Technology is advancing faster than ever, and whether we like it or not it is effecting how we work, communicate and collaborate. Since 2015 the British Army have started to incorporate virtual reality into their recruitment process, Uber have developed autonomous cars (making the need for a driver redundant) and LinkedIn now have over 450 million users. These few examples highlight just some of the ways in which technology has a tangible impact on our working lives, but what does this mean for the future of business?
We attended ABP’s annual conference ‘The Future of Business Psychology 2030,’ which explored how advancing technology will affect organisations and their employees. Reflecting on this experience we came up with four main takeaways regarding the ongoing technological change that we are all experiencing. We feel that each of these points can be closely linked to the importance of being aware of our own and others strengths. By strengths we are referring to ‘the underlying qualities that energise us and we are great at, or have the potential to be great at’.
Technology cannot replace human interaction
In the average workplace, individuals who remember the world before the internet are interacting on a daily basis with ‘digital natives’ – those who have been brought up during the age of digital technology. This clash in experience has the potential to lead to differences in how individuals interact within the workplace. For the first time, younger employees have more superior knowledge of a key business tool than their older, more experienced colleagues. Furthermore, the digital natives (ourselves included!) may be inclined to rely more heavily on electronic communication, leaving good old fashioned face to face contact by the wayside. But let’s be honest, we can’t hide behind emoticons and memes forever. To ensure effective collaboration continues in the workplace we believe that it is essential for individuals to be aware of both their own and others strengths. This awareness will enable effective communication, sparking conversations that could not be had with a computer!
The workplace will always need human strengths
During ABP, Strengths Partnership conducted a piece of research based around the 24 work-related strengths captured by Strengthscope®. We asked people to choose which strengths they believe will be most important within business in 2030 to keep up with changes in technology. The three top strengths to be identified were Flexibility, Creativity and Strategic Mindedness. We believe that this research highlights the importance of human strengths moving towards 2030, as these energisers cannot be replicated by machines. Whilst machines may have the upper hand when it comes to processes such as accuracy, precision and consistency, humans will always be superior in relation to areas including Flexibility, Creativity and Strategic Mindedness. We would therefore argue that whilst artificial intelligence is likely to revolutionize our working lives, there will always be a place for people and their strengths.
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
As Benjamin Franklin once said the only certainties in this world are death and taxes. However, an important addition to this list should be change. Change is inevitable. FACT. This change is something we are going to have to accept, deal with and embrace. Preparing ourselves now by befriending technology will help us to excel in the future and positively impact our workplace, without being left behind. Educating and training employees to use technology optimally and comfortably will give organisations a competitive edge. Furthermore, these constant changes in technology mean that we need to prepare people for job roles which don’t yet exist. One way to achieve this is move more towards hiring for strengths, rather than competencies. Whilst competencies can become outdated (in 2016 no one highlights skills with a fax machine on their CV!) the things that energise us will remain constant. Therefore, if organisations begin to hire individuals based on their strengths now, they are likely to have a more energised and peak performing workforce in the face of this change. Thus, what we really should focus on is aligning our strengths with the benefits technology brings. This is the future and we must prepare to embrace it.
Technology is dominating our working and personal lives and it will continue to evolve as it always has. Whilst this is something out of our control, we all have unique strengths which will equip us to deal with the challenges that technology brings. Human strengths, and an awareness of them, will always be valuable assets to the workplace, even in an age governed by technology.
Annie Rau & Georgia Nield