A 4-step approach for turning the fear of automation into a talent revolution

A 4-step framework for improving talent management with automation

Progressive organisations are viewing automation as an opportunity to revolutionise their talent strategy, according to Aaron McEwan, who explains that a 4-step strategic workforce planning framework will help organisations achieve this

At the moment it seems we can’t escape the phrase ‘death by automation’ and visions of mass job losses and worker displacement stemming from rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and robotics.

While the fear of automation may leave a cloud of uncertainty hanging over workplaces, progressive organisations are viewing it as a catalyst to a talent revolution; where people are more valued and undertake more exciting work than ever before.

At Gartner, we see automation as an umbrella term for a variety of strategies, skills, tools and techniques that organisations are using to remove the need for labour; increasing the predictability and reliability of products and services while reducing the cost of delivery.

While removing the need for labour is central to this definition, automation, through the development of new skills and business opportunities, actually produces more net jobs than it eliminates.

Skillsets are changing
Automation not only creates new classes of work, it changes the nature of how work is done and the skills necessary to deliver business impact.

As competition for technology skills continues to grow, the fastest growing demand is not for workers who create the technology, like coders and AI engineers, but instead for individuals whose skills relate to the application of technology in enhancing business processes. Think customer service reps working with chatbots, business analysts completing complex data mining and salespeople working with automated CRM systems.

While AI receives most of the hype, the real force of change is coming from intelligent augmentation where AI and smart machines simply enhance human aptitude and capabilities. Work will continue to essentially revolve around human beings.

“The fastest growing demand is not for workers who create the technology … but instead for individuals whose skills relate to the application of technology in enhancing business processes”

The new worker
Rather than wiping out jobs en-masse, automation is creating the need for employees to reinvent themselves to be fluent in both technology and business. Traditional jobs requiring a narrow skill set will make way for less repetitive, non-routine work requiring complex problem solving, curiosity, foresight, empathy, resilience and accelerated learning.

Free from the frustration and distraction of repetitive and low-value administrative tasks, employees are likely to thrive in the dynamic, cognitive work that robots cannot perform.

An emerging work style we expect to see is one where an employee’s unique fingerprints are all over the final output or product. Fuelled by intelligent augmentation and an increasingly flexible labour market, we will see the rise of a new breed of professional, proud of what they do, what they create and pursuing autonomy, connection and purpose in their work.

The good news is that this isn’t being overlooked by leaders. Gartner research shows that more leaders want to empower employees by giving them more autonomy to make business decisions and change how their work is done.

CEOs and CHROs also believe there is a need to invest significantly more in training employees for future roles, increasing career mobility across the organisation and retraining employees at risk of redundancy.

Embracing the revolution
There’s a disruptive Uber, Netflix or Amazon coming for every organisation and they are fuelled by the best talent in the market. Organisations must develop and nurture the skills of current staff and leverage them across the organisation in new ways if they want to embrace a changing workplace and drive growth.

Organisations will be required to determine the critical capabilities required for the future, along with the internal and external talent supply and gaps that need to be filled. A strategic workforce planning framework focused on the following will help organisations achieve this.

“More leaders want to empower employees by giving them more autonomy to make business decisions and change how their work is done”

1. Bridge: To address critical skill gaps, organisations should proactively bridge their skills shortages by helping current employees develop the right skills to align personal growth plans with organisational needs. Instead of promoting a vertical career track, they can adapt their career frameworks to support lateral training and movement.

Organisations will need to provide the flexibility, time and cognitive space for their employee’s top acquire these new skills. If we expect them to do this in their own time and at their own expense, it simply will not happen.

2. Build: L&D functions will need to reinvent themselves and drive a culture of continuous on-the-job learning across the organisation. Employees will need to know what capabilities will be required in the future and how those new skills will help them develop in their careers.

Development, particularly in technology skills, will need to be bite-sized, delivered in real time and deployed in such a way that today’s digital learners can engage when, where and how they want.

3. Borrow: As employees continue to leave employers for the flexibility, variety and security, offered by the gig economy, employers will need a dedicated contingent workforce strategy, where contracting arrangements will need to be simplified and streamlined so it becomes easier to engage contingent talent.

4. Buy: Recruiters will need to lift their game considerably, building up-to-date market intelligence, advanced sourcing skills and the ability to coach candidates on their careers. Companies will also need to create an effortless candidate experience, where mobile-based, single click options are now the preferred method of application.

Hear Aaron McEwan speak on how HR can help lead the business through volatility and support organisational performance, at Gartner’s ReimagineHR 2018. Image source: iStock