How to build the workforce of the future

Written by
RMI Team (F)

The workforce of the future is upon us. With technology like artificial intelligence (AI) already transforming the way we work offering untapped potential to work smarter, organisations who maximise these opportunities will carve out a stronger competitive advantage, while others will get left behind.

However, embracing the opportunities posed by technology such as AI when it comes to building the workforce of the future must be done strategically. The need to reskill workers to work with cutting-edge technologies is clear, but so is hiring the right-fit talent in the first place to work alongside the technology of the future.

The 21st century digital business must pivot when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, taking a flexible and collaborative approach that goes beyond the traditional way of doing things. The businesses which are riding the waves of disruption are doing away with traditional HR processes and tools such as job descriptions and instead of creating value by preparing their people to think differently to survive the digital future.

Capture value in the “missing middle” between humans and machines

 In Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI, Accenture dives in-depth into how leading businesses are using intelligent technology to fast track their success, fundamentally and holistically transforming their business and hiring processes along the way. Rather than taking a mindset of replacing humans with technology, these businesses are putting their people at the heart of their growth, finding ways to work with intelligent technology to do things better. They find that to unlock the full potential of the “missing middle” – the space where people and AI work together – it is critical to empower people with more advanced skills as well as to find the right people in the first place who have the right mindset and skills to work proactively with technology.

 A fresh approach to talent acquisition and retention strategies

 Just as digital technologies demand new skill acquisition, people are increasingly seeking new ways of working, and the “missing middle” offers opportunities to make meaningful progress that benefit all sorts of workers and organisations alike.

Organisations must proactively create a culture that attracts the right people, inspires them to do their best, fosters innovation and equips them with the tools and training to do great work. With an increasingly competitive recruitment environment, attracting and retaining the best talent is a considered process. Your competitive edge isn’t just about technology: for a great customer experience, look to employee experience as you harness the potential of passionate employees engaged with your vision, and nurtured to use technology to drive innovation and growth.

But there are still barriers to unlocking human and machine value

 Many technology projects fail, and the reason is all too often people bought about by inadequate leadership to under-investment in re-skilling, to wrong hiring decisions. Like any change initiative, clear communication, the right people strategy and stakeholder engagement can make or break this sort of organisational transformation.

So what are the key steps to take when building the workforce of the future?

  1. Create a roadmap for change.

 Without a carefully considered strategy, change initiatives that involve your people are a risky stab in the dark. Start by developing a broad overview of where you are now and what skills you have in your organisation and measure the effectiveness of what you’re doing now to help bring out the best in your people, both in terms of culture and reskilling.

Set goals for what you’d like to achieve and map out how you plan to get there – the people you’ll need, what gaps you’re facing, and how you plan to bridge these (through training, cultural transformation, and so on). Use workshops to proactively involve your people in the change initiatives as a collaborative process, and when you’re ready to progress from strategy to implementation, make your employees part of the resource allocation process as they work towards these goals. Continue to monitor, measure and make adjustments as you go.

  1. Prioritise skills development.

When you are mapping out your business outcomes, make sure you analyse any skills gaps that can be closed by fostering skills development among your existing workforce or by hiring the right fit people. Workers are often eager to embrace the opportunities for advancement posed by the future of work, so it is critical that organisations work closely with their staff to understand their individual levels of motivation and aspiration and offer training opportunities appropriately.

Building buy-in is also key: strategically position intelligent technology as a tool to help do work better, rather than something to fear. Innovative learning technologies can help bridge this gap by upskilling your people at speed, offering exciting opportunities to try new things in a simulated, less intimidating environment. These technologies can also be used in your onboarding process for new staff.

  1. Foster leadership at all levels.

There’s often a disconnect between expenditure on technology and on re-skilling workers. Organisations should consider the business case for addressing this skills gap, and the return on investment posed by a workforce that can harness the benefits of the “missing middle”. The human factor is as important as ever in leadership in the world of technology, with creativity, diversity, and collaboration driving environments in which workers thrive.

  1. Use technology wisely.

Organisations often go full-steam ahead with technology investment, particularly in novel projects, and often without thinking strategically. The results can be both surprising and disappointing. A better approach is to prototype using technology in existing projects, experiment, and learn lessons that can inform digital transformation while considering your talent acquisition and retention as you test drive.

  1. Co-create an exceptional employee experience (EX).

Engaged and empowered workers bring their best selves to work. Businesses embarking on large-scale technology change must place EX at the heart of the process. Involve your workforce by educating them and providing them with all of the information available about the technology and its impact.

It is important to create an environment where workers feel empowered to speak freely and spark dialogue in relation to the changes being implemented so that together you can identify gaps and co-create an EX that offers choices tailored to your workers as individuals, rather than a one-size-fits-all that may not be suited to their needs.

Within your workforce create ‘ambassadors’ for change, to help guide workers through the transitional period. Regular use of measurement tools such as surveys will help to recognise where you’re currently doing well in EX, and where you could be doing better (retention, productivity, etc).

Final thoughts

You’ll notice that the steps to unlocking the value of human-machine collaboration are first and foremost about people: attracting the right people, motivating them, and equipping them both with the knowledge and skills to take advantage of the opportunities posed by technology.

Background screening plays a critical role in this too. Contact us today for a free consultation on getting your background screening right for your workforce of the future.