Grace Blue’s Inspirational Leaders: The Impact of Technology on the Workforce, Dom O’Connor

Technology has disrupted every aspect of modern life while at the same time facilitated innovation in everything from medical advancements to how we book a hair appointment. It comes then as no surprise that the workplace will undergo more change over the next 20 years than it has seen in the past two millennia. To help us learn more about these developments, we welcomed Dom O’Connor, Managing Partner at O2, to explore how the rise of technology will affect the workplace and how continual advancement will redefine attractive skill sets.

Integrating technology and data with modern life

Technology is now bound so inextricably with modern life and work that the children of today will know no other time than digital. To illustrate this, Dom showed us Google Duplex, an AI first launched by the company in May 2018. Google’s new technology has the capacity to speak to a hair salon to book an appointment for you, all whilst sounding like a real human. The consequences of these developments mean technology will reshape everyone’s working environment. Replacing the mundane and repeatable tasks to enable more focus on their designated objectives or mission. Machines can 3D print bridges, robots can lay bricks and drones can scan forests and help put out wildfires.

The consequences of automation

Dom explained how jobs and industries involving repetitive work will benefit most from automation. Accountancy firms, for example, are embracing automation, with as much as 95% or their workload being able to be off (source). These firms have been working on transformation programs to maintain relevance in a digital age . This stands in stark contrast to jobs that require instant decision making, such as the role of a pilot. A mere 25% of pilots are likely to be augmented over the coming years (source). Although technology can take away the heavy-lifting aspects of the role, humans are still required for instant decision-making, skills that are becoming increasingly desirable.

The changing face of modern work

Technology’s disruption of the workforce is not only seen through the automation of existing jobs, but also the creation of new roles. Dom showed us 2018’s number one YouTuber Ryan from Ryans Toy reiews an 8 year old boy  (as of October 2019) earned $22m last year (source). The rise of technology has broken down the barriers of entry to starting a TV channel, removing the need for cameras, studios and editors. In stripping away these hindrances, technology has revealed the path to innovation.

On a larger scale, AI has already demonstrated its capacity to streamline tasks that would require hours of human work. IBM Watson, a supercomputer, is able to condense the arduous task of collecting highlights of the day’s play at Wimbledon into just 2 ½ minutes. Microphones in the stadium linked to scoreboards, together with supercomputers which monitor cheers, create bitesize highlights by identifying the best moments and important points.

Redefining desirable skills

Dom listed the top ten skills to look out for in 2020, which included complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgement and decisions, service orientation, negotiation and cognitive flexibility (here). But what constitutes desirable skills will change even more in response to the continual advances in technology.

Future generations will carry out jobs that do not yet exist. The very structures of our society will be altered, with vast changes to the roles we have and the skills that are important to perform them well. Dom’s insights into how technology will influence the workplace over the next 20 years reinforces the necessity of adaptability, which we should all keep at the forefront of our minds.

Ultimately, understanding this transformation in our lives will help us find the right leaders to take us forward.