Human Strengths Touted as the Solution to Challenges of the Skills Revolution

You think robots mean less need for people? Think again. As companies go digital, most will need more people, not fewer. Combining both technical and soft skills will be the best hedge against technology’s effect on organizations, says a new Manpower report. Those who are prepared stand to gain. Let’s go inside the latest report.

January 23, 2018 – As technology transforms organizations, skills needs are changing rapidly and companies are struggling to find the talent they need. The key to coming out on top for individuals and employers alike is to develop the best blend of technical skills and soft skills, according to a recent report issued by ManpowerGroup.

The “Robots Need Not Apply: Human Solutions in the Skills Revolution” report surveyed 20,000 employers across 42 countries on the impact of automation on headcount, the functions most impacted and the soft skills that are both of greatest value and hardest to find. The report finds that as companies go digital, in the near-term most will need more people, not fewer.

 “We are in the midst of a skills revolution,” said Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup’s chairman and CEO. “Technology is transforming organizations, skills needs are changing rapidly and we know companies cannot find the talent they need. People with in-demand skills who can continually learn and adapt can call the shots. Those with ubiquitous skills see wages stagnating and insecurity ahead, playing out in politics, protectionism and populism.”

Digitization is occurring at an unprecedented pace and every industry and function will be impacted, said Mr. Prising. “This is good news for people – providing they have the right skills mix to augment rather than compete with technology,” he said. “As employers, we need to identify skills adjacencies that create clear career paths for people, from this job to that job, and we must develop faster reskilling programs with shorter bursts of on-the-job, experiential training.”


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Robots Take Tasks, Not Jobs

Eighty six percent of employers globally said their headcount will remain the same or increase in the next two to three years as a result of automation. And, as skills needs are changing faster, employers do not always know which skills they will need even 18 months from now. Most employers say digitization will be a net gain for employment in the near-term. Only 10 percent expect to reduce their workforce as a result of automation.

Although most employers expect overall headcount to increase as a result of digitization, impact varies by function, said the ManpowerGroup report. IT comes out on top as organizations invest in digital skills, with frontline and customer-facing functions close behind. In contrast, administrative and office functions expect the greatest decreases in headcount as a result of automation. The rise in consumerism and the value companies now place on customer service and last-mile delivery are increasingly evident in a digital world. Roles that are routine or add less value to customers are under greatest threat of automation.

Related: Hunt Scanlon’s Top 10 Artificial Intelligence Stories of 2017

Manufacturing and production functions are leading the digital revolution for the second year with employers predicting the highest turnover. Twenty-four percent foresee increases while 19 percent expect decreases. As manufacturers recalibrate their workforce and experiment to find the right digital skills, other industries will soon follow.

Digital Communication

In the skills revolution, for organizations and individuals alike, the best blend of high-tech and high-touch will be the combination of human strengths with technical and digital know-how, said the ManpowerGroup report. More than half of companies said communication skills, written and verbal, are their most valued soft skill followed by collaboration and problem-solving. Finding talent with the right skills mix is a challenge: Employers say problem solving, communication, organization and collaboration are also the hardest skills to find in candidates.


Assessing Soft Skills to Land Your Next Top Hire
When you’re hiring a new employee, it can be easy to miss some marks during an interview and focus simply on whether the candidate has the technical skills to do the job on day one. While technical skills are important, it isn’t enough to find someone who can do the job without also assessing a cultural fit for your team.


The report found that communication skills are especially important in IT functions where people are increasingly working across teams leading digitization. IT is no longer a siloed, stand-alone department; today it’s a cross-functional, core element of business transformation. In turn, organizations value front-line workers who can communicate, problem-solve and understand new technology and systems that provide better client service and add value where customers want it most.

Related: Skills Gap Continues to Grow Among U.S. Companies

“We also know that digitization and automation is happening at different speeds impacting regions, sectors and organizations at different times in different ways. In the past, transformation took decades, even centuries,” said Mr. Prising. “Today, it is happening at an unprecedented pace, yet the outcome is not predetermined. Human ingenuity and preference will be the linchpin for how we leverage technology in our lives and businesses. And in all future scenarios, helping people to upskill in this fast-changing world of work will be what ensures their employability and it must also happen at speed and at scale.”


CEOs See More Value In Technology Than People
CEOs face the challenge of making strategic decisions not only about where to invest now but also about where to lay the foundations for their organizations’ future success. That increasingly has required them to seek answers to critical questions about the future of work.


Human Solutions for A Skills Revolution

The ManpowerGroup report offered steps employers can take to boost their workforce strategy to prepare for digital transformation, changing business models and shifting skill needs:

1. Hire for Learnability: Employers can no longer rely on a spot market for talent. We need people with “learnability” – the desire and ability to develop in-demand skills to be employable for the long-term. Being employable today is less about what you already know and more about your capacity to learn.

2. Identify Skills Adjacencies: Set people up to succeed. Map out skill needs, then assess and identify candidates with adjacent skills sets – those skills that are closely connected and can be adapted to new roles. Build on proven talents and equip people to shift from traditional to digital skill-sets.

3. Develop Digital Leaders: While 80 percent of leadership capabilities remain the same – adaptability, drive, endurance and brightness – a new style of leadership is required for the digital age. Leaders today must be able to dare to lead and be prepared to fail fast. They need to nurture learnability, accelerate performance and foster entrepreneurialism. And of course, they must unleash potential in others.

“Skills and access to employment will be the solution to the skills revolution,” said Mr. Prising. “We must identify skills adjacencies that create clear career paths from education to employment, from this job to that job. We need accelerated reskilling programs with faster, shorter bursts of on-the-job, experiential training. And we must shift more people from declining industries to growth sectors: textile workers to composite materials technicians, coal miners to coders.”

Employers must help people think differently, too. Success in the digital world will not always require a college degree, but it will rely heavily on continuous skills development. “We must nurture people’s curiosity and learnability so they have the desire and ability to continuously develop their skills to stay employable,” said Mr. Prising. “With the right skills mix, people will augment rather than compete with technology. And as leaders, helping people upskill and future-proof themselves will be the defining challenge of our time. Identifying in-demand skills and providing access to employment will be the solution to the skills revolution.”

Related: Skills Gap Costing Employers Nearly a Million Dollars Annually

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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