Top Competencies Employees Should Have To Robot-Proof Their Jobs

With automation threatening 800 million jobs across the world as reported by Mckinsey Global Institute, Indian IT workforce is rushing to upskill. Past events suggest that IT professionals are twice as likely to see their jobs automated. Around 4,80,000 jobs would be at risk due to automation and India’s IT workforce will shrink by 14 percent, reports HfS Research. Indian IT bellwethers like Infosys, TCS, Wipro and American tech giant Cognizant made news last year for massive retrenchment and embracing RPA in their day-to-day functionalities such as software maintenance, testing using AI and automation. Indian tech giants have opened more roles in machine learning and data science, fields that require additional skills and domain expertise.

By 2020, the Industrial Revolution 4.0 will usher in advanced robotics and autonomous technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning, advanced materials, biotechnology and genomics, WEF report indicates. The report claims that some jobs will disappear and will be replaced by new jobs that don’t exist today. The future workforce will need to align its skillset to keep pace with automation.

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This article shines a spotlight on the skills that will help IT professionals stay relevant and future-proof their career:

1. Active Learning

Research about where the industry is heading and learn about how automation is going to change the way or your company must operate to stay competitive and profitable. Educate yourself through online learning platforms. There are many AI and ML courses offered by tech giants which will boost your career. Also, keep bolstering your knowledge by doing projects for others. Bibek Debroy, chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister had emphasised the same, saying, “There will always be some job loss, that does not mean that there will be overall fewer jobs. There is no need to be worried about AI, instead, India should be more concerned about human development and skill development.”

CEO Jeff Maggioncalda of a popular MOOC platform echoed a similar thought, “People will have to learn for the rest of their lives to keep up with changing technology that will displace workers.”

2. Connect Dots And Find Meaning In Datasets

“One part that everyone looks at is data, but taking out business insight from data is a challenge”, said Ashutosh Misra of Philips Lighting in an interview with Analytics India Magazine. Connecting dots and recognising a pattern is a tricky skill for a machine to learn. You should have the ability to pinpoint what data is valuable and can be used to make an informed decision about the business. You must be able to spot trends and opportunities and drive growth, efficiency and change the business. Jenny Dearborn, SAP’s Chief learning officer, noted that “We are not always looking for the right answer, but what is the right question to ask. What is the insight, meaning and purpose of the analysis that was overlaid on the data?”

3. Solve Problems

Robots are smart but they do work what their programmer feed them. Robots may not be able to solve problem-based on what they know as swiftly as humans. But only humans can focus on analysing the problem, generate a solution and then implement and assess the solutions. You as an employee/team member must know how to solve tough problems using analytical thinking, causal modelling and more. You must be able to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong and must develop capacities used to solve novel, ill-defined problems in complex, real-world settings. For example, recently, Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Railways and Coal said, “The tiger will be ridden by the human being. AI, its relevance and outcome, will all be driven by you and me. It is a tool that you and I will ride. It’s not a replacement for us, it will help and aids us.”

4. Display Ingenuity

Only problem-solving skills will not help you robot-proof your career. You will also need to have a creative mind and the ability to think outside the box will prove beneficial for you. The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem. Robots will be able to do most of the daily routine tasks that require no creativity. Having good critical thinking and discerning skills are essentials as an ability to use logic and reasoning to identify alternative approaches. Management always seeks new ideas and solution for their company’s growth. If you can spot trends and patterns where no one else can and add value via creative solutions, you will carve out more career opportunities. Fred Sadaghiani CTO of Sift Science said the same, “a good machine learning person is a curious person, is somebody who can be creative, is somebody who can take an extremely abstract unclear problem and bring to light clarity around the possibilities.”

5. Critical Thinking is Crucial

Despite doing the same mundane work, use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weakness of alternative solutions or approaches to problems. The ability to skillfully analyse, or evaluate information generated by observation, reasoning or communication, is what is required to survive in the automated world. The employee must be able to piece the information together to form general rules or conclusions.

According to Joseph Aoun, President of Northern University, “Critical thinking will remain a cornerstone of human work in the digital age. To compete with intelligent, advanced machines, we will need to think intelligently.”

6. People Management

Chatbots are faster than human customer agents but sometimes they can get confused by the customer’s request or their NLP engine lacks accuracy. They do not understand sarcasm and can be easily bewildered. It also doesn’t cope up with a lot of queries, it fails to understand human and forget what they were told earlier. This is where organisation seeks human intervention.

Rob Siefker, Senior Director of Zappos’ customer loyalty team emphasised on the same, “No matter how “intelligent” an auto-response system can be, there’s no way to replicate the warmth and authenticity that a live customer service rep can offer.”

When customers are involved, organisations need people to properly interact with people in ways that generate trust, cooperation and satisfactory outcomes. Organisations need employees who can lead teams, collaborate and deliver the right message to the customers. Persuade others to change their minds or behaviour.

7. Emotional Intelligence

Robots do not have emotions and have no sentimental affection for us. Emotional intelligence plays an important role in an organisation. A person who is highly emotionally intelligent rank high on empathy, listening and self-awareness and also excel at interpersonal interaction. It also allows us to create a relationship with colleagues, customers, provides insights into people’s motive and allows us to predict responses. “Jobs that require human empathy and jobs where human working for us bolster our status in some way are some examples of jobs that would remain exclusive to humans,” Raghuram Rajan said in a report.

Smita Sinha
I have over three-years of experience in editing, reporting. My career in journalism began with The Economic Times. When I am not busy, I read, I binge-watch web series.

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