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Founder and principal Collaborativity Leadership Advisory.

One of the many images conjured by the words “future of work” is one of robots taking over the world. Studies show a wide range of numbers of jobs that will be automated in the next several years, but is this number what matters most? The conversation seems to be at a tipping point – from panic about how many of us will be overthrown by robots to what we can actually do to prepare for the reality that many tasks we perform today will and should be performed by robots. Welcome to the reskilling revolution.

Imagine the power of knowing which jobs in your organization are most susceptible to automation now and in the future, who is currently in those jobs, what the next-best-fit jobs are for those people and the likelihood of the best-fit jobs being automated. Organizations could then create targeted plans to develop and transition people effectively, at scale, into jobs that are a good fit for their skill sets.

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Too good to be true?

This capability already exists and is being deployed in organizations around the world.

Rather than worrying about how many of us will end up jobless and at the mercy of robots, “ignore the impending apocalypse” was the advice given recently to a full house of Future of Work enthusiasts at a talk at Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District by Michael Priddis of faethm.ai.

The company’s technology uses Bureau of Labour and organizational data to first assess which jobs are most likely to be highly automated and then provide meaningful insights such as job neighbourhoods, which map jobs to each other based on the similarity of skills required. Companies are using these insights to create action plans by job category, role and individual in order to upskill, cross skill and move individuals into new roles that are less likely to be automated, at least in the short term.

According to Towards a Reskilling Revolution, a report recently published by the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group (based on U.S. data), the future looks rather positive: about 96 per cent of jobs anticipated to be affected by technology in the medium term have “good fit” job transition matches for workers. Good-fit job matches means 1) a medium or high level of job-fit (e.g. reasonable content, aptitude and experience match) and 2) realistic leaps in the expected years of education or school experience required.

What do we need to do as individuals, organizations and as a society to put these findings into practice? Interestingly, according to the same report, 70 per of good-fit matches require workers to move outside of their current job family, meaning we need to look at careers, career paths and development through a completely different lens.

The Amazon Robotics Drive Units move and store products at the Amazon fulfillment centre in Brampton on July 21, 2017, The 350 pound robotic units are able to store and deliver items in a matter of minutes, where previously it could have taken a human being hours.

Deborah Baic

Rethink career paths and talent pools

Organizations need to be more open to, and encouraging of, non-traditional career paths and broader/more diverse talent pools.

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Future candidates may not have the same experience and background as what would typically have been required for given roles. For example, traditionally, an office clerk would not be an obvious candidate for a first-line supervisor role – they would likely not even get through a first-round recruitment screening; however, thanks to analytics, knowing there is a decent job-fit match, we can assume that with some moderate upskilling, an office clerk, whose job has a higher likelihood of being affected, could become a strong candidate for a first-line supervisor role.

What happens if good-fit job matches don’t exist within your organization? Inter-organizational transparency can enable affected workers to openly seek opportunities outside of their current organizations, in cases where good-fit transition opportunities are more prevalent elsewhere. So, organizations that are proactive in identifying these scenarios and engaging employees in their future career choices – especially in cases where thousands of workers are in jobs that can be automated – will be able to better manage the transition.

Commit to life-long learning

In this new world of work, we all need to commit to life-long learning or risk becoming irrelevant. Even for those that are not highly affected by technology today, it is critical to stay curious and to develop transferable human skills and digital literacy skills required to be employable as the world continues to evolve.

Lead the change

Identifying good-fit job matches and transferable skills is only the first step in the reskilling revolution. Transformation is not possible at scale without a commitment to action among all stakeholders. Executives, human resources teams and employees must work hand-in-hand to create and embrace policies, practices, processes and cultures needed to support life-long learning and a new definition of careers in this new world of work.

For chief human resources officers interested in this topic, please visit futurefoHRward.com and join us at our third annual conference in October.

Robots have moved into factories, warehouses, stores and even our homes. Now they’re heading to a construction site near you. Tech startups are developing self-driving bulldozers, drones to inspect work sites and robot bricklayers. The Associated Press
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