James McLeod, EMEA Director, Faethm, the article looks at how AI and automation have come to be perceived as a threat to human employability much more than any other revolution-driving technology

Technology, AI and societal change are the two major hallmarks of industrial revolutions. It would be remiss to discuss the first industrial revolution, for example, without reference to steam power and the migration of the workforce from the country to the city, or the third industrial revolution without reference to the internet and rapid globalisation. 


Today, as AI/automation and the decentralisation of labour push the world toward the fourth industrial revolution, a core characteristic of these changes has become clear: an acceleration in the speed at which specific skills rise and fall in demand. Over the past 100 years or more, the length of these cycles has dropped from decades to just a matter of years, creating one of the biggest employability challenges for businesses and individuals alike moving forward. 

To stay abreast of change, companies must fundamentally change the way in which they look at skills, training and career development. This isn’t just another story about technology and AI creating as many jobs as it invalidates, but rather a need to consider how existing roles will evolve and how people in at-risk jobs can easily transition into roles where they continue to add value on top of technology:

–          What needs to happen? Career development must no longer be seen as horizontal (i.e.  whereby individual workers refine a particular set of specific skills over the course of their careers and/or lives). Instead, careers must also follow a lateral trajectory, expanding not just upward, but outward into new skill areas.

–          How can this be achieved? Each role will have a set of transferable and non-transferable skills. By identifying which skills sit across different roles, employers can corridor existing employees into new roles lessening the need to search for brand new talent. 

–          Why should employers do this? Trying to keep abreast of demand for new skills by constantly hiring new talent is a costly and unsustainable strategy. Moreover, by looking at how individual processes translate to value can help eliminate bloated processes and release capacity, making roles not only more relevant, but more efficient.  

By James McLeod, EMEA Director, Faethm

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