For better or for worse, gone are the days when today’s workforce can leave the office (that is if they even still have a physical office) and be disconnected from their work. As discussed in previous week’s blogs, we are increasing “on” 24/7. We are connected by our smartphones, tablets, and laptops that we seemly carry around with us no matter where we go. It is a blessing and a curse in many ways.
As the use of technology in the workplace has increased, so has the need for employees to adapt new skills and technological skills. The Top Ten Online Colleges released an article outlining the ten most important work skills that will be necessary by 2020. One of the six drivers of the change mentioned in the article points to the emergence of technology and how it is enhancing and extending individual’s abilities. Furthermore, technology has given many employees the ability to work from anywhere. David Weinberger suggested the advancements have created networks that have given individuals the opportunity to contribute meaningfully and eliminated, or at least reduced the hierarchical thinking that ideas only can come from the top. Weinberger went on to mentioned that this new world also provides challenges as networks and the internet provides a plethora of information, some useful and some not. The open access of the internet offers employees the opportunity to research and pull ideas. One of the necessary skills needed by 2020 addressed this challenge by suggesting that sense-making will be a key skill. Having the ability to analysis the information and have a deep understanding of the vital portion of information will be key. This skill is especially difficult as the internet is filled with many claiming to be experts.
Harold Jarche (2013) offered the idea that management will not be necessary as networked workers emerge. Though I do not agree, the point that managers, particularly micro managers, can slow networks is viable. As I discuss last week in my blog, we must all adapt. Managers will need to change their approach as well and find ways to cultivate ideas offered by networked workers. Offering employees the flexibility to complete their jobs in ways other than being in the office 8-5 each day is appreciated and typically an employee expectation.
As technology continues to evolve and changes our work environment, employers will need to find ways to meet the needs of employees to maximize job satisfaction and retention. Telework or telecommuting has become increasing popular. Ann Bednarz offered research both in support of telework as well as information that indicates the negatives associated with the option as she discussed Yahoo’s decision in 2013 to ban telework with the company. Within the article written by Bednarz, the Telework Research Network argued that overall organizational productivity increases when employees are allowed to telework. On the other hand, CareerBuilder.com suggests that teleworkers are less productive and have numerous distractions to contend with. It seems that there are valid arguments on both sides for a host of the issues to consider; however, it seems as though the success of telework or telecommuting depends on both the employee and employer approach. The use of video conferencing, document sharing, social media, and a host of other technologies have allow telecommuting employees a variety of ways to stay networked.
Rob Stanton, a Major in the United States Army, as quoted by Weinberger (2011) said, “In today’s world, it’s not enough to be able to do the job of the person above you. You have to do 18,000 different jobs.” The jobs of today are endlessly changing. The ever-changing world of technology is the main contributor to the evolution positions in the workforce. Aaron Smith (2014) interviewed a numerous leaders from a variety of industries regarding AI, robotics, and technology and the effects on future jobs. Though most agree there will be more jobs created than eliminate, the consensus is that some types of jobs will no longer be needed or will be valued less due to technological advancements. It was mentioned numerous times that it is imperative for the workforce to be trained and educated in such a way that specific skills and knowledge are not the focus, but rather the ability to think critically and creatively as well as have the ability to adapt to evolving situations and environments.
As technology continues to make our lives better by offering of automation to tedious and repetitive tasks, we must not allow technology to get in the way of things that only humans can do. I believe that meaningful relationship building skills are being damaged by our society’s reliance on technology. The article I mentioned regarding the work skills needed in 2020 and the article by Smith, each highlighted the importance of social intelligence or the ability to connect in meaningful ways with others. This is one of the few areas that cannot be replaced by technology.