Future of the Global Workplace: Watch for These Roles and Skills to Emerge
By Gareth Jarman, Director, HR Advisory, Radius
My father spent 35 years in the newspaper industry, starting in the 1960s as a compositor on printing presses. Newspapers in his day were printed nightly in large buildings, hives of activity across a range of skilled trades and professions, most of them involving mechanical technology. Writers and editors had to meet strict daily deadlines that could be changed only under extreme circumstances that merited the cry, “Stop the presses!”
Advances in internet and other technologies, along with related increased customer demand and expectations, drove the print news industry to reengineer itself, particularly over the last two decades. News stories are increasingly broken online, often in real time and on social media. These advances have come with costs, however, including a decline in print-advertising revenues. In the face of this decline and other factors, newspapers now employ fewer staff, focusing primarily on online editing and publication.
In my father’s case, 200 years of the newspaper printing press changed in a matter of five or six years. His skills — once in demand — became virtually obsolete. Different skills, and often different people, were required as the newspaper model evolved. (It’s still evolving, of course.) Over his career, he gradually saw his trade being sidelined.
I note all this because when my father started out, he could not have foreseen the kind of technological and societal changes that were in store for his industry. After all, he was entering a trade that had existed mostly unchanged for hundreds of years.
In one sense, those of us in today’s global workforce have an advantage over my father and his generation. We have a better understanding that technology is evolving rapidly and will continue to do so. We also know that we must adapt to those changes, while understanding that many of the jobs of tomorrow lie beyond our current comprehension.
"Workers must ask how they will continuously manage their careers amidst an ever changing workplace"
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While we may hold this historical advantage, the knowledge that nothing in the workplace is ever fully secure is cold comfort. It also raises important questions on a few levels. For example, workers must ask themselves how they will continuously manage their careers amidst an ever changing workplace, and decide what skills to develop and stop developing. Organizations must ask themselves if their workforces have the skills required for new production methods and client interactions. And industry leaders must ask themselves what new trends and developments are driving what their industries do and how they do those tasks, along with whether their industries are fading or ahead of the curve. Finally, we must all try to understand what roles will continue to be relevant and what new roles are likely emerge.
Roles to Watch For
Certain sectors will drive new career opportunities due to societal demands and technological advances. Expect the following industries to experience continued growth: medicine, science and technology, aerospace, energy, architectural engineering, business services and leisure.
While obviously no one can predict the future, below are four roles that will likely have their places in the global workplace of tomorrow.
Neuro-Technology Surgeon (Medicine)
Over the last decade, we have seen technological advances in trauma medicine improve the lives of amputee veterans. Continued advances will likely further integrate prosthetic and implant technologies with the body’s systems. New roles such as neuro-technology surgeon will be needed to enhance human-cyber interactions.
Digital Architect (Engineering)
With the enormous and increasing popularity of internet shopping, the digital architect will design new and engaging online “malls” and other e-commerce destinations.
Chief Culture Officer (Business)
As business becomes more focused on cost savings, and as support functions are outsourced or continually reduced in size, companies will begin to look at new and different professional roles. In HR, the future will likely involve much work with outsourced service providers. Internally, remaining “core” HR roles will focus on center of expertise (CoE) positions, including that of chief culture officer. This role will seek to create a more diverse and engaging workplace environment and culture, including balancing increased employee home-working, reduced office space and increased legislative demands concerning diversity.
Space Agriculturalist (Aerospace)
Finally, let’s explore a possible role for the distant future. Astro-agricultural science will start to form into an industry as private enterprise picks up where government-backed space programs leave off. Moving from the basics of space exploration, the next logical step is to establish environments on planets near earth in order to take agricultural development to its next level. Establishing a farming and production capability on new planets will eventually enable mankind to sustain settlements and launch points for further exploration and development.
Skills for the Future
As we see the roles of the global workplace changing, various skills will emerge as more or less in demand. The following is a list of skills that will likely be necessary in tomorrow’s global workplace.
- The ability to rapidly adapt to the demands of new technologies
- Technical ability
- The ability to manage complex situations
- The ability to effectively interact socially with individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds
- The ability to effectively communicate, both verbally and in writing, with a high degree of self-awareness
- Cross-cultural fluency
- The ability to manage your own enterprise as the sharing economy grows
- The ability to adapt to organizational changes, including the ability to “self-manage” in the face of changing demands
- Leadership ability, in contrast to old-style, relatively dictatorial “management” ability
- The ability to engage and facilitate colleagues through uncertainty while producing results
To read more posts by Gareth, including all of his Future of the Global Workplace series, click here.