4 Aces Hold the Key to the Future of Work

Career Progression was all so predictable in the past; when getting a good college education was followed by entering an organisation at graduate level and climbing the corporate ladder. Loyalty and hard work was rewarded with job security and building a pension over time would ensure a secure retirement. How times have changed!

We are witnessing huge change in organisations. Uncertainty has become the norm. CEO’s have never had access to as much information but find it increasingly hard to decipher a clear road map with any degree of confidence. It has never been more challenging to be a leader or an employee because the old rules for business and career success simply don’t work anymore. It’s like we have a 10,000 piece jigsaw strewn all over the floor without the cover to show us the big picture of our idealised future.

Businesses are under increased pressure from employees to provide meaningful career development and career progression. Delayering of levels means less promotion, while new activities require new skills often only supplied by new hires. The loyal employee is being marginalised by this new world of work and they need support. I also hear lots of Future of Work talks with titles like “The Rise of the Robots” warning our jobs are going to be outsourced. The talks are headline grabbing but they offer very little practical career advice for employees on how to bridge the gap to this new workplace.

 Will a robot take your job?

There is even a link on the BBC technology website to assess how susceptible your job is to being automated in the future. It is estimated about 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of automation, according to a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte. Surprising results show that roles such as accountants, finance, telesales roles show a 95% risk of being automated. Check out your own job title here.

One thing we can predict with certainty is that few roles will escape impact, including many in professional and managerial roles. This will have a knock on effect on career paths and the capabilities required to succeed. With so much change, there can be no fixed talent pipeline or definite career pathway. The traditional wisdom offered by senior mentors in organisations is less relevant than before because what they did simply won’t work in the new world of work. This is all new to senior business leaders too and they simply don’t have the answers.

If you are a young technology-savvy employee, you have potentially more information than your boss and more power than ever before. This is a time in your career to take more risks, explore new concepts and offer fresh thinking because you are not biased by the traditional “way we do things around here”. If your ideas get rejected at first, just keep coming back with a better business case each time. This is how you build career resilience.

So what is required to succeed? And what do I mean by the 4 Ace’s?

1.  Awareness of Self

We need to become more self-aware. We need to do more work on ourselves and I don’t mean more botox!.  In an era where we will compete with outsourcing of activities to robots, we increasingly need to know our strengths and our limitations. It is not simply a battle between four different generations in the workplace, it is becoming more “human” in our dealings with ourselves and others. We have all met highly strung go-getters who treat others harshly and themselves even worse. They have forgotten what it is like to show empathy to others and to accept gratitude.

Action tip – Take the time to complete some self-awareness exercises to truly understand what makes you come alive and then start to seek projects that play to your motivational skills. The Harmonics  Career Portal, for organisations wanting to offer employees  a self-directed career management solution, has a suite of self-assessment exercises.

2.  Awareness of our Environment

 We need to be keenly aware of the changing environment around us. This includes technology, globalisation and demographic changes. The era of average is over; once upon a time people used to work like robots on the factory floor in the industrialised age. We are now at the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution, but this time it is a technology revolution. We have the advantage over robots in being able to think and sense the change around us but only if we become more aware. Once we increase our awareness of the environmental changes we can adapt and reskill.

Action tip – It is your responsibility as an employee to find out more about the future world of work. Download on your mobile phone and follow channels like robots, machine learning, artificial intelligence, future of work to become more aware of the changing environment around you.

3. Adaptability

 We have deeply ingrained habits of being and doing but we must become more adaptable to all this change. Charles Duhigg in his excellent book The Power of Habit – “Why we do what we do and how to change” explains that for a habit to be changed we must believe change is possible. He describes the 3 step “cue – routine – reward” habit loop. Our cue could be getting stuck reacting to all of our emails each morning, our routine is turning on Microsoft office first thing and our reward is a full inbox of emails signalling people want me and I am important!

Neuroscience has shown us we get a dopamine reward when we look at our texts and emails, it is a signal we are wanted! We need to move from reacting to “we are wanted” to deciding “what we want” to change in a positive way that works for us. Luckily our brains have what is called neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to adapt and change) as a result of environmental changes around us.

Action tip – Adaptability is a reactive response to some change that has happened in the environment around us. Think of a time when you changed and why you changed? For me, it was a time when I was unemployed, in debt and needed to start Harmonics to survive and support my wife and family. I had a survival “why” but I also had a growth “why”. I wanted to grow a successful nationwide career consultancy firm that would help change lives. We only adapt and change when we have a strong enough “why”. This Simon Sinek video will help you uncover your “why”.

4. Anticipation

This is one of life’s great skills, the ability to anticipate the future and its consequences. We often follow the path of least resistance and ignore the warning signals in our environment. Great sports players have this tremendous skill to anticipate the next play in the game. Key to making a steal in basketball is the defenders anticipation of where the ball is headed before it gets there. They must anticipate this early enough beating the attacker to the ball and avoiding committing a foul. Superior anticipation skills are an important component of the elite Athletic Brain. In school we were educated to answer the questions the teacher gave us in the exam. The real world does not have set questions and timed answers, we must anticipate what is coming next and trust our instincts more.

Action tip – Anticipation is a proactive approach to change. We are seeking it out before it impacts us in a negative way. We simply need to practice the skill of anticipation and see ourselves as elite corporate athletes who set our own high standards. This article on the athlete brain offers tips on how elite athletes learn to anticipate, you can modify these tips for your career.

In summary, if we become more aware of ourselves and our environment and make a conscious decision to adapt and anticipate change, then we can take control of change and not fall victim to it. I will leave you with this quote to guide you on your way…

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not into fighting the old but on creating the new” – Socrates

John Fitzgerald is the Founder of the Harmonics Group. Harmonics specialises in helping organisations plan for change, manage change and support their people through change.

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