Creating the exponential professional

This post is the third in a three-part series on the exponential professional, focused on how professionals, organizations, and regulatory bodies can bridge the gap between the professional of today and the exponential professional of tomorrow.

Posted by Darryl Wagner, and Caroline Bennet on April 10, 2018.

John, a property insurance underwriter, reviews satellite images and property data identified as a potential significant risk by cognitive technologies. Jane, an actuary employed by an insurance company, reviews a financial report produced by a bot and ponders how the company should respond to the increased claim costs highlighted in the report. John and Jane are exponential professionals who are employed in a future workplace transformed by rapidly developing technology. Such professionals rely heavily on deliverables produced by cognitive technology, and augment that technology with their uniquely human skill sets.

Today, many people become professionals through meticulous qualification and training, including basic education, continuing education, work experience, and awareness of professional resources. Each of these methods of learning will need to change to meet the needs of the exponential professional. Consider the case of a professional under the apprenticeship model, where work experience is a large component of qualification. Entry-level employees often master their occupations by painstakingly working through manual processes that trace through the details. In a future world, where machines manage these entry-level procedures, new ways of learning will be required to train professionals on the ins and outs of the business. Traditional education, continuing education, and new ways of training will be required to fill in the gaps; and corporations, professional organizations, and individuals will need to adapt accordingly.

Many professions have regulatory bodies whose purpose is to advance the field through involvement in education and provision of other professional resources. These professional organizations will also need to adapt to meet the development needs of the exponential professional. One way professional organizations can accomplish this is by increasing involvement in higher education so that graduates have a better understanding of how to apply their skill sets to their future profession. They can also help schools identify which enduring skills are most vital to the profession and transcend specific roles. Examples, as discussed in Post 2 , include critical thinking, communication, creativity, social perception, and resilience.

Additionally, organizations need to expand their professional standards to include expectations on professional interaction with both exponential technology and the gig economy. For an example, as standard legal protections do not automatically apply to contractual workers,1 how will entities maintain control and ownership of proprietary information when dealing with a professional in the gig economy? Lastly, the organizations should expand the flexibility and adaptability of continuing education offerings to meet the needs of a fluctuating environment where high-value skills change frequently.

Employers will also play a major role in creating the exponential professional.2 First, employers have a big hurdle to overcome in teaching their employees to adopt, trust, and augment cognitive technology. Getting a truck driver to trust an autonomous vehicle will likely be difficult. Convincing a financial analyst to understand a new role in leveraging, challenging, and augmenting analyses produced by a bot will also prove to be complex. These organizations will need to engage professionals in identifying new opportunities, deploying new technologies, and redefining methods of training.

Second, employers should create new roles and facilitate employee training in new ways to supplement learning. For example, rather than learning through manual processes, junior-level employees may instead perform independent analysis to validate and understand output produced by the machines. As another example,3 the CEO of a large telecommunication company shares with the employees where the company is going and what skills are required to be a lifelong employee. The firm then partners with vendors to create nano-degree courses for each skill and offers employees $8,000 per year to take those courses. Such training could supplement learning lost from automation of manual activities, would help employees enhance other enduring skills, and may utilize new technologies such as virtual reality or chatbot simulation. A 2015 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends study found that more than two-thirds (69 percent) of the C-level executives surveyed believe that company culture will have a critically important impact on their organization’s ability to realize its mission and vision.4 So, company culture and employer support is crucial when creating the exponential professional.

The final group responsible for developing the exponential professional are the professionals themselves.5 In an environment where technology is constantly updating and professionals frequently market themselves to employers, lifelong learning will take precedence over reliance on a specifically tailored skill. According to one estimate,6 the half-life of an acquired skill has fallen to 5 years. Another statistic suggests that approximately 50 percent of the material comprising the first year of a four-year technical degree is obsolete by the end of the program.7 This means that the exponential professional must be resilient to change, which can be accomplished by focusing on the development of learning abilities to prepare themselves for constant learning over the course of their career. Professionals should also stay abreast of technological trends and apply their learning abilities to quickly master cutting-edge technical skills.

Government responsibility:8
Government bodies can also help facilitate the development of the exponential professional. Example actions include:

  • Offering support for lifelong education
  • Updating education materials more frequently to keep up with rapidly changing workforce requirements
  • Reassessing policies around income, health care support, and other benefits to efficiently serve freelance workers and members of the gig economy

However, not all skills are destined to expire. An Oxford University study identified a set of “essentially human skills” that are becoming more important than ever in the workforce.9 The identified skills consist of the enduring, uniquely human skills discussed in Post 2 , and exponential professionals need to establish this set of enduring skills as their core competencies. Thus, professionals should always be alert to emerging high-value skills and should engage in constant learning and tuning of relevant skill sets.

A shared culture promoting lifelong learning between regulatory bodies, employers, and professionals is necessary for development of the exponential professional. An exponential professional that properly leverages this “always be learning” mind-set can augment technology in the future workplace to achieve groundbreaking results.

Darryl Wagner is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Global Actuarial, Rewards & Analytics Leader.
Caroline Bennet is the National Leader of Deloitte Actuaries & Consultants, the Insurance Leader for Deloitte Australia, and Leader of FSI Consulting, and is a member of the Global Deloitte Actuarial, Rewards and Analytics Executive Team.
Contributors: James Dunseth, Trent Segers, Wes Budrose, Nate Pohle, Ajay Parshotam, Mehul Dave, and Corey Carriker



2 “Machines as Talent,” Global Human Capital Trends 2015, David Schatsky and Jeff Schwartz (Page 95).

3 “Radically Open”, Deloitte Review Issue 21, (Page 100).

4 “Transitioning to the Future of Work and the Workplace”, Stephen Redwood, Mark Holmstrom, Zach Vetter (Page 3).

5 “Navigating the Future of Work”, Deloitte Review Issue 21, (Page 40).



8 “Navigating the Future of Work”, Deloitte Review Issue 21, (Page 42).

9 ”Catch the Wave”, Deloitte Review Issue 21, Josh Bersin (Page 72).


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