As the nation carefully refines lockdown regulations, emphasis centres around the safe implementation of education.
However, beneath this many Grade 12 pupils and University students will be pondering what the future holds. A period of unprecedented disruption has certainly made everyone acutely aware of the changing job market and its challenges and, for the optimists, a chance to seek out the opportunities and gaps in the automated world.
A report titled Workforce of the Future, The Competing Forces Shaping 2030 helps anchor the workplace narrative. Compiled by a team from PwC and the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation in Oxford, it conducted a survey of more than 10,000 people in China, India, Germany, the UK and the US, with many of the trends and responses applicable to South Africa.
We are living through a fundamental transformation in the way we work.
Automation and ‘thinking machines’ are replacing human tasks and jobs, changing the skills that organisations are looking for in their people.
These momentous changes raise huge organisational, talent and HR challenges
– at a time when business leaders are already wrestling with unprecedented risks, disruption and societal upheaval. It is therefore imperative to understand how humans and machines might collaborate to deliver a corporate purpose.
This collective synergy in the digital value chain is evident within FMCSA’s social media division, explains Social Media Lead Londeka Mkhize. “My current job title didn’t exist in 2008 when I signed up for Twitter as a first-year student in varsity. At the time social media was just where one went to have fun and post pictures of friends. Over the years though this role and similar roles to it have become very important to any business from the community manager, data analyst, strategist, graphic designer, UX/UI designer and animator – they are all involved to make social media work for a brand. Social media allows us to meet the customers where they are and understand their needs ahead of time with a targeted brand experience.”
The PwC report says the current world functions under a level of Assisted Intelligence which improves what people and organisations are already doing.
Ford’s SYNCR3 with Navigation system, fitted to many of its models, is a bona fide example of Assisted Intelligence. So is the Semi-Automatic Parallel Park Assist (SAPPA) available in the Ranger Wildtrak, which uses ultrasonic sensors to search for parking spaces that are big enough to park the vehicle and even helps drivers perform parallel parking manoeuvres when a suitable spot is found.
This is a precursor to Augmented Intelligence which helps people and organisations to do things they couldn’t otherwise do, such as ride sharing apps which will have a profound effect on the entire mobility model. Further to that, Ford is engineering cars for the future with Autonomous Intelligence where self-driving Fords will come into widespread use.
Some optimists believe AI could create a world where human abilities are amplified as machines help mankind process, analyse, and evaluate the abundance of data that creates today’s world, allowing humans to spend more time engaged in high-level thinking, creativity, and decision-making. In the coming years uniquely human traits – emotional intelligence, creativity, persuasion, innovation – will become more valuable.
This is an area where Ford’s Customer Experience (CX), led by Maja Smith rings true. “Customer experience has come into its own in the last few years. Now it exists as a separate discipline and I don’t think any other OEM in South Africa does CX like Ford. At Ford, CX is not just Customer Service, or CRM. Under evolving leadership, CX has become cross-departmental and cross functional. The purpose of CX at Ford is to figure out where the main customer pain points are and to resolve them. That means breaking down barriers and redefining the way we’ve always done things. We use CX to think holistically from a customer’s point of view and ensure that over time we deliver a better experience. It’s not about a sexy new sales or CRM tool – it is about getting the basics right and bringing previously siloed teams together to deliver those things that really matter to our customers.”
PwC identifies several megatrends which provide context for the future world; the economic shifts that are redistributing power, wealth, competition and opportunity around the globe. How humans respond to these challenges and opportunities will determine the worlds in which the future of work plays out. These five megatrends which will help shape the automotive world, include technological breakthroughs, demographic shifts, rapid urbanisation, shifts in global economic power and resource scarcity and climate change. It is known that all of these will change, but anticipating and adapting to the speed will yield the competitive advantage.
Amid all the uncertainty the seeds of success, in automotive as well as other industries, will ultimately be the individual’s responsibility. The underlying message is that this is less about technological innovation and more about the manner in which humans decide to use that technology. In the emerging world those workers with problem solving, leadership, EQ (Emotional Intelligence), empathy and creativity skills – skills that automation can’t yet crack – will become increasingly valuable. To tower above, people will need not only to adapt to organisational change but be willing to acquire new skills and experiences throughout their lifetime, to try new tasks and even to rethink and retrain mid-career.