The rapid adoption of technology by business is leading to the rise of super-jobs, roles that leverage the significant productivity and efficiency gains that can arise when people work with technology, using it to both augment and broaden the scope of the work performed.
This is one of the ten trends for the future of work identified in Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report which explores how business needs to radically reinvent itself to meet societal expectations, adapt to rapid technological change and attract and engage workers.
Completed by nearly 10,000 respondents in 119 countries, Deloitte’s ninth annual Global Human Capital Trends report is the largest longitudinal survey of its kind and shows how HR teams and business leaders are responding to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
From jobs to super-jobs
A vast majority of organisations surveyed globally said they expect to increase or significantly increase their use of AI, cognitive technologies, robotic process automation, and robotics over the next three years, changing the nature of work.
Australia is a fast adopter compared to the global average. Three quarters (74%) of Australian businesses are hiring people with different skills due to the rise of automation in the past three years. Over half (52%) of Australian businesses are using automation extensively or across multiple functions (compared to 41% globally). Eighty percent of Australian respondents (64% globally) indicate they expect the use of robotics to increase or increase significantly in the next three years. Half of Australian businesses are exploring the use of AI, with 35% already using it in selected functions and 95% say they expect their use of cognitive and AI technology to increase or increase significantly over the next three years.
As organisations adopt these technologies, they’re finding that virtually every job must change, and that the jobs of the future are more digital, more multidisciplinary, and more data- and information-driven.
“Even though the workplace is being transformed by AI, robotics, and automation faster than many people expected, our research found that organisations are adapting along with the change,” said Deloitte Human Capital lead partner, David Brown.
“The concept of a job is fundamentally changing. Paradoxically, to be able to take full advantage of technology, organisations must redesign jobs to focus on finding the human dimension of work. As machines take over repeatable tasks, jobs will become less routine. This will create new roles that we call ‘super-jobs’: jobs that combine parts of different traditional jobs into integrated roles that leverage the significant productivity and efficiency gains that can arise when people work with technology.”
For example a controller working for a mining operations centre in Perth and remotely managing the logistics for a fleet of autonomous mining trucks in the Pilbara has a super-job; or a doctor in Melbourne operating via telemedicine on a patient in Bendigo – both are enhancing human skills with technology.
“Super-jobs are machine-powered, data-driven and require human skills in problem-solving, communication, interpretation, and design. Super-jobs will combine work and skill sets across multiple business domains, opening up opportunities for mobility, advancement and the rapid adoption of new skills desperately needed today,” said David Brown.
In a superjob, technology has not only changed the nature of the skills the job requires but has changed the nature of the work and the job itself. Super-jobs require technical and soft skills, but also leverage the significant productivity and efficiency gains that can arise when people work with smart machines, data, and algorithms.
In the future, work will be defined by:
- The outputs and problems the workforce solves, not the activities and tasks they execute
- The teams and relationships people engage and motivate, not the subordinates they supervise
- The tools and technologies that both automate work and augment the workforce to increase productivity and enhance value to customers
- The integration of development, learning, and new experiences into the day-to-day (often real time) flow of work.
A need for continuous learning
Adapting to the rise of super-jobs is also forcing organisations to change the way their people learn. Reinventing the way people learn was seen as important or very important by 91% of survey respondents in Australia (86% globally) – the number one trend for 2019.
Three quarters (74%) of Australian businesses are hiring people with different skills due to the rise of automation in the past three years. Eighty percent (v 62% globally) are eliminating transactional work and replacing repetitive tasks and 68% are reskilling current employees.
“Leading organisations are empowering individuals’ need to continuously develop skills by investing in new tools to embed learning not only into the flow of work, but the flow of life,” said David Brown. “With the need to sustain 50-60 year careers as part of a 100-year life, lifelong learning has evolved from a matter of career advancement to workplace survival.”
Within this context, the report identifies three broader trends in how learning is evolving: it is becoming more integrated with work; it is becoming more personal; and it is shifting – slowly – toward lifelong models. Effective reinvention along these lines requires a workplace culture that supports continuous learning, incentives that motivate people to take advantage of learning opportunities, and a focus on helping individuals identify and develop new, needed skills.
Talent is everywhere
As well as reshaping the nature of job design through super jobs, the report also noted that organisations needed to rewire their approach to engaging with the ‘alternative workforce’ – freelancers, gig workers, and outsourced/managed service providers.
Sixty percent of Australian respondents (v 33% globally) reported extensively using alternative workforce arrangements for IT and 26% for their operations (25% globally). Yet 56% said they either managed alternative workers inconsistently or had few or no processes for managing them at all. These organisations are using alternative workers tactically as a way to fill immediate requirements, not strategically as a long-term solution for the future. Only 12% of Australian respondents (8% globally) said that they have best in class processes to manage and develop alternative workforce sources.
“For years, many considered contract, freelance, and gig employment to be ‘alternative work,’ options supplementary to full-time jobs,” said David Brown. “Today, this segment of the workforce is mainstream and leading organisations are looking strategically at all types of work arrangements in their plans for growth. Best practices to access and deploy alternative workers are only now being invented.
“Organisations should look strategically at all types of work arrangements – traditional and alternative – to redesign jobs to properly leverage strengths across all workforce segments, from gig workers to those with super-jobs.”
Taking a stance on social issues a business imperative
The 2018 edition of the Human Capital Trends report identified the rise of the ‘social enterprise’, noting that over half of Australian businesses (53%) said social responsibility was not a focus for them. In the 2019 report, 83% agree or strongly agree that taking a stance on social issues is a business imperative in today’s market. A quarter (26%) strongly agree that investors value the importance of social impact greater than financial performance. And 60% believe that taking a public stance on social issues can positively impact the recruitment and retention of staff.
“The past 12 months has seen a dramatic shift in business recognition of the contribution it needs to make to society,” said David Brown. “The Financial Services Royal Commission has had a sobering effect on all types of business, with leaders recognising a need to move beyond mission statements and philanthropy and restructure their whole business to ensure they benefit society, not just shareholders.
“We see this trend continuing. Our research found that 61% of Australian businesses expect social enterprise issues to be even more important three years from now.”
What else needs to change?
The report’s 10 Human Capital Trends for 2019 are organised into three domains of business that need to be reinvented (the future of the workforce, the future of the organisation and the future of HR) and three approaches to reinvention (refresh: update and improve the way things happen now; rewire: create new connections that change the strategic direction; and recode: start over and design from scratch).
Read the separate media backgrounder explaining each of the ten trends for 2019, including key stats for Australia. 122 HR leaders in Australia were interviewed for the global survey.
What is a social enterprise?
A social enterprise is an organisation whose mission combines revenue growth and profit-making with the need to respect and support its environment and stakeholder network. This includes listening to, investing in, and actively managing the trends that are shaping today’s world. It is an organisation that shoulders its responsibility to be a good citizen (both inside and outside the organisation), serving as a role model for its peers and promoting a high degree of collaboration at every level of the organisation.
In traditional job design, organisations create fixed, stable roles with written job descriptions and then add supervisory and management positions on top. When parts of jobs are automated by machines, the work that remains for humans is generally more interpretive and service-oriented, involving problem-solving, data interpretation, communications and listening, customer service and empathy, and teamwork and collaboration. However, these higher-level skills are not fixed tasks like traditional jobs, so they are forcing organisations to create more flexible and evolving, less rigidly defined positions and roles.
In a super-job, technology has not only changed the nature of the skills the job requires but has changed the nature of the work and the job itself. Super-jobs require technical and soft skills, but also leverage the significant productivity and efficiency gains that can arise when people work with smart machines, data, and algorithms.