I always tell my participants this story when I talk about innovation and relevance in today’s job market and tomorrow’s survival. Let me also share this story with you.
Many years ago, very early in my career, I worked in a professional services firm. Then not everybody had a personal computer, computers were shared and a lot of work was done manually. You had to do all of your work in long form, especially the auditors, who had computations and accounting tables to develop each year for various clients.
In order to ensure that the clients got back professional, well presented output, the firm had what was called a Production Unit, where all accounts and reports were reproduced (typed) and presented professionally. This was a large room with 10-15 people, whose sole job was to churn out typed reports and catalogue them in diskettes. Production was a smooth operation, run by middle aged men with excellent typing skills. They also loved their jobs and were highly valued by the organization because without them, the clients’ output would not reach them and the firm would not have an income.
While these valued staff continued to type, the world started to evolve. Microsoft and Apple, revolutionized the computer industry, with the advent of personal computers. In view of this, one day, the organization decided that, it was no longer efficient for the whole firm to depend on 15 people to churn out reports as it had grown and needed to become more agile. The policy was changed to address this need with the conclusion that everybody must get a laptop. This decision was a big change for everybody – rank and file and the production staff.
Consequentially, these very important people became virtually irrelevant. The organization started by trying to fit those who had other skills that could be moved elsewhere based on their skills set. As we all know, most good organizations do not want to lay people off. They try to keep them, if they can be useful elsewhere. So, those that could be saved were saved. The unit shrank to about 3 people and those three people were eventually phased out and that era died.
The true story I have just described above, is what will happen to many of us if we do not read the signs and start to ensure that we address them. As we go into 2019 the key question to ask ourselves is, will my career continue to live and breathe or will it die and become extinct?
Alan Townsend of CNN in his article, Dying careers and thriving careers: The jobs of tomorrow said, “the key to navigating this evolving jobs market is to follow the premise of Darwin’s own theory of evolution and be as versatile and adaptable as possible while career paths are naturally selected to align with the changing surroundings.
By monitoring and understanding the major trends that are affecting our global economy, our businesses and our lives, savvy industry watchers are able to shape their skill set and career in line with the key influences driving long-term
According to Jonathan Wu, “simply looking around at how different our world is today, compared to just 10 years ago, illustrates the transformative power of human minds at work. Take the smartphone – in many ways the vital connector of our modern society – it didn’t exist a decade ago. The fact that these prospects of instant connectivity and unceasing engagement with every corner of the world have developed to the extent they have over just a single decade is incredible. Automation is another increasingly prevalent trend – one that I think should consume a significantly greater portion of our policymakers’ attention than it currently does. It’s hard to definitively predict how the world is going to change moving forward. That said, in the industrialized world, I think we can safely bet on the broader trend – that the effects of innovation will become more prevalent in our daily routines, such as in the increasing transition toward computerized automation for routine tasks – be that driving, cleaning, manufacturing, or cooking opportunities.”
Everything that Jonathan said above, is also prevalent in Africa. The smartphone rules our lives now, with many of us having 2-3 phones to ensure we are constantly connected. Almost all activities for information, communication, entertainment, financial transactions are done via the internet. We now use apps to transact most of our businesses – Uber, Taxify etc.
Going into 2019, we all must ensure that we review our current positions and ensure that we do not become extinct. Some jobs already on the line in the next few years – cashiers, tellers, factory workers, postal workers, bank tellers, librarians, traditional printers, receptionists
Whole industries are not left out with the advent of artificial intelligence, massive changes with jobs becoming extinct are on the horizon. George Krasadakis, in his Paper, Artificial Intelligence (AI): the impact on employment and the workforce. Where he talks about how AI replacing jobs. Which roles and industries will be most impacted? How can societies get prepared? He discussed, the following industries:
Legal professions, will be significantly impacted: typical support services in a legal context, have to do with document handling–classification, discovery, summarization, comparison, knowledge extraction and management — tasks where AI agents can do a great job already.
Financial services, Insurance and any other sector requiring significant amount of data processing and content handling will also benefit from AI. And of course states, governance and social mechanisms.
Transportation is already in a transformation mode — fully autonomous cars will be soon a reality — and they will be safer, more efficient and more effective. Professional drivers (taxi, trucks and more) will see the demand for their skill set dropping rapidly.
Electronic commerce will also undergo significant transformation: fulfillment centers will be fully automated, with robots navigating the space to collect products and execute customer orders; to be then sent or even delivered to customers, also automatically, with autonomous drones and/or cars. The importance of salespersons and networks of physical stores will shrink; we are close to scenarios where consumer AI agents negotiate with Retailer AI agents — based on different objectives, tactics and strategies.
I STRONGLY URGE you to not be complacent as we go into 2019. Start to think about your relevance and how irrespective of whatever changes the world goes through, you will always be relevant, you cannot afford to leave your future and well-being to chance, please be deliberate about your future.