Thursday, 18 June 2015

#EconTalent Developing Digital Savvy

So after covering the way the world of work is changing we moved on to a final couple of sessions looking more specifically at the employment and skills challenges of the ‘new machine age’, building on Charlie Mayfield’s points in the morning morning.

But first, another summary of the change.  We’re moving into the third age of computing: tabulating, programming and now cognitive (eg IBM Watson.)  80% of people are going to be connected using digital devices by 2030.  And billions of these devices will be connected together.

We need to take advantage of these technologies - as Sir Clive Woodward has noted, talent is not enough - whoever wins in IT tends to win.

Ram Sundarajan from HCL Technologies suggested the main impact of these changes is about speed, and in particular the use of data to help us make decisions differently.

Kim Wylie from Google for Work suggested the number one goals for using them is improved efficiency.

Personally, I think the big need is Collaboration - the network performance piece of CEB’s enterprise contribution which is why I think the role of enterprise social networks is so key (link to venn diagram post)

I thought Kim got closer to the mark later on when she started talking about Google’s culture and needing to ensure all their employees have a sufficient level of Googliness.

“Technology enables transparency.  Our founders participate in hangouts every week  and there’s no question which is out of bounds.  Everyone shares their OKRs and employee feedback surveys - through technology - using our Google+ social networks.  Everyone knows who are our good managers, the people meeting goals.  Also voice - everyone can ask questions, challenge, provide feedback as a gift.”

Some of these changes are about culture, some of them about technology.  But they all involve some of both, i.e. OD, culture and technology all merge together.

But as Charlie Mayfield was suggesting, digital technology is also going to have a profound impact on jobs.  40-50% of jobs are threatened to disappear.  And Adrian Wooldridge from the Economist also suggested that as machines get smarter, more of the jobs open to people will be stupider than the machines, rather than smarter than the machines as has been the case in the past.

Despite this, panelists were optimistic about the new jobs appearing in the future.

Obed Louissaint from IBM Watson suggested that the key need is to develop the digital skills for the future.  These aren't all about technology and people don’t need to learn to code, it’s understanding the context which is key.

But it’s also about mindset eg openness, agility and focusing on experimentation.  And also understanding that traditional approaches around business cases, ROI etc won’t enable companies to evolve.

We need to look for these new skills in our workforce, for example what are candidates’ digital footprints - have they been blogging and tweeting?, what is their social eminence? (like Glassdoor, but for the employees.)

It’s about understanding the skills needed for the future and giving people the tools.  But it's their obligation and responsibility to keep themselves fit, i.e. to learn the digital skills they need.

HR needs to invest in our digital skills too, and I thought the conference made a strong contribution to the development of all conference attendees.

Also see:

And if you do still want to learn to code: Code in a day

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