Soft skills will be paramount for the future of work

Leadership agility and the ability to collaborate are among the most important skills as the nature of work evolves, according to the Future of Work Global Research Study 2018 from Harmonics and OI Global Partners. “While robotics, AI and machine learning will all dramatically impact jobs and the future of work, it is the soft skills that will continue to reign supreme,” writes Jenny Darmody in Silicon Republic. The study surveyed more than 1,000 leaders in 28 countries, with half of the respondents from organizations with more than 500 employees. In addition to leadership agility and collaboration, it revealed that creativity, communication skills, eagerness to learn, and negotiating with others, are among the top skills. Roles in finance and accounting, administrative and support staff, as well as middle-management roles are considered most at risk, according to the survey. “The decline of routine, repetitive work continues apace as a result of automation and AI. This is hitting both high- and low-skill occupations,” Harmonics’ John Fitzgerald said. “An eagerness to learn, and indeed relearn, has never been more necessary for those whose roles are at risk.”

Top three HR trends to watch for future workforce 

According to a new report from the OrgDev Institute, there are three important trends that HR needs to focus on in the future of work: the increased importance of soft skills, purposeful work in the gig economy and the role of artificial intelligence (AI). Soft skills will become crucial as automation will allow robots to perform routine technical tasks, the report claims. HR departments will become increasingly reliant on employees who are capable of critical thinking and dealing with complex problems. Finding a purpose in the daily roles of employees will be another trend that HR needs to embrace in order to maintain a positive employer brand. The report also underscores the role of AI in planning workforce strategies. “HR leaders can no longer ignore the trends or play a ‘wait and see’ game. AI is now a real-world force, which is playing an ever-expanding and dynamic role in all of our daily lives,” said John Belchamber, chief development officer for the OrgDev Institute. 

Preparing for the automated future of work

According to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), some 133 million jobs could be created globally over the next decade compared to 75 million that could disappear with the rise of automation. The WEF report cites white-collar roles such as data entry, accounting and payroll services among the top 10 declining jobs by 2022. “In the wake of this, the current workforce needs to take personal responsibility for one’s own lifelong learning and career development. It is also clear that many will need to be supported through periods of job transition and upskilling by both governments and employers,” writes Daniel Ionescu in The Lincolnite. “More importantly, future generations must be prepared for the automated world of work.” The WEF predicts the skills required to perform jobs will shift significantly by 2022. The future skills equation will include analytical thinking, technology design, critical thinking and complex problem-solving. “If one thing is clear, it is that lifelong learning is becoming an economic imperative,” Ionescu writes.

Can finance learn to love the bots?

Intelligent process automation (IPA) or intelligent bots are coming to a finance organization near you—and quite possibly your own, according to this Oracle blog post. “Following a set of business rules defined by humans, bots now handle everything from processing purchase orders and invoices to distributing management reports. Sure, people can do that too—and have for decades—but bots will happily do it at a fraction of the time and cost, while eliminating human error in the process. What’s not to love about that?” the article asks. While finance staffers might initially have a certain degree of apprehension or even mistrust, the post highlights some of the good reasons to love IPA, such restoring employees’ work-life balance.

APAC’s contingent workforce is thriving

Freelancers, independent contractors and consultants make up more than 30 percent of the overall Asia Pacific (APAC) workforce, a 13-percent increase from last year, India.com reports. The finding comes from an online survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of KellyOCG. It canvassed more than 200 C-suite executives from industries such as financial services, life sciences, healthcare and medical services, manufacturing and production, and education, across APAC. “Many leaders are getting access to hard-to-find skills sets and talent pools by deploying the contingent workforce. This marks a significant shift for businesses in India, and organizations that successfully engage this pool of talent will have an edge over their counterparts in the market,” said KellyOCG’s Francis Padamadan.

Startup aims to help freelancers with banking, paperwork

While there are many benefits to being a member of the gig economy, this PYMNTS article points to one of the major drawbacks: doing one’s own administrative paperwork for billing, registrations, taxes and more. In France, these tasks are even more onerous, where one must have a designated bank account before they can commence with freelancing. PYMNTS interviewed Nicolas Reboud, the CEO of Shine, a French startup aiming to ease the administrative pains for gig workers. The app helps freelancers register a company, create invoices, calculate taxes and establish a designated bank account. Shine recently benefitted from €8 million in funding. “This money will be used to keep growing the team and keep developing the product and hopefully launch Shine to other countries next year,” Reboud said.

The environmental benefits of the gig economy

More Americans are working from home, which is good news for the planet, writes Dom Galeon in this World Economic Forum blog post. Galeon cites the results of a new study by researchers from the University of Texas and the Rochester Institute of Technology, which analyzed the daily schedules and energy consumption habits of 11,000 Americans over a nine-year period. The researchers found that Americans were staying home an average of eight days more in 2012 than in 2003. They also found that staying at home decreased the average national demand for energy by an estimated 1,700 trillion BTU in 2012. That’s equivalent to almost 2 percent of the total national energy demand for the year. “We did expect to see net energy decrease, but we had no idea of the magnitude,” said lead researcher Ashok Sekar from the University of Texas. If Americans are staying home more, that means they are consuming less fuel for transportation, which remains one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gasses. “If the shift in habits and lifestyle continues on its current trajectory, it could play a significant role in the fight against climate change, right alongside decreased fossil fuel consumption and increased usage of clean energy alternatives,” Galeon writes.

Insurers rely on an external workforce, study finds

According to a new study conducted by SAP Fieldglass and Oxford Economics, 43 percent of workforce spending in the insurance industry goes to contingent workers and service providers. What’s more, 75 percent of executives expect to use on-demand, online marketplaces for freelancers in the next three years. The external workforce includes technology-consulting firms, call-center outsourcers, data scientists and programmers, which the study’s authors call the “multi-channel workforce.” The Oxford study found a large majority of insurance executives (78 percent) believe the external workforce is critical to operating at full capacity and meeting market demands. About half of insurers (51 percent) reported they would be unable to conduct business as usual without an external workforce. “[The insurance industry’s work] can’t all be done by AI systems and robots. If anything, there will be more people working in the industry than ever before. That’s why insurers are increasingly relying on contingent workers and services as they move forward into the digital world,” writes Joe McKendrick in a Digital Insurance opinion piece about the study.

Six ways to build the workforce of the future

In this HRD Australia blog post, Tom Brown, chairman at Gooroo, recommends six steps to prepare the existing workforce for the challenges of the future. 1. Reskill and retrain. “While some employees within an organization are working in roles which may no longer be required, those individuals’ skills, mindset and attitude could well make them a great asset to the company,” he argues. 2. Work towards a common goal. Ensure you have a clear mission and vision for your business and communicate these effectively within the whole team. Working towards a common objective both motivates and focuses them on the future. 3. Understand your employees. This means going beyond just the skills they have; it takes “understanding the culture required to succeed.” 4. Create autonomy. Give team members the authority to make decisions and the accountability for the outcomes. 5. Praise and reward. Financial reward isn’t the biggest incentive for the majority of employees. Engage employees in their development with regular feedback and recognition of a job well done. 6. Plan for the future. “Ensure you have a succession plan by building and maintaining a talent pipeline to ensure your team can continue to grow if the unexpected happens,” he notes.

A new model for HR of the future

“As automation and work change, leading and engaging around the new ways of working will require different communication, new types of performance support and a new level of openness around alternative approaches to the work,” writes Tracey Malcolm in this Willis Towers Watson Wire blog post. She describes a new model for HR, one that balances architecting for the new ways in which we work and how work will be done. According to Malcolm, this new model should focus on three key areas or roles: work architect, coach and integrator. The work architect will deconstruct and reconstruct jobs based on automation, work and skills. The coach will foster, reinforce, develop and sustain leaders and managers. The integrator will be in charge of sourcing talent and risk. “The opportunity to lead the business into the future will fail if it’s tied to old roles and a model designed to solve for an out-of-date and legacy workplace. It’s time for HR to redirect its skills and capabilities toward truly transforming the organization,” she writes.

What the insurance industry will look like in 2050

“I think the industry will be absolutely, radically different. It’s not even going to look remotely similar to what it looks like today,” said Kelly MacDonald, senior vice president and team leader at Aon Risk Solutions, in an interview with Insurance Business Canada. MacDonald, who will be among the speakers at the inaugural Women in Insurance event to be held in May in Toronto, sees a push for gender balance and a more diverse workforce in the next three decades. “When you look at race, you realize that the insurance industry is mostly white people. So there’s not a lot of diversity there,” she said. “We need to make sure that insurance feels like an industry in which their input is valued and their expertise has a place.” When it comes to gender balance in insurance, MacDonald believes there’s a lot of room for improvement. “I’d say that brokerages have done a better job with gender diversity, and some of the smaller boutique firms have been good at supporting women,” she said. “There are some phenomenal women leading small boutique firms that are achieving great things. But, I still think there’s a lot of work to be done to level up female executives. We’re still lagging behind and not seeing that 50/50 number.”

How to manage virtual teams successfully

In this Inc. blog post, Melissa Lamson talks about the challenges of managing people in multiple locations and time zones, and how to rally and connect such dispersed teams. “As the leader, it’s your job to provide the context for the team. In addition to sharing the project specifications and requirements, you need to paint the big picture for them and bring the importance of their roles to the forefront,” she writes, making a case for a shared vision. Lamson also underscores the importance of communication. “Make a point of intentionally connecting with the people on your team three times as often as you do with the people you see spontaneously in the office,” she writes. “This effort will pay off for you in increased engagement and strong connections with each of your team members.” Lastly, she encourages leaders to build community and trust. “We all work better when we feel like we are part of something larger. Develop a strategy to pull each of the team members into the group and then cement that feeling of community by acknowledging the team’s efforts and celebrating its successes,” she notes.

 Five top workforce trends for 2018

“The HR department will need to innovate in 2018. With unemployment at a 17-year low, employers are struggling to find – and retain – top-tier talent with the right skills,” writes Eric Friedman in this Talent Management & HR blog post. He identifies five main trends that HR professionals need to focus on in 2018: 1. Performance management (implement a continuous, regular feedback system for employees); 2. Learning and development (provide a mix of classroom learning and online training); 3. Chatbots and AI (use these to handle simple employee requests from HR); 4. HR data (use it for planning and strategy); 5. Innovative benefits (become a trendsetter, not a follower when it comes to unique benefits).

What to expect from WEF 2018 at Davos

The 48th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) will be held Jan. 23-26 in Davos, Switzerland, and once again technology will be a main focus, according to ComputerWorldUK. “Last year, many of the talks were about artificial intelligence and automation, and the impact that these might have on society, employment, and productivity,” writes Tamlin Magee. “This year’s meeting of business and political leaders at Davos will include a continued focus on the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and how technology can be applied to social problems such as global warming.” The overall theme for the conference is titled “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.” Also of note, as we reported late last year, this year’s gathering will be co-chaired by an all-female board, a first in the 47-year history of the group. Tune in next week to our Talent & Organization blog for daily updates and highlights from the conference.

 Five HR priorities that will shape the workforce

Automation, artificial intelligence, diversity and the rise of the gig economy were the hot HR topics of 2017. In this Willis Towers Watson blog post, Sambhav Rakyan outlines five HR priorities for 2018: 1. Employees as HR ‘customers.’ Gaining a business perspective on customer needs and satisfaction can inspire new approaches for addressing employee wellbeing in the workplace. 2. Being tech savvy means HR as a strong advocate for digital transformation in the workplace. The true value and strength of HR is in engaging people and developing their potential. 3. Data needs to be interactive. Leverage data analytics to find links between people metrics and issues – such as gender parity, diversity and unfair practices – to business metrics. 4. Engaging digital talent requires offering environments where they can be agile and work on their own terms and be allowed the flexibility to continuously evolve. 5. Diversity and wellbeing. Offer personalized, flexible benefits that foster employees’ individual sense of health, not just physical, but also social, financial and mental.

Top three priorities for insurers in 2018

In the face of strong and emerging competition, insurers should focus on talent, technology and the brand experience in 2018, writes Nick Creatura, CEO of CNA Canada in this Canadian Underwriter blog post. “The industry faces the prospect of a significant percentage of its skilled workers retiring over the coming years,” he notes, and recommends that carriers should “harness and transfer knowledge and skills from experienced personnel to new hires through effective mentoring and learning and development programs.” When it comes to technology, Creatura advises insurers to take a more active role in collecting data and to become “their own disrupters.” He argues that customers are becoming more educated, demanding and impatient, making the brand experience another top priority for insurers. “The balance is shifting away from simply delivering a product to the experience of doing business with customers,” Creatura writes.