Automation Drives Need for Human Development in the Workplace

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EQ Jeanette Winters

A reader asked whether automation is really going to impact all our jobs.  She continued, "And if that is true, what do we do about it?"

I immediately knew who to call: Ed Hess, author of “Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization,” as well as “Humility is the New Smart,” and his latest “Hyper Learning:  How to Adapt to the Speed of Change.

Professor Hess has invested the past seven years into researching how technology will impact the world of work and how we, as individuals, learning organizations and human resource professionals, can prepare for the tsunami. The key to success is learning.

To answer our reader's first question on whether automation will impact our work:  the answer is an unequivocal yes. Oxford University's highly regarded study predicts that by the year 2030, some 47% of American jobs – including professional positions will be automated. 

In ten years, nearly 50% of Americans will find that their job has been eliminated through technology or routinized significantly. How human resource departments and the professionals that manage these teams can support their organizations and their employees were the topics of in-depth conversation with the author. 

"Emotions enable us to excel at what makes us as humans unique. The workforce has neither been trained to manage their emotions nor embrace change that is barreling down at us. And we must learn to manage our ego – for our good and that of those around us." He went on to remind us that teams are the source of individual and group learning and that together we can "make meaning" to "optimize collective intelligence."

READ: Starting from Scratch: Emotional Self-Awareness 

Ed has looked at the future of Human Resources (HR), and he advocates turning our attention to Human Development (HD). I asked: "How do we train people to compete with automation, and what topics should be our focus?" I was delighted to hear his belief we can train people on four specific skills to increase their competitive positioning:

  1. Emotional Excellence: This skill is often labeled as emotional intelligence or EQ. EQ enables us to grapple with self-awareness and regulation, as well as social-awareness and regulation. These skills require that we know ourselves and how we might react before we even emote outwardly. Additionally, we need to appreciate how to interact with others having an appreciation for their emotions without having to ask them. We know that higher EQ already has proven to contribute more than 60% of successful individual's performance (yes, more than technical education), contributes significantly to organizational success and results in an additional $30,000 income annually. (Bottom line:  EQ matters.)
  2. Thinking Excellence: An ability to analyze, synthesize, and create something new out of what is already known demonstrates both intellectual agility and a "gift" for innovation. Thinking critically, differently than what and how others think, is not within the capability of even the most sophisticated technology. This level of "higher order thinking" will be a crucial differentiator.  This career approach will allow us to engage in work technology has not mastered.
  3. Curiosity Excellence: Learning initiates (relatively) low levels of fear yet is an essential skill to remain competitive. We must be willing to experience, experiment, become uncomfortable, dive into new material, collaborate to appreciate how others approach topics to learn. Curiosity and courage are a powerful combination to improve and grow continuously. Lifelong learning is no longer a mantra; it will become a creed for those serious about maintaining a growth mindset.
  4. Self-Management Excellence: Being our best selves requires high EQ, a growth mindset, and a commitment to growth. Additionally, having a clearly defined set of values, beliefs, and purpose provides one with a path to living a fulfilled life, routinely giving, and engaging with those around us. Ed Hess defines this as "Inner Peace," creating and cultivating excellence.

I then posed a question on behalf of my Human Resource/Development colleagues:  can we teach these four skills, and if so, how?  Of course, the answer was a resounding YES! 

Professor Hess believes that classrooms (he prefers having students physically come together to learn to make meaning and stimulate each other’s' personal growth though fully understands pandemic imposed restrictions). Learning events (whether classroom-based or virtual) must be integrated and embedded in the daily workday. Those of us charged and chartered to drive learning must create an atmosphere of trust, mutual respect, and encouragement of maintaining an open mind.

READ: An HR Lesson for CEOs: The Need for Compassion and Empathy

Do executives agree with the Hess framework?  He has interviewed many global leaders for his books and advocates bringing forth science to educate them to enable behavioral change. He does not doubt that success for individuals and their company will be the result.   As HR leaders knew well,  we must look to senior leadership to lead the way in adopting new measures of success for both leadership and learning.  If you find his framework intriguing, do read his book.

HR should support organizational growth to shed these traditional measures of success for more lasting, competitive, and enriching skills. He does not doubt that success for individuals and their company will be the result. If you find his framework intriguing, do read his book.

Remember to learn something new each day!  And protect those around you by wearing a mask whenever in public.  Be safe; stay healthy.