This article originally appeared on Finweek.
The strategic underpinnings of most companies’ workforce plans should change dramatically as a result of technological innovation.
Digital transformation, the industrial internet, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, and a plethora of other innovations are fundamentally changing the nature of work.
Machine learning, for example, may not eliminate many jobs in their entirety. But it will impact the way many jobs are performed, requiring new skills and making many existing skills less valuable.
The World Economic Forum predicts that “by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.”
Beyond the skills required to perform specific jobs, technology will also determine which jobs matter most in the years to come.
New innovations will change the basis of competition in many markets and alter the sources of advantage for most companies. Business-critical roles―that is, the jobs that are central to differentiating a company from its competitors and successfully executing its strategy―will also change. And companies will be forced to rethink the talent they will need to play these business-critical roles in the future.
Take insurance, for example. In years past, an important source of competitive advantage for insurers was the ability to price risk better than rivals.
Armies of actuaries worked tirelessly to estimate the cost of underwriting certain risks (or risk pools). In the future, much of this work will be done by machines. In this world, insurance companies will require fewer actuaries and more data scientists―individuals with the ability to mine data to tailor insurance offers to specific market segments or even individuals.
It may be possible to retool some actuaries as data scientists, but the vast majority of these roles will probably need to be filled with new talent.
Most companies have been slow to react. In part, this is because the impact of technology will be felt over time, and not overnight. This creates the illusion of having time to react.
Also, with technological innovation, there will always be a high degree of uncertainty regarding the kind of talent your company will need in the future.
This makes it challenging for leaders to plan ahead and place bets early.
But building a winning workforce for tomorrow starts today. The best-performing companies are already taking steps to attract new talent and widen their lead over rivals.
Tiaan Moolman is a partner in Bain & Company’s Johannesburg office where he leads the firm’s Organisation practice in Africa. Michael Mankins is a partner in Bain & Company’s San Francisco office and a leader in the firm’s Organisation practice. He is a co-author of Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organisational Drag and Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power.