We’re on the edge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution where the lines between physical, digital and biological will blur. It’s predicted to bring about change that we’ve never experienced before, and at a pace that’s we’ve never experienced either.

The world my daughter will grow up in will be so different to the world I grew up in – and this includes the world of work. So with work changing, how will this effect skills and jobs? And how will this affect the way we manage and lead people? What should we be thinking about now to make sure our leaders have the skills to engage and retain the next generation? What skills do the next generation need to have to succeed in this new world? So many questions that someone like me needs to think about right now…


The jobs of the future

“The robots are coming”. This is what we hear, and they will take our jobs from us. We have to be honest, some of the jobs that we know today are unlikely to exist in the future. Think about the jobs that involve high volume and low process variance. These are the jobs that are likely to be automated and given to the “robots”. The flip side is that UK productivity will probably increase through the deployment of these robotics (gov.uk). The WEF survey “The Future of Jobs 2018” suggest that jobs like:

  • Data entry clerks
  • Accountancy and bookkeeping clerks
  • Assembly and Factory workers
  • Mechanics and Machinery repairs

Will become increasingly more redundant. In fact many jobs requiring only mathematical skills can already be automated. The WEF also suggest Lawyers, Accountants, Auditors and Financial Analysts may also become redundant. Think about the knowledge now available on google, and how engineering is moving away from mechanical and becoming more electrical and electronic…

Although we’re likely to see some sectors declining, we’ll also see growth in other sectors and new types of jobs highly skilled and adaptable people. The same survey suggests these are the types of jobs that we’ll see grow:

  • Data Analyst and Data Scientists
  • Process Automation Specialists
  • User Experience and Human Machine Interaction Designers
  • People and Culture Specialists (phew!)

Lets me take one of these areas – User Experience – this is the study of how people respond to the user interface. Whether that is a machine, or system or IT user interface. Not the technical skills to build the interface. But the so called soft skills needed to gather the conscious and unconscious feedback from the system users. This was never spoken about when I was in education. A new discipline revolving around how people FEEL about using the systems we will build. “Outside Thinking”. Starting with the person, their needs and wants. Then building the software/system around that person. Why? Because we now realise most IT system failures is not about the functionally, rather the users not being able to relate to it and not adopt it into their working lives.


The skills you need to be successful in those jobs

So what skills will people need to make sure they add value as the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers pace? David Deming, associate professor of education and economics at Harvard University, argues that soft skills like sharing, empathy, co-operation and negotiating will be crucial. Think about the User Experience example earlier. The type of skills needed for that sector must include sensitivity, listening, body language recognition – to be able to engage with the user to get their feedback.

The challenge now, says Deming, is for us to complement teaching of technical skills like mathematics and computer science, with soft skills to compete in the new jobs market.


How could this affect Leadership?

Traditionally Leaders have been better at understanding hard skills and competencies – those that we can measure. Leaders have traditionally found it difficult to understand softer skills maybe because they are not easy to measure. But Leaders need to get their heads around this quite quickly, and develop these skills themselves. If the softer skills are going to be even more important in the growing business sectors, Leaders need to lead differently to develop these skills in their people. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not new. In fact we’ve been saying this for a long while now.

The Leaders who are best positioned to succeed in the new world are those able to:

  1. Do well by doing good. They consider social initiatives fundamental to their businesses, and create positive societal impact
  2. Be bold, optimistic and disruptive.
  3. Know how to involve their teams to make better quality decisions
  4. Be Authentic and human – show vulnerability, learning and admit mistakes
  5. Create a climate of safety and positivity in change
  6. Be kind and thoughtful – balancing the ability to make tough decisions with sufficient empathy and thought for others

Where do these skills feature in our Leadership Development activities right now? Are we being bold enough to dedicate sections of our budgets and programmes to develop skills that might make us more “human”? If the Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to be “unlike anything humankind has experienced before”. Then shouldn’t we be thinking about Leadership Development in a bold new light as well?