimately eliminate 85 million jobs worldwide by 2025. At the same time though, these technologies will help create 97 million jobs requiring a different skillset, and finding staff to fill these positions will be difficult as demand outstrips supply.
How the workforce will catch up with technology
There's a cause and effect to this challenge of hiring a more skilled workforce. Productivity hasn't kept pace with technology innovations. Eventually, the workplace will catch up as staff members become more adept at adopting new innovations through leadership and upskilling. Leaders will focus more on results, accountability, and freedom, versus where and how employees get work done. Many roles will need to be redesigned. These changes take time, though, as people are often uneasy with new technology, and getting upskilled and reskilled can be a process.
Leaders need to manage through this transition. As more repetitive tasks are performed by technology rather than people, employers will increase demand for employees with strong technical skills across multiple disciplines, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, data science and analytics, and cloud computing. Teams will ultimately focus on more value-generating tasks--technology can't make decisions and solve problems the same way a person can. Critical thinking skills are imperative for both teams and leaders.
Agile leadership needed
Technology changes at a fast clip, and organizations are constantly adopting the cutting edge and bleeding edge just to stay competitive. Doing so requires an agile leadership, and companies need the right leadership structure in place to allow for this evolution. A hierarchical structure may not be the best strategy.
Rather than develop a select few people, management responsibilities will likely be spread across an organization. Leadership models need to be able to capture the new path forward in this increasingly digital world.
Large teams aren't as agile as a network of small teams that can be disbanded and reassembled to move on to new projects and challenges. This model is more product, customer, and service based. It can help bridge the gap between productivity and technology. To form teams quickly requires having a clear understanding of everyone's skillset, scorecard, and purpose.
As a company's resource needs change, a growth mindset will help leaders strategize and pivot while following the latest trends and innovations. Organizations need to be able to dislocate themselves first, before a competitor does.
Also, leaders need to be strong advocates for their teams so individuals and the team as a whole can achieve their goals. A leader needs to provide their team with the right resources and direction, and that means understanding everyone's strengths and weaknesses to be able to assign roles accordingly, and to provide training or additional staff with the right skillsets.
In a technology-heavy world, strong communication skills are even more imperative. Staff members need continuous feedback so they can adjust goals accordingly and move to projects that are good fits. More frequent communication increases transparency, which is key to developing teams and moving forward as an organization.
Leaders of the future need to be able to provide a clear direction and strategy to staff, and also take on the role of thought leaders and influencers. To be an influencer means the leader has obtained a level of success and shares their knowledge and philosophies to motivate others to achieve the same. Leaders grow because they have followers rather than the old model, where leaders were promoted into their positions regardless of their following.