Are you prepared for the future of work?

The future of work will require executives to have new skills and knowledge.

A well-known venture capitalist recently predicted that, in the long run, all employment will be centered around some kind of information or entertainment, with all physical labor, whether in agriculture or industry, becoming obsolete. “I don’t know if even 10% of people on the planet will have a job in the sense of being paid to do something,” the investor in ventures such as Tesla Motors and SpaceX said.

While that horizon seems distant for most of us, the trends shaping this hypothetical situation are already affecting the world of work today. The World Economic Forum (WEF) in a recent report forecast that over the next five years demand will shrink for skills that require manual dexterity, pure memory or financial or material resource management. A IESE report on the future of employment and the professional skills of the future, led by professor Jordi Canals, reached similar conclusions.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, brought about by technological advances (data analytics, internet of things, artificial intelligence, blockchain, 3D printing, robotics…) is radically changing the way we work. But what new skills are required and do you have them?

Technological competence

First, it’s not just executives who are finding they need new skills. The IESE report showed that a broad majority of businesses complained of a knowledge gap in emerging technologies and digitalization among recent university graduates. And companies believe that gap will widen in five years. Considering the growing reach of these technologies, here’s three areas you’ll need to understand:

  • Big data analytics and artificial intelligence
  • High-speed mobile internet
  • Cloud technology

New take on leadership

New technologies and the changing workplace require a somewhat different approach to leadership. According to research, executives of the present who want to ensure they are leaders of the future, would be wise to:

  • Take a flexible approach to employment, whether it’s hiring talent with different profiles or incorporating freelancers with specific skills related to new technologies
  • Automate work when possible and pick up the pace of technology adoption
  • Focus on teamwork, and new ways of managing more transversal and multidisciplinary groups

Honing your human skills

The World Economic Forum warns that proficiency in new technologies is only one part of the skills that will be most in-demand over the next five years. There are many inherently human qualities that will be much in demand, such as:

  • Critical thinking, creativity and originality
  • Persuasion and negotiation
  • Flexibility, initiative and emotional intelligence

Continuous upskilling

All of this change requires training. The WEF study estimates that by 2022 more than half (54%) of employees will be obliged to undergo an upskilling or reskilling process to adapt to the new needs of the company, meaning that the majority of workers will have to gain additional experience related to their job or learn new skills.

Companies and their leaders are not isolated from this situation, and to address the problem it is imperative to invest more in training. The gap between the skills required by the market and those offered by the workforce is ever wider, and professionals and businesses that don’t take measures aimed at increasing the skills of their employees run the risk of being left behind.

The impact of automation involves clear challenges from the point of view of employment and training, but it also represents an opportunity to push companies to focus on tasks with greater added value and to improve the training, knowledge and skills of their employees.

At IESE Business School, we can help prepare you to manage amid change, with focused programs that provide you with new, specific skills and general management programs that give you new approaches to leadership.

Further reading:

What Is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Study: “The Future of Jobs Report 2018” (PDF)

Study: “El futuro del empleo y las competencias profesionales del futuro: la perspectiva de las empresas” (PDF)

The digital skills gap is widening fast. Here’s how to bridge it


This post is also available in: Spanish

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