Career Advice, Featured

The Future of Work Has Arrived — Here’s How to Beat the Competition

Young businessman looking at digital tablet in spaceship like corridor

Between artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, the Internet of Things and more, many of today’s most cutting-edge technological advances are iterating at a dizzying pace. Add to that fears of automation and an upcoming recession, and employees are facing serious pressure to stay relevant in an ever-changing work environment. But what exactly is on the horizon, and how can you prepare for it now?

To find out, we turned to the winners of Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work in 2019, some of the most innovative organizations out there today. Here’s what they said employees need to know — master these skills now, and you’re guaranteed to stand out above the rest.

Sharpen Your Data Skills

At this point, “data” has become a ubiquitous buzzword in the business world — but for good reason. Technological advances over the past couple of decades have provided companies with an unprecedented level of information, and even the most traditional companies are embracing it in order to make more strategic decisions.

“I’m seeing a few key trends continue and emerge as we look ahead to the new year, including the importance of being data-led. As a team, we’re leveraging our data to field new ideas and innovation and inform decisions,” said Rick Jensen, Senior Vice President, People & Places at Intuit.

“Developing digital skills is more important than ever,” agreed Kevin Peesker, Microsoft Canada President. “I am not speaking about coders or programmers — the shift is every role being impacted by digital, and possessing an awareness of technical and data-infused possibility will be fundamental to making an impact.”

Data proficiency means more than just glancing at numbers and drawing a conclusion, though. Matin Movassate, CEO of data analytics firm Heap, points out that today’s employees need to be able to determine whether or not their data is reliable.

“This grand, AI-driven future can’t happen without a complete, trustworthy dataset,” Movassate said. “So if prospective data engineers, data analysts, data scientists and business intelligence leaders can maintain a maniacal focus on the completeness and quality of their data, they’ll be well-prepared for anything the future has in store.”

Commit to Continuous Learning

Data interpretation/analysis is certainly one skill that will be essential to the future, but with how rapidly technology is evolving, today’s workers need to stay abreast of as many cutting-edge areas as possible. After all, any one of them could completely rewrite the rules of work.

“If you think about certain roles today — cognitive data scientist, machine learning engineer — many of those roles didn’t exist 10 years ago and not only did they not exist, we hadn’t even imagined what they could be. We believe it will be the same in 10 years from now,” Peesker said.

A few trends to stay on top of in particular include “SaaS, cloud computing, mobile, user experience, AI and machine learning,” shared Aron Ain, CEO of HR technology company Kronos Incorporated.

“New ways of working will include more design thinking and working in an agile environment. The rapid development and creative application of new technologies will be applied across the business spectrum, from blockchain to supply chain,” added Manny Maceda, Worldwide Managing Partner at Bain & Company. “Job seekers can prepare by committing to ongoing, self-directed learning.”

Not sure where to start? Subscribing to publications that delve into these topics is always a good idea — a quick Google search should yield plenty of results — as is exploring relevant courses on online platforms like Coursera, edX and Udacity.

Demonstrate Adaptability

With all of the rapid innovation occurring today, it’s critical that workers are able to keep up the pace when the inevitable changes occur.

“Technology is changing at a breathtaking pace, both with the products we develop and offer, as well as the products we use to run our business. We remain deeply focused on embracing new technology, innovating in all areas, breaking what is not broken to make it better, [learning] from our competitors as a means to improve and on and on,” Ain said. “We’re not only going to be part of the future of work — we’re focused on helping to shape it.”

This breakneck speed isn’t just limited to technology companies, though. Other industries, like aviation, have adopted a nimble mindset as well.

“To be successful in [the aviation] industry, one must be agile and able to manage large volumes of change,” explained Greg Muccio, Director of People at Southwest Airlines. “There are many variables that are outside of our control that impact our operations, so there is more pressure to adapt. Change is constant in the airline industry.”

Put Customers First

It might seem counterintuitive, but as technology continues to revolutionize the way we work, a human-centered approach becomes increasingly important. That’s why Intuit puts such an emphasis on what they call “customer obsession.”

“Intuit was customer-obsessed before it was popular, but we’re continuing to hire for, and teach, capabilities that fall in love with the customer problem — not the solution. We want and need all of our employees to really fall in love with the problem in order to best solve it,” Jensen shared. “Diversity of thought, background and craft will help us move the needle on solving problems for our customers quickly.”

Human connection is especially crucial in industries like healthcare, where positive patient-provider relationships are key to favorable outcomes.

“At the end of the day, healthcare candidates must be able to stay connected to the human side of research and patient care. Approaching patients with care and compassion are traits that technology can never replace,” said Dana Bottenfield, VP of Human Resources at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Build Strong Relationships With Colleagues

A people-centric approach isn’t just for those outside of your organization, however.

“Successful job seekers need to have a balance of strong subject matter expertise with a focus on getting results through teamwork,” Bottenfield explained.

“Job seekers need to be comfortable working collaboratively with a broader range of people — data scientists, software developers and design thinkers — to deliver results,” Maceda elaborated. “The new norm is being able to work in new ways and with a more diverse set of talent.”

And as companies grow larger and more complex, maintaining this connection — no matter your location — is imperative.

“As companies continue to move to platforms with more interdependencies across the entire organization, top talent needs the ability to work seamlessly across the organization,” Jensen added.

The key to doing that? Trust, Ain said.

“Technologies like our own are empowering employees to work their way, from anytime, anywhere. Trust is a two-way street, one that’s earned through transparency, reliability, communication and performance. This world of flexibility can be wonderful — and trust is key to making it work.”

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