Future Skill Trends in the Age of Automation
Technology presents a huge opportunity for business in terms of value and productivity. It however brings a lot of change with it, especially for people, jobs, and skills. This article will address the following questions:
- What does research say about the expected impact of automation technologies on jobs?
- What does that impact mean for skills?
- What categories of skills are likely to increase or decrease in demand?
- What are some key elements of an approach for organizations to manage technological change?
Due to the promising opportunities offered by the integration of automation technology into the business context including increased business value, business growth, competitive advantage, productivity levels, and overall organizational performance, it is anticipated that automated solutions will become a central component of work environments, and that humans will increasingly work along their side. This implies a fundamental change in the nature of work as we know it today.
A popular belief is that automation technology is displacing/taking over a large number of jobs, thereby rendering the affected workers redundant. However, while certain job roles are indeed expected to be eliminated by automation, it is important to realize that automation may also have job creation as well as job transformation and augmentation effects. In fact, it is anticipated that the majority of job roles will be substantially reshaped and redefined due to automation rather than just being automated away. Hence, one can argue that automation entails three differing potential effects: job displacement, job creation, as well as job transformation and augmentation.
As technological change is shaping and transforming the nature of work, the skills required to succeed in increasingly automated work and business environments are also changing.
What are the skill categories that are expected to increase in relevance and demand within a job automation context?
- Technological and digital skills: e. g. digital literacy (e. g. coding, cybersecurity), technology design and engineering, development of smart hardware & robotics
- Advanced cognitive skills: e. g. critical and creative thinking, complex problem-solving, learning skills
- Social and emotional skills: e. g. teamwork, communication, adaptability
- Systems skills: e. g. systemic thinking, systems analysis, systems evaluation
What are the skill categories that are expected to decrease in relevance and demand within a job automation context?
- Physical and manual skills: e. g. finger & manual dexterity, gross and fine motor skills
- Basic cognitive skills: e. g. basic quantitative and statistical skills, simple data input and processing
Let’s also have a look at some more precise examples of skills from the above categories that are expected to increase in demand within a job automation context:
As job roles increasingly shift from being based on routine and repetitive work tasks towards job roles that are characterized by project-based work, the work tasks, activities, and projects that workers need to carry out are undergoing constant changes, depending on the respective requirements of, for example, a specific project. Hence, this shift towards more project-oriented work activities where workers are required to do many different things depending on the respective project necessitates the continuous learning of new skills as each new project may demand different skills.
It is anticipated that the skills required from individuals holding a management or leadership position will undergo substantial changes as the role of leaders will become ever-more demanding because of increasingly complex work environments due to automation. Resulting from the automation of rather simple, routine-based work tasks, the remaining work tasks that need to be performed by humans will be increasingly complex in nature. This, in turn, changes the leadership styles required to lead and manage effectively as leadership styles will need to shift in a way that allow for motivation, coordination, as well as the management of self-organizing teams.
Many voices argue that it is important for workers to not only understand the aspects and conditions associated with the working and functioning of automation technologies, but to also be sufficiently skilled to be able to relate all these aspects to the specific context, in which the human workers are collaborating with machines. Thus, systems skills seem to also be an increasingly useful skills for workers to obtain or develop to manage the expected future world of work increasingly characterized by the adoption and implementation of modern automation technologies.
Generally, it can be argued that jobs are not only gaining complexity but are also becoming more multi-disciplinary in nature. This means that workers will need to develop a broader portfolio of skills pertaining to different skill categories especially the cognitive, emotional, and social type.
This presents a great challenge for many organizations, and in order to ensure a positive social and economic effect of technological change, it is crucial for them to establish early on an approach to effectively manage it. Some key elements of such an approach are based on:
- Identifying and understanding which emerging technologies could be relevant for the organization and which part of the workforce they could impact. Find out more about binder|consulting’s approach here.
- Having a clear understanding of the existing skills within the organization to identify potential opportunities for reskilling and upskilling.
- Nurture a learning culture based on a “lifelong learning” mindset, designed to fit employee needs and preferences, and embraced by the company culture.
This article is based on the Master Thesis conducted by Amelie Kraft. If you would like to read more about the topic and insights provided above, you can download the full version here:
For more information about how to best management the global technology impact on the workforce and what our approach at binder|consulting is, feel free to contact: