Skills of the future in the present
Changes in production and management processes, linked to new technologies, are accelerating the adoption of skills and professional profiles of tomorrow.January-March | 2018
The Jetsons cartoon, one of the great successes of the Hanna-Barbera studio in the 1960s, was quite accurate in some of its futuristic projections. Among them, for example, the flying cars’ modules, whose prototypes are already a reality and the execution of tasks by robots – in this case, the machine is Rose, the family house cleaner.
However, the animation’s scriptwriters made a huge mistake in predicting the relationship of George Jetson with his boss, the temperamental Mr. Spacely. Authoritarian, the boss keeps threatening to fire the family man but, from time to time, he rewards him with a promotion that leads him to higher levels in the organization – everything so very archaic. If we take into account the current movements in labor relations, we can say that this aspect of the Jetsons cartoon looks more like the Flintstones.
A series of changes regarding production and management processes in the corporate environment and the speed with which companies incorporate new technologies have also brought up changes in the skills required from professionals and how their careers develop.
In this new model, only organizations and individuals duly prepared to “ride the waves” of the transformation survive, or, better than that, grow in this new scenario of market competition.
The technological advances play a fundamental role in these tide movements. With them, certain tasks are automated, being carried out by robotic devices. Roles and positions, thus, need to be reinvented according to the demand for new skills.
The rescue of the human
An article published in the 21st edition of “Deloitte Insights”, authored by John Hagel, Jeff Schwartz and Josh Bersin, draws attention to this issue. The text emphasizes that technology has forced organizations to redesign the majority of the jobs, in order to leverage unique human skills: empathy, emotional and social intelligence, the ability to oversee the context of different situations and quickly identify the problems faced by businesses.
Let us take an example, mentioned by Roberta Yoshida, Deloitte’s partner who leads the Human Capital Management Consulting practice. There is a need to reinvent the roles and assignments of professionals who were responsible for entering information in a database. The typing of inputs has been automated; but the analysis and approval of these data, as well as the improvement of processes, became the human eye’s responsibility.
The skills required for this profile transition involve human resources leaders and managers. One of the main points to which they must be aware of is the importance of these professionals’ continuous qualification, which involves constant training and an always-updated mapping of desired skills.
In the same way, the professional needs to have this concern in relation to the development of their own career, besides the understanding that is up to them to seek opportunities to boost the knowledge needed to perform their new functions. “Before, the useful life of acquired learning reached 15 years” says Roberta Yoshida. “Today, this term is restricted to 3 or 4 years.”
The “Deloitte Insights” article says: “Instead of relying on paternalistic employers to shape the nature and progression of their careers, workers will need to take the initiative to shape their own customized careers. And, as the work progresses, individuals must cultivate the ‘riding the waves’ mindset, always alert to emerging and high value skills to catch the wave at an initial stage and capture the most value of their expertise, filtering out the opportunities according to their own personal passions.”
These changes require the worker to be able to move through different areas of the organization. Thus, more stationary profiles such as the finance or human resources professional are giving rise to a broader description of the qualification: the corporations need increasingly hybrid profiles, who move through the various organizational departments and understand the business in a more holistic way.
Moreover, these new parameters influence the very concept of career development. “It starts to be thought of in terms of a portfolio of experiences, opening the range of development and professional growth to horizontal directions”, says Roberta Yoshida, from Deloitte.
The professional evolution path is no longer necessarily upright. It does not automatically goes through an ascent to higher hierarchical levels of the company. Hierarchy, by the way, is a concept that loses strength., Roberta Yoshida, Deloitte's partner who leads the Human Capital Management Consulting practice.
This is where the Jetsons’ writers have failed. The model of promotions tied to positions’ nomenclatures that, in turn, entails higher salaries – so popular at the time that the Hanna-Barbera animation was created – succumbs to the trends of a future that, in reality, is already drawn at the present of companies more in tune with the social and market changes.
The hybrid professional’s profile is also applied to new patterns of organization of labor itself. The model of hiring per project has been much more frequent – forming teams to take care of a specific task. Thus, the higher the amplitude of a professional’s skills, the easily he can fit in different jobs. By the way, in these groups, put together with a specific purpose, the relationships between the members also tend to be much more horizontal, eliminating the figure of an authoritarian boss.
The “Deloitte Insights” article also reinforces the new types of relationships between employers and workers. The standard where the majority of employees performed full time, with defined salaries and benefits, is replaced by an increase of alternative work arrangements, such as hiring professionals for specific projects.
When mapping skills, companies will focus more on aspects such as capacity of social interaction, as the need to work in groups and interactions among different areas gain space in the corporate daily routine. “Empathy and relationship skills become differentiators”, analyzes Roberta Yoshida. In the same way, creativity and ethical thinking are characteristics in demand, much due to activities and decision-making not only involving technical criteria, but also humanitarian ones, and taking into account concepts such as sustainability and diversity.
Thus, according to the “Deloitte Insights” article, companies need to develop new approaches to leadership and management, which can help build powerful learning cultures and motivate workers to go beyond their comfort zone.
The leaders must leave behind the more authoritarian style, much connected to environments shaped by well-defined tasks and routine goals. The new trend is collaborative leadership, capable of extracting the best from the teams, with rewards that go through the purpose and by the impact of the work carried out and the opportunity for growth and development.
The multinational company Johnson & Johnson offers us examples of policies that contemplate the new labor and professional development concepts. All of the company’s human resources strategies are born from four principles, called “leadership imperatives”. “They permeate the entire organization,” says Guilherme Rhinow, Johnson & Johnson’s Human Resources director for Brazil. They are closely connected to the trends identified by the consultants.
The first of these principles is to connect – to seek new ways to advance in innovation and growth, linking people, ideas and opportunities to identify unmet needs. To it, it follows to shape – to transform insights into products and solutions that add value to customers; to lead – to create an environment conducive to do the best work possible, mobilizing and inspiring the teams; and to perform – to act with speed and agility.
The process of performance evaluation of the company’s employees, in turn, follows a protocol named “Five Conversations”. Throughout the year, the leaders should hold, at least, five meetings with members of their teams to guide, monitor and review their development paths. “Five is a minimum,” says Rhinow. “The idea is for these conversations to effectively occur in the everyday life with an increasing frequency.”
During these meetings, the employees discuss their goals and work expectations with leaders, and, on the other hand, learn with clarity about what is expected from them. In this scenario of transparent information flow, professionals can target paths in different directions, aiming at opportunities in different areas, business segments of the group – consumer goods, medical or pharmaceutical industry – or even in other countries. In parallel, the multinational offers internal courses and training materials; when necessary, it also uses external assistance in this sense.
Performance evaluations also meet the criteria that go beyond the simple direct perception of the professionals’ leaders. “The opinions of relevant customers in the relationships established by the employee are also considered in the analysis,” says Rhinow.
In terms of the physical work environment, Johnson & Johnson adopts working space models that highlight flexibility. “There are no fixed workstations”, says the HR director. “People occupy the spaces that are more appropriate for the projects or tasks that they have to carry out.”
The employees’ entrance and exit schedules are also not strict. The corporation also breaks, culturally, the rigidness of hierarchy by not “assigning” presidents and vice presidents’ offices – they do not have exclusivity over them. “When they are out, on business trips, for example, these rooms can be used by other professionals”, notes Rhinow.
A more integrated constitution in performing tasks is in accordance with the trend of an environment in which the sense of collaboration, rather than of competition, predominates among individuals. “Everyone grows together”, says Daniela Diniz, Content and Events director of the global research and training company Great Place to Work. The collaborative economy practices, by the way, also give the tone among organizations that compete in the market and are establishing partnerships along the lines of “win-win”, joining forces and expertise for their business to prosper together.
The work of the future is guided by the diversity and inclusion. Social pressures establish the need for companies to contemplate issues related to ethnicity, gender and age ranges. Factors such as the aging of the population and greater longevity of professional activity of individuals require preparation from corporations to allocate this productive force in their framework, noting that this allocation calls for the establishment of policies that facilitate the interaction between different generations.
At Johnson & Johnson, initiatives such as “Women without Barriers”, a platform created to allow the professionals to raise points of interest to the female universe at work, and the Open and Out project, which proposes to give voice to the needs of the LGBT public, meet the new social perspectives. “At the company’s leadership levels, 50% of the positions are occupied by women” says Rhinow.
In the face of so many corporate transformations, it is possible to say that the work of the future is already present. In this context, it can be also argued that, if they were to release an updated version of the Jetsons, the Hanna-Barbera studio would have to profoundly review Mr. Spaceley’s profile and the outlines of his relationship with George Jetson.