The World Economic Forum estimates that 5 million jobs will be lost to automation by 2020, and that the number will keep growing. Sounds alarming? Wait, there’s good news too: while some routine jobs get automated, new job opportunities will emerge. And many of them will need the human touch.

As The Economist says, “What determines vulnerability to automation is not so much whether the work concerned is manual or white-collar, but whether or not it is routine.” What then are skills or abilities that buck the outsource and automate trends? Creativity, spontaneity, ability to connect with people – in other words, right brain abilities.

Here are some skills you need to invest in, to be employable in the coming years:

  • An understanding of technology. Your job might not be directly related to robotics and AI (artificial intelligence), but an understanding of the capabilities, applications, and potential of technologies will stand you in good stead. Guo Xiao, President and CEO of ThoughtWorks, a global technology consultancy, explains why: “Information technology is moving from more of a supporting role that creates efficiency, to a differentiating role that will increase effectiveness.” Experts predict that organizations across domains will embrace more digital and tech-driven solutions. By increasing your tech savviness, you can ride this wave.
  • Emotional intelligence (EI). Technology consultants and authors, Megan Beck and Barry Libert, argue that the rise of AI makes EI all the more important. They note, “Skills like persuasion, social understanding, and empathy are going to become differentiators, as artificial intelligence and machine learning take over our other tasks.” The recommendation: invest in building skills that help you relate to, persuade, and motivate others.
  • Continuous learning. Processes, methods, and markets are changing rapidly. Can you learn and up-skill to keep pace with them? Jeff Wong, Ernst & Young’s Global Chief Innovation Officer hints, “…as industries, processes, and business models are reinvented by disruptive technologies, the most valuable leaders are those that can shape the impact of those changes, rather than react to them.” How can you prepare for this change? Be a learner for life.
  • Creative thinking. The ability to think of new solutions, concepts, stories, and content will be immensely valuable in the future employee. Although data and machine learning will support creative processes, they won’t (at least in the near future) be able to imitate the human spark of inspiration or embrace divergent ways of thinking.

A smart machine can analyze data or crunch numbers. But it takes human faculties such as critical thinking, creativity, and empathy, to apply the machine’s findings, and build solutions for human needs. What will help you stay future-ready then? Along with technological competence, abilities that help you make distinctly human contributions to your industry.

Are you excited to build this version of yourself?

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