Three ways to strengthen your workforce in a tech-centric world

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As technology takes up more space, collaboration and continuous learning are vital, writes Patricia van Wyk.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is getting closer to creating a computer that’s equivalent in intelligence to human beings. Google’s Ray Kurzweil predicts this could be as early as 2029. Elon Musk believes it will happen in the next five years.

When it happens, we’ll see exponential growth in technological evolution on a scale we can’t imagine today. Quantum computing and advanced software will perform tasks in minutes that normally take highly skilled specialists months of planning and thinking to achieve.

At the same time, we’re faced with more complex challenges, including climate change,
responsible resource consumption, and sustainability for future generations.

For companies, this changing landscape means attracting and retaining people with an
important set of skills: people who can connect the dots, communicate clearly, and think outside the box.

For HR executives and managers, it means cultivating a culture where continuous learning
becomes routine, where people are comfortable with feeling like beginners at any stage of their career, and feel included, able to speak up and put forward their ideas.

To enable people to do their best and most meaningful work in this new world, we need to focus on improving collaboration, improving communication skills at all levels, and instilling a growth mindset in all employees.

Conscious collaborators

When it comes to better collaboration in the workplace, diversity is everything. It encourages
bigger-picture thinking and forces us to challenge our beliefs and worldviews and to respect,
accept, and appreciate the perspectives and experiences of people from different backgrounds.

Workplaces and communities are changing, and teams will become more diverse as globalisation dissolves physical and geographical boundaries. More women are taking on leadership roles in traditionally male-dominated industries, and more young people are becoming decision-makers. The true power of collaboration will never be realised if people are only sharing a small percentage of their ideas, or not daring to speak up when they really have something important to say.

When it comes to collaboration, HR professionals and the leadership teams of companies need to think differently.A first step here is to encourage new, more inclusive ways of operating. Meetings and team calls can be designed to be more inclusive. The goal is to get those who otherwise might not speak up to find it easier to share their views and ideas.

A second key step is to ensure that there is real diversity at the top of a company’s leadership team. Ensuring that your leadership team closely represents the demographic of our country is crucial. But true diversity at the top is also about showing employees that not all leaders dress, act, sound, or lead in the same way.

Compelling communicators

Fifty years ago, recruiters might have looked for people with the most advanced technical skills. Today, knowledge of the latest technology is not enough. Instead, it’s complementary to the mindset, people, and niche skills that everyone needs today.

How you engage with and get buy-in from multiple stakeholders, for example, could make or
break a project or business relationship. Success is often determined by how well you
communicate. And because there are many decision-makers in stakeholder groups, it has never been more important to set a vision, explain complicated details in simple terms, and keep everyone on the same page.

When it comes to better communication, HR professionals should seek to bolster in-house
training or online learning programmes that cover aspects such as writing clear business emails, and even the importance of the role of storytelling in communicating with clients.
HR professionals should further seek to create a place to practise better communication.
Employees should be encouraged to grab opportunities to carry out presentations during
internal engagements and even open up company-wide meetings.

Lifelong learners

It might be comforting to feel like you’ve reached an ‘expert level’ at what you do. However,
regardless of how much experience employees have, they must become comfortable with
feeling like a beginner and have a strong desire to keep learning.

HR professionals must seek to make continuous learning a ritual. Already, it’s become standard for employees to be given time to learn during working hours or to attend courses and conferences.

But we ​​need to go further than this. In this regard, weekly learning slots, or regular learning weeks spread out over the year can assist greatly with an employee’s development. Further to this, there is also micro-learning, which empowers employees to carry out learning activities when they have free moments in their days.

Another overlooked aspect of this is promoting learning from others within the organisation. Employees should be encouraged to share their ideas and knowledge with others, and safe spaces should be created for this.

Final word

Companies and HR professionals have an opportunity to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. This requires professionals of today to be curious and to learn about things unrelated to their domain knowledge.

We need people who know what’s happening in the world, and who can work efficiently with all kinds of diverse situations. We also need people who can grasp opportunities, and take the initiative to speak up and challenge the status quo – especially as technology takes on more of the grunt work.

Patricia van Wyk is head of people, culture and communications at RoyalHaskoningDHV Southern Africa.

 

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