Super-Skill Me: The importance of being human

March 11, 2019

As you look to determine ways to transition successfully into the future, keep in mind that your advantage can be found at the core of what makes us human.

It’s been a while since the last "Super-Skill Me" post, so I want to do a little recap. The purpose of this blog series is to provide insight and information to help professionals thrive during the digital transformation of industry. My belief is that the ultimate "super-skill" is adaptability, which is achieved through continuous, effective, and dynamic learning and growth.

If you’re new to the blog, here’s a recap of the topics we’ve already covered:

Are the robots taking over?

Today's world is fast-moving and dynamic. Changes happen quickly and often. And although no one has the benefit of a crystal ball to look into future, it's fairly safe to say that technology adoption and application will continue to grow and affect our lives and our jobs. Because of this, there’s an understandable level of concern across many industries about jobs becoming obsolete as a result of of technology advances and applications. A November 2017 McKinsey Global Institute report, "Jobs lost, jobs gained: What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages," stated that potentially between 3% and 14% of the global workforce may need to acquire need skills or switch jobs completely by 2030. If this leaves you feeling like you’re John Connor being gunned down by the Terminator, don’t worry. The robots are not taking over.

In this face of technological change and uncertainty, it’s important to remember a finding from the National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress, created by president Lyndon B. Johnson. Among its other findings, the commission concluded that although technology may destroy certain jobs, it doesn’t destroy work. Fifty years have passed since the report was published, but I believe that the findings still hold up in the face of the changes taking place in our world today.

Many people are concerned about jobs disappearing. The probable reality, however, is that skills will be affected far more than jobs. The McKinsey Global Institute report's authors state: "Overall, we find that only about 5% of occupations could be fully automated by adapting current technology. However, today’s technologies could automate 45% of the activities people are paid to perform across all occupations." In addition, the authors state, about 60% of all job roles could see at least 30% of their work activities automated.

The Importance of being human

Let’s find some comfort with the future. In an ever-more-digital world, our innate human capabilities will become increasingly valuable and important. It’s time to leverage our ability to problem-solve, to relate and collaborate with others, to communicate, etc. There’s a lot to get excited or worried about, depending on your comfort with change.

According to the McKinsey report, "The hardest activities to automate with the technologies available today are those that involve managing and developing people (9% automation potential), where expertise is applied to decision-making, planning, or creative work (18%), or interacting with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders (20%). "

The core characteristics of our emotional nature separate us from technology. And the good news is that we all have plenty of opportunity to hone our competency in them. Some specific skills that I believe are key to job success and enjoyment both today and after the robot revolution/uprising are:

  • problem-solving
  • critical thinking
  • decision-making
  • planning
  • influencing (with integrity)
  • empathy: a key to leadership success
  • communication
  • creative and critical thinking
  • collaborating with others
  • …and of course, adaptability!

It’s true that some jobs will be lost; some skills will become obsolete; and the importance of existing skills will alter. However, more jobs will be created and new skills will be required. As you look to determine ways to transition successfully into the future, keep in mind that your advantage can be found at the core of what makes us human. And it’s these human traits and abilities that are least likely to be replaced by technology.