By Juliet Umeh
Technology has become an integral part of the 21st Century workplace that any business without some level of technical savvy will likely play catch-up.
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It does not only help companies to be more productive, it allows them to be efficient, faster and achieve tasks easily.
For instance, a technological device such as artificial intelligence, AI, is a boom to modern work places. It can handle mundane and repetitive tasks across organisations, freeing up people in human resources, HR, information technology, IT, marketing, and more to exercise creativity, solve complex problems, and otherwise focus on getting impactful work done.
However, this revolution comes with a price; particularly in the area of displacement of workers by machines. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now about the future of work, and how emerging technologies will change the nature and availability of jobs in the coming years.
This is because while emerging technologies enable business owners to reduce overhead by downsizing their workforce, individuals whose skill sets are now obsolete have limited options for employment if their current jobs end. It also means that without adequate measure, job losses could outweigh job creation in the coming years.
This situation appears to have created fear, and challenged the millennial generation who are changing their approach to education and learning from classroom academic exercises to tech hands-on in the laboratories.
However, if the report of World Economic Forum, WEF, is to be believed, there is no cause for alarm. It predicted that emerging Tech will create more jobs than it kills by 2022.
According to the report, advancement of robotics and AI will make 75 million jobs obsolete by the year 2022 but will create 133 million jobs over the same period, for a net increase of 58 million jobs.
The general belief is that this swing in jobs will pose a challenge to both employers and workers. For employers, experts said it means making the right investments in technology and for workers, it means acquiring the right skills which they refer to as soft skills.
They believe that millennials with soft skills sets have no reason to panic because machines cannot replace them.
Soft skills are the personal attributes, personality traits, inherent social cues and communication abilities needed for success on the job. It characterises how a person interacts in his or her relationships with others.
Unlike hard skills that are learned, soft skills are similar to emotions or insights that allow people to “read” others. These are much harder to learn, at least in a traditional classroom. They are also much harder to measure and evaluate.
Soft skills include attitude: communication, creative thinking, work ethic, teamwork, networking, decision-making, positivity, time management, motivation, problem-solving, critical thinking and conflict resolution, among others.
Speaking at an Information and Communications Technology, ICT event in Lagos recently, Executive Director at a Payment Solution provider, SystemSpecs, Mr. Deremi Atanda, said despite all that technology is doing, there is always a place for humans in the workplace because knowledge will keep birthing opportunities for work.
He said although AI device is solving problems with robots but robots didn’t create themselves but because work has to be done differently, they came into place.
Atanda said: “So if you are thinking about the problem that robots are solving today, some people think that robots didn’t create themselves but because work has to be done differently. Before now, if anybody tells you he is a driver, it could be demeaning but today, a graduate can proudly tell you he is an Uber driver even though that could be his side job.
“Technology will continue to create opportunities for a lot more work to be done. Man will always have a role to play no matter how pervasive technology is. We need to keep adjusting and adapting and taking advantage of the things that will be required,” he explained.
To avoid disconnect between employers and millennials, Atanda advised that organisations need to reinvent their businesses in order to remain connected with the tech savvy millennials if they are to build sustainable businesses. He said his company considers individuals with soft skills like right attitude, self confidence, outlook on the future and integrity.
However, Atanda believes that government or the civil service is not outside the influence of technology. Therefore any government or country that does not adjust to the influence of technology as defined in work place, can never be competitive.
On how the Nigerian civil service has performed using technology, he said: “If you want to look at the performance of the government, if we were to put Nigerian civil service against others who are beginning to adapt to technology and leverage it and populate the key positions based on competency driven by technology, the answer is going to be very obvious. So the decision is not all about whether we know there is a challenge but the willingness to address it.
“If you want to be a successful private sector business, you will only be doing yourself some harm if you don’t rightly equip the roles with the right set of skills,” Atanda said.
Other experts’ perspectives
Head of communications at Uber, Francesca Uriri said technology is expressing itself in different sectors in different ways. She said: “Technology is enabling the way we live, in terms of transportation. It helps people to live more effective and productive life. As for her, soft skills that Uber considers include: resilience, capacity, vision and value system.
Uriri said government must exercise political will to carry out some of the policies favourable to the future of technology.
As for the Head of Dangote Academy, Juliet Oshagbemi, millennial that wants to be employers’ choice must be equipped with soft skills. She believes individuals with business acumen, entrepreneurship, critical thinking, ability to collaborate and negotiating skills will always have a place in Dangote companies no matter the advancement of machines.
On government part, Oshagbemi believes that government must invest in education and research.
Also, Chief People Officer at Reinmoni, Elizabeth Okonji, said there is a need for everybody to be dynamic in their way of thinking.
Okonji said millennials with technical competency, ownership mindset, ability to adapt and adopt collaborative spirit will always excel in work places.