What is the ultimate job skill of the future?

Businesses need to invest in people as much as they invest in technology

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At almost every business conference I have attended lately, discussions have revolved around the mega shifts that businesses are navigating: virtualisation, digitisation and navigating the metaverse.

Businesses and individuals are discussing buying plots in the metaverse, where high street fashion brands such as H&M have already opened their first stores.

In such a fast-paced scenario, businesses are rapidly shifting the way they operate and ensuring their teams are equipped to deal with, and lead, these changes.

This has left many of us wondering about the kind of jobs that will exist in the future.

Will we have salespeople who operate solely in the metaverse? Will educational institutions of the future also be in a virtual world?

At the World Government Summit (WGS) in Dubai last month, speakers discussed that children will soon be pursuing careers that don’t exist as yet.

A report published by Dell Technologies in 2018, along with the Institute for the Future (IFTF) and 20 global experts, said that 85 per cent of jobs that will exist by 2030 had yet not been invented.

Hence, it’s natural for people to feel that their current job role may become obsolete in the future. Who would want to hire 10 accountants, for instance, when software could substitute their role?

But I don’t believe that will be the case. This shift in the way we work is not the end of our roles; it’s merely a redirection towards jobs that will not be replaced by technology.

“End of routine does not mean the end of human work,” said Gerd Leonhard, a futurist who spoke at the WGS.

“If you work like a robot, a robot will take your job."

With people thinking that they now need to compete with machines, Mr Leonhard advocates that the “ultimate job is to be human”, and that businesses need to invest in people as much as they invest in technology.

So how can we prepare our teams? What are the most coveted workforce skills? According to research by IFTF, the top skills that future employees need to be equipped with for a successful career include contextualised intelligence — a nuanced understanding of people, culture, the business environment and society.

Organisations and educational institutions are taking note. Nearly 20 per cent of employers in the US, including Tesla and LinkedIn, offer empathy training as part of their development programmes. Stanford University offers compassion training, a programme designed to help people improve their resilience and feel more connected to others.

How do we ensure that our roles won’t become obsolete? As with any change and challenge that arises in business, we need to be agile and embrace the changes that come our way.

Our human characteristics are our competitive advantage. Our creativity, compassion and understanding of nuances are aspects that can never be taken over by a machine.

For businesses, that means we need a shift in company culture and, as Mr Leonhard stated at WGS, we need to invest in our people.

We need to invest in developing a company culture and training programmes that will equip our teams to tap into their creativity and help them to remain agile and flexible.

We need to lean on our human creativity to mould our jobs and embrace the rapid change so they meet future needs.

In a world that will be highly automated, our unique human characteristics will be exceptional. Let’s work on developing them.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi.

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Updated: April 18, 2022, 6:42 AM
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