Progress. It used to be that you could keep phones, TVs, computers, or other electronic devices for at least a year before they became outdated. Now, it seems like something better or updated comes along every few months. The reach of technology extends far beyond personal electronics, meaning that technological progress affects basically all businesses and all aspects of life in increasingly significant ways.
In fact, the World Economic Forum has stated that we are on the verge of a Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.
Over the next 30 years, there will be many advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing. Those advancements will not just impact people working in those fields, but everyone everywhere, in both their personal and professional lives.
With so many changes happening in such a short amount of time, the question for employers and employees becomes what kinds of skills will be essential in the next few years.Also read: 11 Technology Trends in LMS
How technology impacts skills
The Future of Jobs Report, released by the World Economic Forum, compares workforce skills that were needed in 2015 with skills that will be needed in 2020. While they point out many similarities, there are some significant changes.
They place emphasis on how important creativity will become. People who are creative will be able to adapt to changes quicker while also finding new and innovative ways to use technology. They will also hold a skill that is uniquely human. Machines have not been created that can replace human creativity, making creativity a useful skill as artificial intelligence becomes more advanced.
Complex problem solving and critical thinking will remain important skills, while emotional intelligence is a new skill for 2020. Here again, we see the impact of machines and technology on the list. Skills that have human elements, ones which machines are not able to fully replicate(creativity, emotional intelligence), rise on the list of needed skills, while skills that machines are able to do (coordination, quality control) fall or stay about the same.
This should also serve as guidance to recent graduates who are looking for a job. A report from Accenture says that in the Class of 2016, 77% of graduates believed their colleges prepared them well. However, employers do not share this opinion. The same report pointed to large discrepancies between how college students assessed their preparedness and how employers assessed it. In fact, when looking at skills such as working in teams, critical thinking, oral communication, staying current on developments in science, students consistently rated themselves better than employers rate them.
Managing the future through skills
As the world continues to change at an exponential pace, all employees are going to have to develop skills in managing these changes.
With people checking smartphones about 220 times a day, sending between one and 67 texts a day, and spending almost 2 hours on social media a day, technological distractions are drains on productivity and focus. Employees will need to manage distractions so they can continue to be competitive in the evolving workplace.
Employees need to be able to manage all the new technologies by learning how to use them. For some people this may be easier than for others, but whatever your business is it is important to stay current through continuous learning.
One of the biggest ways technology has impacted our daily lives is in the field of communication. There are numerous ways to communicate with others around the world. Many people use multiple methods a day (phone call, text, email, tweet, Facebook post/message, YouTube comment/video, Skype/Facetime).
If you think about how you communicate on a daily basis it is amazing to think about how not too long ago phone calls were the main way to communicate. Now people need to manage multiple communication streams, knowing the platforms and rules for communication with each one.
Building a reputation
As the gig-based economy grows and more people work as freelancers, people need to be able to manage their reputations in order to get more work. People are often judged by what they say using social media, as well as what others say about them. Being able to create a positive reputation online is valuable, even necessary, for many people.
At the University of California – San Diego, researchers found that, in 2008, Americans spent 11.8 hours every day consuming information. That number has increased almost 3% every year since then.
In order to stay competitive, employees need to know how to filter through all this information to use what is important and to ignore what is not.
Relationships of all kinds have become more complicated with technology. Dating has changed through Tinder, friendships through Facebook, and networking through LinkedIn. Those are just three examples of the growing list of online platforms that are changing relationships.
Employees need to know how to manage online relationships, as well as real world relationships. Offline relationships require not only verbal communication, but also non verbal skills like body language, tone, and facial expression.
As the world becomes more connected and countries become more diverse, employees need to be more aware of diversity and other cultures. These cultures can include country of origin, religion, generation, sexual orientation, and gender.
Gallup research suggests diversity can be a competitive advantage for organizations that build the right environment. In one of their studies, they found that the combination of employee engagement and gender diversity resulted in 46% to 58% higher financial performance -- comparable revenue and net profit, respectively -- for business units above the median on both engagement and gender diversity, compared with those below the median on both.
Employees need to be aware of various trends and innovations in technology so they can make informed decisions about which ones they will use and which they do not feel would be helpful.
In its 2015 CIO Survey, Gartner shows that many organizations are slowly transitioning from the era of IT industrialization to the digital economy, where technology skills are a must.
While news of artificial intelligence, machines replacing jobs, and the general anxiety about the future is in the news more and more often, there are things employees and employers can do to help ease some of that anxiety.
When people are willing to learn, interested in change, and open to adaptation, they can learn many of the skills they will need to make them competitive in a world of tech-savvy employees and machines.