The future of work speaks of artificial intelligence, human intelligence, necessary skills, and up and reskilling of I-shaped models. Of T and now of Z. Here is some food for thought to approach the continuous change. After the last two years in which we have experienced firsthand and sometimes with pain what change means, after having understood or known for the first time the definition of black swan (the metaphor that indicates an unforeseen catastrophic event), companies are wondering about what are the skills that allow you to walk the path towards the future of the world of work.
Googling Future of Work, there are, in fact, many articles online, including the 2020 Report of the World Economic Forum: The Future of Jobs. Through some recently designed training events, we have focused on what it means to have a Mindset that allows you to face and manage changes. It makes no sense to talk only about technology and digital transformation: it is the man who must reinvent himself and train to be ready to manage and guide the ever-increasing complexity of the future. What are the skills on which to leverage? And what will the scenario of the world of work be in the next few years?
Some data from the World Economic Forum report that while in 2018 the human component and the machine component, in companies, were respectively 71% and 29%, in 2025 these percentages will become respectively 47% and 53%: we will therefore see a predominance (53%) of the machine / artificial component. Such a prediction can overshadow the hopes of many and raise concerns about the future lack of work for the benefit of bots. But the same source indicates that in the Top 10 list of skills needed in 2025, purely human skills appear and have nothing to do with machines, such as analytical thinking.
And innovation (in 1st place) or active learning and learning strategies (in 2nd place), and again creativity (in 5th place). It is exciting to put these two pieces of information together and understand how it becomes increasingly evident that the skills once defined as soft to indicate their secondary importance compared to hard skills (i.e., specialized and technical skills) are dominant in this. Scenery. So much so that calling them soft skills is now obsolete and anachronistic. Seth Godin defines them as fundamental skills, real skills, because they are at the heart of what we need today: human skills for which it is not possible (at least not yet) to program a computer to perform them.
The Z-shaped Competency Model
The alphabet of the model of the necessary skills has also changed: from an I-shaped model, in which only the vertical axis counts (imagine the shape of the letter “I” in fact), where vertical means specialization and were, therefore, one makes a career based on specialized and technical skills, we have moved (since the 90s) to a T-shaped model, in which a horizontal axis has been added to the vertical axis, indicating some cross skills enhancing vertical skills.
The image below indicates the Z-shaped skills, that is, the Z-shaped skills we are invited to develop. We can see that the two horizontal axes of the letter Z are represented skills once defined as soft, such as creativity and 5C, while in the diagonal axis are indicated transversal skills and now necessary in any organization, such as familiarity with the reference business context. And with digital ( business & digital literacy ).
The 5Cs ( Collaboration, Critical thinking, Change management, Communication, and Cultural fluency ) respectively represent the skills of working together, critical thinking, change management, communication, and cultural awareness, or the ability to recognize the different contexts in which people of different cultures move and relate. This model highlights how fundamental skills (ex, soft) “hold up” all the rest: the upper and lower horizontal axes are essential to face the future world. The only diagonal axis of competence relating to the business that takes place and digital competence is not enough.
The Human Factor
All this represents excellent news for those who fear that the advent of technology, machines, and Artificial Intelligence could cancel jobs and replace the role of a man. Some jobs will disappear (around 75 million roles). Still, it will mainly be low value-added jobs, leaving room for re-engineering processes and activities (it is also estimated that the new jobs will appear to be around 133 million).
The human factor will therefore be decisive, precisely by the advent of automation: I was struck by reading that there are ongoing experiments in new jobs such as the empathy trainer, the one who teaches empathy to the machine, or the hygienist of the data, they who takes care of preserving the cleanliness of the data so that “dirty” data entered in the system does not cause “dirty” data at the output. After all, 60% of new jobs have to be invented.
What conclusion can we draw from it as professionals? The challenge is, therefore, for each of us to retrain: upskilling and reskilling of workers are essential for companies that want to keep up with change, ride it and anticipate it where possible. In fact, a recent survey by the IBM Institute for Business Value estimates that more than 120 million workers in the twelve largest world economies will need reskilling in the next three years due to the spread of AI. In my role as Training Manager in a Tech company, I deduce that there will be no shortage of work.
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