The future of work is not a destination: Hone your skills.


By Adenike Babajamu

That digital and AI technologies are transforming the world of work is no longer news. It is also not news that today’s workforce will need to learn and master new skills, and continuously adapt as new opportunities emerge. Several researches including ongoing ones have identified the kind of jobs that may be lost and those that will be created as automation, AI and robotics take over. The dynamics in the developing countries like Nigeria and other African countries may be slightly different and transition a bit slower from that of the developed world, nevertheless even for the developing countries, it can no longer be business as usual.

The need for manual, physical and basic cognitive skills are bound to be on the decline as we climb through the year 2023 into the future. It will be matched by a steady increase in the demand for technological, social, emotional and high cognitive skills. While it is true that machine cannot do everything, to be productive in this age of automation, one would require a range of human skills from technological expertise to essential social and emotional capabilities. Gone are the days when you acquire two or three educational degrees and expect to use it to work for another 30 years. We will all have to continue to adapt, get new skills or possibly go for other types of training different from our degrees. Let me paint a scenario of the changes that has begun to take place.

During the Covid 19, I visited the local private hospital that I had been using for more than two decades and the transformation I saw was quite dramatic. Their process had changed and was fully automated, paperwork was almost completely eliminated. I noticed that some of the staff were new and was amazed to see one of the previously engaged hospital attendant sitting smartly behind a system and capturing data. She had up her skills. The Customer Service also improved tremendously and I could easily identify people skills among the staff who had none in the past. Of course those who couldn’t cope were the ones I didn’t see. They had been laid off.

Since Covid 19, several changes had taken place in the world of work. By the way, contrary to the expectations of many, the future of work is not a destination. It is continuously evolving and very dynamic. For any organization to remain in business therefore, they must adapt to the new development of technology. Similarly for anyone to remain employable, he/she must upskill and reskill. It is important to note that you don’t get drown in a pool simply because you fell in the water, you drowned because you do not know how to swim.

I tell people that you do not fail exams because you did not know anything, but you failed because you didn’t know enough to pass. A few weeks from now and the year will roll over. Year 2023, or rather the future will answer only to those who aspire to do better and do things differently. As we know, you do not do things the same way and expect a different result. The summary is to hone our skills if we must excel in the new year and the future of work which is continuously evolving. This is the time to identify those skills and take concrete steps to actualize them.
Whatever skills we choose to hone must be:

  1. Adding value beyond what automated systems and intelligent machines can do
  2. Must be operated and useful in a digital environment
  3. Must be adaptable to new ways of working
  4. Must be adaptable to new roles or occupation.

There is no hard and fast rule as to the number of skills that may be required to survive in this new world of work. The secret is flexibility and openness to learn. Below are some of the skill that may be relevant.

  1. High level Cognitive skills: This include ability to think critically and logically in such a way that will result in proffering structured solutions to work related problems. It also includes cognitive flexibility; ability to adapt to change and conceptualize complex multiple ideas all at once. (ideation)
  2. Strong Communication skills: Knowing how to ask the right questions, ability to listen actively, learn new things, process information fast and efficiently to maximize output.
  3. Critical thinking and analytic skills that will result in timely problem solving and ideation
  4. High level interpersonal skills that will mobilize systems, develop strong work relationships; promote teamwork effectiveness, foster inclusiveness, collaboration, enhance mentor-mentee activities etc.
  5. Digital literacy is not optional. These include software uses, understanding of data analysis, cybersecurity
  6. Leadership skills. This must include self-awareness and self-management; ability to manage own emotions, self-control, take ownership and be decisive.
  7. Entrepreneur skills : Be able to break barriers of tradition, not just thinking outside the box but breaking the box of limitations to take quality risks. Must be energetic bold and passionate about convictions. Develop an achievement mentality.
  8. Creativity, originality and ability to take initiatives.
  9. Emotional and Social intelligence; These are unique human capabilities that cannot be replaced by machines. It includes qualities like empathy resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.
  10. Judgement and decision making skills. This is the subjective side of data analytics. Machines will not be able to do this.
    The list is endless and the expectations of employers are also evolving. There is no one cap fits all hence the need for continuous training and re-training.
    Let me conclude by saying, the future of work is not a destination or an end in itself it is evolving, dynamic and the demands will continue to vary. Only the dynamic employee will be able to take advantage and maximize top notch earnings from the opportunities that the future of work offers. If you don’t want to drown in the pool then learn to swim. Time to hone our skills to next levels.

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