Updated: Jan 28
In the past two decades, the disruption faced in technology and science, and their consequent impact on everyday life is profound. From our lifestyle to education, the world we perceive has been overrun by drastic yet relevant changes.
The skyrocketing technological advancement is the major reason behind these changes. Industry 4.0 is powered by smart technologies, and it is conquering every industry from healthcare to finance. The revolutionary advancements in mobile technologies, AI, and quantum computing is bringing the world to a fork road, where the path ahead is filled with uncertainties as the development and dynamicity of the future still remains to be seen. And this is only the beginning.
In a recent study conducted by McKinsey, it was found that the average lifespan of companies listed in Standard & Poor's 500 was 61 years in 1958. However, today it has decreased to less than 18 years. McKinsey believes that by 2027 75% of the companies currently quoted on the S&P 500 will have disappeared.
Unlike ever in the past, companies face major challenges in staying relevant and in demand. Nokia, a company that rose to the pinnacle of success, fell down its pedestal when it showed reluctance to follow the Android-iOS revolution. The woes of Yahoo, Blackberry, or Kodak are other examples of companies losing their footing in the industry after dominating it for years as they refused to adapt and innovate to the needs of the times.
Change has proven to be the only constant and your ability to adapt determines your survival, for companies as well as individuals. A continuum of innovation and reinvention is key to our professional existence. Companies and individuals that have thrived for decades have mastered this art successfully. We have examples of IBM and Samsung to name a few.
This phenomenon has serious implications for the qualities required by the workforce. Automation and digital transformation will replace most of the present-day jobs. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly accelerated this process.
The skills needed for the future have radically evolved. The most important skills on-demand as the “essential” skills of the future shall be “soft” skills, qualities unique to us as humans. It’s not AI or ML, but creation and innovation that is the need of the hour and it's necessary to build this quality in the workforce as a culture. Moreover, the concept of ‘jobs for life’ and ‘skills for life’ shall soon vanish from existence.
Here are some tips to stay relevant in the future workplace. It's important to find time outside work to maintain your relevance:
Learn Constantly & Continuously: Learnability is one of the most important skills for the future. Continuous learning shall be the key to unlock a successful career in the VUCA world.
There is already an upward trend visible in e-learning. However, offline learning and community interactions are equally important for growth. Participating in live conferences and workshops shall help you get an insight into the future and lead you in the right direction.
Interactions with industry leaders and change-makers shall give exposure to industry trends and increase your quality as an individual while providing the inspiration to move forward.
Collaboration: Collaboration is key to innovation. Collaborations in the future are not just within the team or internally within an organization, but they shall be external, outside teams along with other organisations, individuals, and communities. Most big companies have started collaborating and co-creating with startups and other small and large organisations to develop innovative solutions. Always make sure to keep an open mind, collaborate, and remember that two is better than one.
Knowledge Sharing and Mentoring: This is a highly effective way to stay relevant at the workplace. Sharing knowledge or mentoring others inside and outside the organisation shall challenge you to learn and grow rapidly. This will also have a tremendous impact on your leadership skills, social skills, communication skills, and your overall personality.
Attending Hackathons and Challenges: Being challenged is the best way to grow. You shall be prompted to explore new disciplines, combine them to solve the challenge ahead, understand the ‘why’s of learning and come up with creative solutions to finish the riddle put forth. For example, to solve the problem of corrosion in the automobile industry, learning augmented reality and data science shall help you solve the problem while upskilling you to the next level.
Community Participation & Volunteering: Being in communities and being among similar interest groups shall also help you stay relevant. Most companies encourage this behaviour and it's used as a criterion for assessing an individual as well. It could be Google’s GDG, Microsoft’s MUG, Defcon in Cyber Security, PMI in Project Management, or even communities in Music or Art or even an NGO working with underprivileged children; as long as they are communities that matter to you. This will give you more visibility and exposure in the real-world. Volunteering in these organisations will enhance many of your interpersonal skills, empathy and so on.
Adaptability: It's highly important for people to adapt to challenging situations and thrive in them. Companies are looking for individuals who solve problems as all instruction driven jobs are taken over by AI. Your resilience and creativity shall be tested and your ability to adapt shall showcase your value in the organization and your quality as a leader.
Personal Branding and Influence: Personal branding is a powerful tool for professional success. Attention is one of the most scarce of resources today. So, the key is to gain the right attention and stand out from the dissonance and noise. When the right people recognise your value, you will most likely be remembered and you shall be sought out with opportunities. Socialising, presentations, knowledge sharing, and visibility in forums, community activities and contributions in social and other media shall help you build this.
Be the CEO of What You’re Doing: Voluntarily taking ownership and risks would be high on-demand in workplaces of the future. Most innovation-driven companies are adapting to flat organisation structures. Moreover, uncertainties and unpredictability are parts and parcels of innovation-driven organisations. Being ‘the CEO of what you’re doing’ will set you apart from the crowd and gain you value within the organization. Your challenge-taking skills and resilience will impact your journey. Innovation is all about successfully failing a hundred times. Be brave to fail, learn, and lead.
Build a Strong Social Network: ‘We are an average of five people around us.’ Hence, it’s important to be connected to people who challenge you, inspire you, and bring out the best in you. Eventually, this shall help connect you to opportunities. Being in communities with complementary skills will also help you grow at a blitzscaling pace.
Be a Storyteller: Days of PPTs are gone. The future is for the storytellers. Mastering this art, and applying it effectively in front of your CEO, leaders, customers and communities, will help you influence them, create an impact and lead you to success.
Workplaces of the future are completely different and uncontrollable. But you can control who you are and who you want to become. Welcome to the VUCA world!