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C-Suite Agenda

Why Human Skills Future-proof Careers In An Automated World

One of the things I come across a lot lately is a degree of pessimism around technological advances in the workplace. Some people feel that increased automation and the rise of AI and related technology will see many types of roles become obsolete.

However, I feel rather differently. When I talk to managers and leaders (as the leader of an Institute dedicated to creating better managers and leaders) I hear a fair amount of positivity about modern technology and the impact that it is having – and will have in the future – on the workplace. Take automation as an example; many organisations are seeing automation as a potential benefit for their business.

I’m not saying that these new technologies won’t impact jobs. There are absolutely going to be many process-driven tasks that will become increasingly obsolete. But this process of obsolescence is likely to give rise to many roles that cannot be automated and that only humans can do. As automation and computerisation increases, the emphasis in the workplace will fall more and more onto management and leadership skills. Those things that seem to have acquired the rather terrible label ‘soft skills’ are going to become increasingly essential. Management and leadership skills will come to the fore as automation increases.

All of this means that rather than being fearful of words like AI and automation, we should begin to think about how we will need to adapt and hone our own skillsets to meet the challenges ahead. It’s time for us to ‘be ready’, to prepare and to upskill.  It’s far better to focus on the skills that will help you to remain an essential part of your organisation. For managers, it’s also prudent to develop the skills you need to ensure that the people in your future workforce feel supported and trust your leadership.

The key to becoming a sound leader now and in the future is to develop the essential skills required to be the best leader you can be.

I believe that there are five essential skills that all professionals – especially leaders – need to develop.

Setting strategy. This is the first (and most important) because the strategy underpins the culture of the organisation. And if you are going to lead a team of successful people, they can only thrive if they operate within a happy workplace. A successful strategy must align with organisational culture. And it’s a person, the leader, who defines that culture when they set the strategy.

Communicating. When I spoke with a CEO who has a team spread across thousands of kilometres and yet remain an engaged, high-performing team, she emphasised to me the importance of communicating. Yes, it includes online channels but importantly face-to-face – with all the unique nuances of genuine human interaction.

Showing respect. Our workplaces, like our society, is made up of people with different beliefs, backgrounds and lifestyle choices. Machines aren’t like that. So, a strong, human-centric culture must be built on respect because only then can you create an environment that is enriching, interesting and rewarding for everyone.

Displaying emotional intelligence. A leader who isn’t equipped with the traits, behaviours and attitudes that they need to interact well with other people, can’t even begin to imagine that they can influence a positive work culture.

So, if you find yourself feeling pessimistic about the future of work and the rising tide of AI and automation, think about the opportunities that these changes will bring. These opportunities open up when we focus on the people side of things and the interactions within our workplaces. Creating a great workplace culture – that’s the future of successful careers.


Written by David Pich.

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David Pich
David Pich is the co-author of Leading Well: 7 attributes of very successful leaders and the Chief Executive of the Institute of Managers and Leaders Australia and New Zealand (IML ANZ). David's leadership career spans a range of senior executive roles in sales, marketing, PR and consulting for a number of global companies and in the not-for-profit sector. David advocates passionately for sound management and leadership practice and strongly believes that good leaders have an impact well beyond the workplace. David Pich is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.