Here we are at the end of another year. The Christmas break is upon us, with the New Year celebrations just around the corner. Time to take stock of the ups and downs of the past year, celebrate successes and look forward to the future.
This year is particularly interesting as it is the end of the Twenty-Tens and the start of the Twenty-Twenties. The last decade has seen such technological change like never before, and the advances of much of this innovation will bear fruit in the next five to ten years as industry 4.0 evolves. So, where do jobseekers go from here?
Here's our Top-5 suggestions for staying ahead of the game:
Get more tech-savvy
It almost goes without saying, but in the age of automation and digitisation, technology skills are already in significantly greater demand. Certainly, at the junior end of the career ladder, school and university leavers with strong cloud computing, AI and digital analytics skills are becoming more valuable to employers. In LinkedIn’s Emerging Jobs Report 2020 for Singapore, their (enormous) dataset indicates that jobs such as AI Specialists, Data Scientists and DevOps Engineers are some of the top in-demand jobs that have emerged. And while these types of roles may or may not be potential career choices for you, simply up-skilling on the use of ERPs like Salesforce and getting a grip on terminology around things like Amazon Web Services and Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) should be very beneficial.
Real world example: Front end banking services moving from physical branches to mobile phone apps.
Of course, as machines take over the nuts-and-bolts activities of running the day-to-day tasks for businesses, this frees up employees’ time to be creative and interactive. And one of the trends in recent times has been towards greater customer and partner engagement. Starting with community engagement (outreach to potential customers while also playing an active role in online discussions and trends), this type of role requires social marketing, public relations, copywriting and project planning skills. Work in this area can include a mix of social media, public relations, advertising, marketing and events.
Moving on to customer success (predicting the needs of customers once they have formed a connection with the firm), organisations will be increasingly looking at skills in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), account management, but also predictive analytics. Up-skilling in this area could also include face to face sales skills, public speaking and project management. Engaging with existing customers calls on the classic skillset of sales, presales and account management, but now mixes this with data analysis and predictive analytics. It also includes initiatives such as loyalty programmes and customer events.
Also under the engagement banner is Partnership Management. Partnerships can be through business partnerships (such as suppliers or distributors), or it could be through managing franchises, joint-venture partners, or even managing co-branding initiatives (like the MasterCard supporting Apple Pay). This type of role requires the ability to spot partnership opportunities, approach and engage with potential partners to secure the deals and nurture partnerships once they are realised. Again, account management and sales are important here, but also branding and project management skills.
Real world example: Using customer success software that employs predictive analytics to identify accounts that may be at risk – then using engagement skills to re-secure those accounts.
Improve soft skills
While AI has improved in leaps and bounds, we are not at the stage (yet) where any AI is passing the Turing test. Instead, traits such as curiosity, creativity, empathy, problem-solving, and communication are still unique to humans and are now more important than ever. This is, perhaps, where people at the middle-to-senior end of the career ladder are best positioned, as these skills have always been important for moving into management roles. These skills allow managers and directors to lead their teams through change/transformation programmes and drive and motivate organisations to compete in ways that automation and AI cannot. There will still be a significant, perhaps increased, requirement for the ability to persuade and motivate humans and to make informed ethical decisions as industry 4.0 progresses.
Real world example: 3 geographically dispersed finance functions are rationalised into a single shared services centre with AI running the basic accounting tasks. The team must be downsized and those remaining must buy-in to the change and be motivated to make it work – a challenge for both HR leaders and Finance Directors.
Learn to embrace flexible working
What has variously been described as the flexible workforce and the gig-economy, is projected to make up 40% of the entire workforce in the next five years. This means changing your own mindset from one of fixed employer-based work to one of project working for various employees on a temporary and contract basis. Learning to work in this flexible way may seem less secure, but it offers a variety of advantages such as ability to work on a wider variety of projects that you may not otherwise have had access to. Learning to work in this way can also make you more resilient to market changes – the difference between working for many years fixed to a desk versus working on a variety of projects with a less predictable long-term future. The key skills here are self-discipline, time management, adaptive ability and networking.
Real world example: An accountancy firm is concerned that their IT transformation may be outdated by the time it goes live. They employ a virtual chief information officer (CIO); a contractor who serves as a practice’s CIO, specialising in coordinating strategic IT transformation with business goals. They function as an impartial translator between board level and the IT team, using their strong engagement skills. The firm therefore has a specialist leading the transformation without the cost and politics of another C-suite executive.
Shared Services experience
As we’ve said before, the demand for Shared Services continues to rise and Malaysia is a world leader in hosting Shared Services Centres. By incorporating automation, virtualisation, advanced analytics, and other digital technologies into their operations, shared-services organisations are already streamlining processes. These technologies help to make better decisions and improve the quality of internal and external customer interactions through speed, efficiency and accuracy. Therefore, experience around the Shared Service function (be that managing the function, or leading the transformation that results in an SSC) is becoming increasingly valuable.
Real world example: A Finance Manager in manufacturing firm who needs to consolidate supply chain, procurement and three geographically dispersed finance teams into a single Shared Service function.
So, there we have it for 2019. Hopefully you’ve found the above interesting, inspiring and/or thought-provoking regarding how to future-proof your skillset for the coming decade. We’ve had a fantastic 10 years at Ellwood and we’d like to thank all of you for being part of that journey.
We hope you have a joy filled and relaxing Christmas break and here’s looking for ward to a prosperous New Year!
With warm regards, The Ellwood Consulting team.