Talent acquisition in the evolving world of work

Mala Manku, August 2018

Technology has revolutionised the workplace, changing the way businesses operate and creating space for brand new roles. But bringing in the right talent remains a challenge for many as needs evolve alongside tech developments.

The world of work is changing. Jobs are becoming ‘smart’ as digitalisation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning revolutionise business operations.

Driving this transformation is Industry 4.0 – a term coined to define the ongoing shift away from manual labour and traditional nine-to-five in-house roles towards work in a digital economy.

Billions of dollars are being pumped into tech developments that promise to elevate businesses and deliver innovative consumer solutions. McKinsey estimates that online firms and digital natives invested $20-30 billion into AI in 2016. According to the consultancy, investment in AI tripled between 2013 and 2016. Research from the World Economic Forum and management consultancy Accenture expects total technology investment to reach $2.4 trillion by 2020. Those companies in the top 20% of their sector by productivity will harvest the most gains.


Trending globally

And this trend isn’t exclusive to the likes of Silicon Valley – significant investment in digital is taking place around the world. The Chinese Government, for example, aims to establish China as the world’s leading AI innovation centre by 2030. Search almost any country with the words ‘tech hub’ and you’ll get multiple results for local digital start-ups.

For the business world, there is an urgent need to readjust, revise and rejuvenate. But technology investment alone cannot guarantee company success; increasingly, businesses are recognising the role of individuals and specialised talent in the modern world of work. As new industry and fresh business practices emerge, space is being created to identify, hire, nurture and support talent.

This goes against the tide of misinformation that suggests technology means the end of human work. Although some roles are becoming redundant, positions are appearing in brand new industries.

Online strategist, social media consultant, chief curator, and the ambiguous ‘entrepreneur’ are among a new breed of workers disrupting the jobs market. Contemporary niches are emerging which deliver broad benefits to organisations. As businesses reap the rewards, they grow more inclined to invest in new skills and technologies, as well as in people with relevant expertise.


Era of excellence

To this end, organisations are opening their arms to employees and contractors with specialist knowledge and competencies. An online expert will help a company boost its visibility online, and therefore its viability in a globally competitive market. A progressive strategist will assist a company in forward planning and boost the chances of long-term success. New roles have entered existence thanks to the start-up culture, while jobs with less prominence a few years ago have graduated to head office. In a world where ability is the driving force of any company, it makes good business sense to hire someone who excels at scouting talent. Dominic Barton, co-author of Talent Wins, advocates for chief human resources officers (HRO) who work on a level with an organisation’s CEO and CFO. Coining the term ‘G3’, Barton says he hopes to see more CEOs coming from the HR function and more line managers spending time in HR. Fostering a greater understanding of talent in the workplace can only bring good things.

Likewise, there is growing need for chief data officers, and workers trained to the highest standards on compliance, governance and other related areas. Such considerations were previously just a tick box, but with people sharing more of their data than ever before there is a stark need and escalating demand for data protection. A good example is the recent implementation of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) – a European Union law on data protection and privacy intended to return control of personal data to the citizens it belongs to. It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU and European Economic Area. Those who violate the GDPR face a fine of up to €20 million. Its implementation is a marker of heightened concern regarding data breaches – an issue that has risen in scope and prominence. And this is not incidental. It follows a series of data breaches suffered by global organisations – from Uber and JP Morgan Chase to the UK’s National Health Service – and even entire countries. Such breaches have brought data protection to the fore for all businesses.


Better business health

As companies seek to protect their data, and that of their employees, contractors and customers, they are also paying closer attention to protecting other areas that affect business performance.

Today, it is not unusual for companies to hire someone solely responsible for protecting the health – physical and mental – of their staff, and therefore the health of the company. Chief wellness officers and the like are tasked with ensuring balance within a company; work-life balance for employees, and a balance between activity and improvement of KPIs for the company.

There are also plenty of options to outsource wellness strategies and programmes. Organisations increasingly recognise that investment in employee wellbeing delivers benefits both financial and immaterial.

For businesses, Industry 4.0 brings with it opportunities to nurture and scale talent like never before. For individuals, there exists unprecedented scope to learn, train and reskill. Access to higher pay grades no longer rests on longevity of service, but instead on what you can bring to the table.


For future success

The tech revolution has blown the jobs market wide open. Yet there remains the need for rapid and complementary social innovation. Education, for example, is falling further behind developments in the workplace, leaving many school-leavers ill-equipped. Assisting older workers – those who haven’t grown up with technology and who therefore lack the digital intuitiveness of younger generations – to retrain and reskill should also be a priority.

The coming years will be defined by how we approach these challenges and whether we can align the tech revolution with much-needed change in the social sphere. If we achieve this, opportunities abound for business leaders and workers alike.

Mala Manku, August 2018

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