“You know, I have… I have never felt this way before – at odds with… the ship. I sat there and watched my ship perform for a mass of circuits and relays, and felt… useless. Unneeded.” -Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek: The Ultimate Computer
I found this article at the end of November discussing how workforce automation is changing the employment landscape.
The article is a CNN review of a McKinsey report on learning, jobs, and technology. In this report, the author states that by 2030, automation will take over about 375 million jobs. This means in 12 years, a machine will probably have replace you and you’ll have to change jobs or maybe even change careers.
I touched on this training topic a few years ago. I’m surprised to find that the conversation is moving in the wrong direction. We should be having a conversation on how to retool our workforce for the new industries coming over the horizon. Instead, we are talking about how to bring back “good paying jobs” from extinct industries. Call me crazy, but I’m not seeing the carburetor making a comeback in the next decade.
After reading this, I called Paul Bagan, my first Dale Carnegie Training instructor. He also manages the San Joaquin Dale Carnegie franchise in California. We started our conversation by reviewing some of the current trends in today’s high tech work environment. But we also talked about the impact these trends have on training, and what it means for the you:
Technology is Constantly Changing Our Work Environment
Technology is destroying old industries and creating new industries, jobs, and careers. The jobs we are doing now didn’t exist back when I was coming out of high school.
The Old Career Paradigm Doesn’t Work
The old paradigm of last century involved going to school for 4 or 8 years to learn a discipline and then spend 40 years working that in that field. That paradigm is dead. It’s been gone for a while.
Technology and Workforce Automation are Outpacing Our Learning Paradigms
Currently, our tech is growing at an exponential clip. Our ability to learn, however, is proceeding along in a linear fashion. So going to school to learn a discipline and working that discipline until retirement was possible back when we were an agrarian society and even in an industrial society. In the late 80s and early 90s, however, workers found that they had to retool their skills for a new career. By late 90’s, many workers had changes careers twice. Now, it seems that your career choice upon leaving school has a shelf life of less than 10 years. Changing careers and learning a new discipline is a part of the employment landscape in this age. You must approach your career with a mindset of never ending learning.
Less Workers Get More Done Using Workforce Automation
Workforce automation and technology are the great equalizers. What once took an army of people versed in a variety of disciplines can now be performed by a few people in command of a hand full of dashboards. About 2008, I found myself maintaining several websites promoting and selling the Dale Carnegie course, writing for an online publication, maintaining our Salesforce CRM, and managing our social media presence. And I taught communication programs at the end of the day! One person doing this would have been unheard of prior to 2000. But in today’s environment, we commonly find sales reps who run their own sites to market their presence. If you want an increase in pay, learn and leverage new technology.
Workforce Automation and Technology is Changing How We Work and What we Do
During my time with the Dale Carnegie sales team, I noticed how advances in web and database technologies were creating some troubling sales trends. In a technology review meeting, I told my sales team that the days of the old sales rep were ending. The web was taking over many of our simple tasks, such as cold calling, providing information, and taking orders. If we wanted to stay relevant, we needed to retool our skills and our thinking. Upon hearing this, most of these reps scoffed at the idea. Yet today, we have an environment where our prospects can get all the information they want. By the time they call us, they’ve already made their decision. And in some cases, they’ve even made their purchase online. No industry, no discipline is immune to the advances in technology. If you want to stay relevant, refresh your skills.
Enhance Your Communication and Leadership Skills
Communication and people skills will continue to be necessary. The author stated this outright at the end of the article. Technology will bring in new wonders today and destroy them tomorrow. But your ability to communicate, influence, and lead people is something that no one can automate or relegate to a machine. So in addition learning a new programming language, enhancing your security skills, or getting that coveted certification for managing your CRM, remember to refresh and develop your people skills. They are the glue that holds together everything else in your professional portfolio.
Create Your Training Program to Offset Workforce Automation
We live in a technological world where we constantly create new methods, processes, and products to replace old ones. This is not the work of one Doctor Evil or, as someone described it, “a cabal of elitist”. This is the natural order of living in an environment that is growing and advancing.
The question is, what part are you going to play in this constantly advancing society?
If you want to know more about this workforce evolution in recent history, I’d recommend listening to the interview between Tony Robbins and Paul Zane Pilzer in his PowerTalk Series. Then, get cozy with Tom Peter’s book, Re-Imagine! Lastly, read the CNN article here and the McKinsey report here.
However, I have to go back to Barack Obama’s first speech to Congress back in 2009. In it, he said that in order to move our democracy and our society forward, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.
We cannot expect to solve the problems of tomorrow with the knowledge of yesterday. And with the current economic trends putting more responsibility on the individual, the onus is on us to take charge and develop our own education and training plan.
So tonight, in the time between eating dinner and putting your head to the pillow, map out your training and education program to enhance your future. And make sure you include professional development and communication programs in the mix.
Communication, negotiation, and leadership skills will always be in demand.
Make sure you keep yours sharp.