Take It From a Futurist: How Technology Will Change the Value of Humans in the Workforce For the Better

Cornerstone Editors

Editor's Note: We would never dream of trying to predict the future—that's why we left it up to the futurists. In this series, we interview experts in HR, recruiting and the future of work to get their take on what's next.

The onslaught of technology in the workplace is already overwhelming for employees, but innovation shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report, over 50 percent of work activities could soon be automated, causing workers across various industries to ask themselves: 'Will my company still need me?'

The answer, of course, is yes.

But the line between human workers and technology will only get blurrier, causing a dramatic shift in the way companies recruit and retain employees. That's according to futurist Joanna Bloor, founder of The Amplify Lab, which works with companies to reveal the highest potential of each individual employee.

It's crucial for corporate leaders to empower their employees as technology takes a more central role in the way we work, Bloor says. We sat down with Bloor to discuss how companies should rethink the way they approach engagement (from job post to tenured employee) in order to prepare for the technology-driven future of work.

Throw Away the Job Description (And Soon, the Resume)

If technology is set to automate nearly half of a job, hard skills will begin to matter less. Ironically, most of today's applicant tracking systems aren't designed to look beyond typical hard-skill terms found on a resume.

"All these machine learning tools are really doing is SEO-optimizing us based on our resume and that's disappointing," Bloor says. "We are so much more than our resume. A resume is our past—it's not our future."

And while it's unlikely that the resume will go out of style anytime soon, traditional job descriptions could use an upgrade, Bloor says. Companies should transform job descriptions into an explanation of problems that need to be solved, rather than present them like requirement docs and spec sheets. Then, candidates can detail how they would solve those problems in their applications.

"I need to understand how [applicants] think rather than what they do," Bloor says. "In the near future, with all of the technology at work, we will be valued for how we think, not for the stuff we can do."

HR professionals should keep their eye out for authenticity (which Bloor admits is a buzzword, albeit an important one) rather than the concrete skills they're used to seeking. Recruiting efforts should boil down to finding candidates who offer compelling solutions to the problems at hand.

Embrace Humanity as Technology Comes to the Forefront

Once employees are hired and onboarded, Bloor says it's imperative to foster an environment that embraces the soft skills employees bring to work—and encourage them to explore these skills. As technology becomes more ubiquitous in the workforce, HR professionals will have to work harder to nurture and inspire employees as they see parts of their jobs become automated.

So how do organizations handle the shift?

Bloor believes that corporate leaders should view technology as an addition to existing teams rather than as an employee replacement. Emerging technologies are an opportunity for employees to stop wasting time on mundane tasks and discover their individual strengths—and it's up to company leaders to drive this initiative.

Once organizations can get their employees to see technology as an opportunity to grow rather than a threat, the next step is to help them understand their unique value proposition. Then, Bloor says, make sure there's alignment between an individual's strengths and the contributions he or she makes to the company.

To do this, HR teams and corporate leaders should optimize the human side of an organization above all else (yes, even above emerging technology).

"And you can't do that unless you really understand who each individual person is," Bloor adds. In fact, she praises millennials for being ahead of the curve in this regard, even if they're often criticized for it: "I am a super-fan of the millennial generation. They have it right—we are all unique, special snowflakes."

Photo: Unsplash

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