Predicting the unpredictable | HR Operations
By Dr Alan Bourne, CEO & Founder, Sova
Radical changes in the world of work are not a new phenomenon. In 1841, more than one fifth of British workers were employed in agriculture. Today, thanks to advances in farm machinery, pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers, that figure has fallen to below one in a hundred.
It may be tempting, then, to dismiss the latest upheavals caused by automation in the workplace as simply more of the same. Yes, digital transformation is affecting us in ways that are increasingly hard to ignore, whether it’s Sophia the robot delivering a speech to the United Nations or companies using complex algorithms to drive customer service interactions online. Yes, there will almost certainly be structural changes in the world of employment, with research by the World Economic Forum (The Future of Jobs Report: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution) indicating that more than 30% of existing jobs will disappear by 2025. But aren’t these just the most recent iterations of a process that has been unfolding since the invention of the wheel?
The short answer to this question is ‘no’. Two factors that separate the changing nature of today’s employment world from that of everything that has gone before are: first, the rapidity with which the changes are happening; and, second, the ubiquity of their effect, with virtually no sector remaining untouched by digitisation’s transformative power. Understand how technology and humans work alongside each other is a fundamental question.
These seismic changes pose an immediate challenge for any company looking to recruit emerging talent. Where organisations previously sought candidates with ‘potential for leadership’, they now require ‘potential for anything’.
In the fast-moving, digitised businesses of today, graduate candidates need to be matched to the moving target that is the organisation’s future needs. When addressing this issue, there are three main areas that must be considered:
- First, it is essential for organisations to recruit people who are able to work in an agile way. This applies to how they interact with and lead others as well as to their style of thinking and problem solving, and their ability to thrive in an environment of constant change.
- Second, we know that, whatever happens in the future, diversity will remain a decisive factor in a team’s ability to develop effective solutions. Diversity, in this case, is concerned not simply with demographics but also with cognitive differences in how people approach challenges and see the world.
- A third and final requirement for future success is that everyone, at both a team and an organisational level, is unified by a common purpose. It is only through this alignment of purpose that people in the organisation will have shared motivations and values, and will be able to come together to achieve key goals.
In order to build a truly future-ready workforce, it is essential to combine all three of these ingredients; if just one of them is significantly lacking, then the organisation will struggle to meet its changing needs. Accurate measurement remains at the heart of the hiring process, but organisations will need to undertake a strategic review of what they’re looking for, and design a frictionless assessment experience which provides insight to both recruiters and candidates alike.
Building an agile workforce poses new challenges and questions to those responsible for selecting emerging talent. Predicting the unpredictable may feel like an exercise in fortune telling, but it doesn’t need to be. By combining scientific rigour, business awareness and digital technology, you can build a workforce which keeps pace with your evolving organisation.