Last week I attended the NEEOPA ‘Future of Work’ Masterclass, led by Katrina North from EY and Carmel Court at EML. The session addressed critical questions we are seeing many of our clients being challenged by:
“What leadership skills do we expect our leaders will need to deal with the anticipated ‘future of work’ challenges?
What populations do we need to think of in the future?
What challenges will face our existing employees if they are displaced due to automation and increased contingent working?
Different: It won’t look, feel or operate like workplaces today
Everywhere: It will include offshore, contingent (project based) and flexible or home based workers
Everything: We won’t simply rely on humans, Artificial Intelligence (AI), digital capability and smart machines will augment our daily work
Now: Change is already underway, and there is urgency around supporting this transition, for leaders, and for the workforces they lead.
This transition will not be easy for all, and job security will be an issue for many people. Without due focus and planning, there is the potential to leave many people behind. Research from Oxford University, has identified a number of occupations which will be fully automated in the not too distant future. All of these jobs are based on a predictable pattern of repetitive activities which machine learning algorithms and AI can perform with greater speed, accuracy and at a lower cost.
The World Economic Forum recently defined the top 10 skills needed to navigate this monumental shift in the economy and explored how humans will create value in an increasingly automated world. The emphasis is strongly on ‘the human touch’, what has been traditionally deemed ‘soft’ skills. High level thinking and interpersonal skills are what’s required.
Leaders not only need to role model the behaviours needed for the future workforce, they need to have the capacity to develop and drive strategic organisational change while bringing people with them. Inclusive leadership will be critical. The ability to bring people together, think long term and negotiate solutions to complex and important future questions will define not only the future of our businesses, our economy, but also our planet.
Some of the key skills required by leaders of the future include:
Digital literacy – Leaders don’t need to be programmers or IT specialists but do need to know what questions to ask, and of whom. There’s a risk that important business and operational strategy will be driven by the Chief Information Officer and IT department, rather than the entire leadership team if leaders don’t have digital literacy.
Humility – Leaders won’t know everything. They will need to have the capacity to access and synthesise diverse perspectives rather than depending on ‘gut instinct’ based on their lived experience of the way the world was in the environment they grew up in. Global mindset, and the capacity to engage with and address the needs of diverse communities will be business critical.
Inclusion – Leaders will need to ensure their managers have the capabilities required to fully access and leverage the talents of everyone in a diverse and distributed workforce. It’s not enough to have a strategic or intellectual understanding of diversity at the top of the organisations. Managers and leaders need to practice inclusion in their behaviour: the capacity to understand diverse perspectives, maximise participation in meetings and information sharing in global and virtual teams, and deliver results.
Resilience – Change can be hard. Resilience is required to cope with constant change and ambiguity. Keeping staff motivated and engaged through complex change and work reallocation is rarely easy. Strong communication skills will be required from leaders to guide a workforce through change.
It is essential to prepare and support our current and next generation of leaders. A growth mindset and lifelong learning will ensure we can support the inclusive leadership skills required to succeed. The good news is, this is possible! We have a responsibility to not only ‘tell’ leaders the behaviours and capabilities they need, we need to support their development. Leadership coaching, training and advisory services can make a difference to daily team performance. As a recent participant on our Inclusive Leadership program said in their program feedback:
Applying my new learning on inclusive leadership – It worked! There was greater team participation and contribution. People were noticeably more open and more willing to share. I saw improved morale and greater diversity of thinking within the team.
‘Resilience through Change’ is also available in the suite of training programs from Beasley Intercultural. This course can empower your workforce to navigate the change process and be more resilient – for greater wellbeing and productivity.
Tamerlaine Beasley is an expert who enables effective collaboration and communication in diverse and global workplaces. She is a member of the Board of the Australia-ASEAN Council for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and founder and Managing Director of Beasley Intercultural, Australia’s premier cross-cultural training and consultancy company. Tamerlaine’s keynote presentations, advisory services and training programs are described by clients as ‘transformational’ and ‘game changing’. Examples of her work include: coaching and advising business leaders in Australia and Asia; working with global teams to optimise performance; developing a framework for training and capability building through international partnerships for APEC; building local staff capacity at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; leading the development of diversity and inclusion programs for the Australian Public Service Commission and the Department of Defence.