Part 1: The Why
Like the industrial machines, computers, and electronics that came before them, automation and cognitive computing have fundamentally changed how some jobs get done. That cycle will continue as technology keeps evolving. Instead of seeing this as a threat to humans and our livelihood, we should be thinking about how we can use it to our benefit. We have a real opportunity to reimagine how work gets done in a way that makes some jobs not only more productive but also more meaningful—changing them from jobs to superjobs.
In our 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 62 percent of respondents said they are using automation to eliminate transactional work and replace repetitive tasks, 47 percent are also augmenting existing work practices to improve productivity, and 36 percent are “reimagining work.” When you reimagine work, you think about new ways of jobs coming together, starting with “why” (why do you want to incorporate these technologies?) and following with “what” (what work can machines do?), “who” (who can do the work, from employees to gig workers to crowds), and “where” (remote, distributed, augmented reality).
Reimagining work: Start with the why
Think about the why of using cognitive/automation/robotics centers on the outcomes you are seeking for stakeholders. For example:
You may seek cost efficiency (at first)…by offering customers a low price, increasing workforce throughput, and reducing organizational costs. This is where most organizations start, but it’s not an especially forward-looking approach that will serve you in the long run. You can find yourself in a downward cost-cutting spiral where you cut jobs, but then have less people to serve customers, which erodes value and may lead to loss of customers, which leads to more cost-cutting to compete on price.
More future-oriented approaches focus on seeking value/growth and meaning/impact.
You may seek value/growth…by creating a more appealing offering for customers, giving the workforce more interesting work with more career and development opportunities, and fueling business growth through new offerings and new markets.
You may seek meaning/impact…by connecting work back to people, understanding who you’re actually serving and the impact it has, with the goal to both meet workers’ need for meaningful work and the unmet, or even unrecognized, needs of customers. Workers want to feel that their work makes a difference, and seeing how it makes a difference can be a tremendous boost. For example, Wharton professor Adam Grant found that university fundraisers (a notoriously high-burnout, low-retention position) were much more productive (raising 171 percent more money and spending 142 percent more time on the phone weekly) when they had the opportunity to see the effect their services have on end customers—students.1
From the customer side, meaning and impact typically comes from meeting aspirational needs—providing products and services people may have not even considered. For example, a financial services company we worked with reimagined the job of the financial adviser to also include a career adviser perspective for their clients. Clients didn’t expect this service or express that they needed it, but the company found that they welcomed it, which helped the company grow its customers and reach and helped the advisers themselves develop their skills and enrich their jobs.
This desire to serve the highest and best purpose of work is one of the factors sparking the emergence of superjobs.
Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP
Superjobs are an evolving concept we saw in our 2019 Global Human Capital Trends research, reflecting a paradigm shift as jobs incorporate technology in more and different ways. Traditional jobs/roles that perform mostly process-oriented work using a specific, narrower skill set have seen the most impact from automation. Hybrid jobs, the most rapidly growing job category, combine previously distinct skill sets together, augmented by technology. So you see job titles like designers, architects, and analysts that combine both hard/technical skills like coding and data analysis with soft/human skills like communication and collaboration and curiosity. Superjobs are the next evolution, combining not only different skill sets but also entire jobs that were previously distinct.
Superjobs for HR, for example, could include the role of product manager, someone who looks at the workforce experience from end to end, along with all of the programmatic solutions that are needed to create that experience vs. having individual specialists responsible for part of the experience, say onboarding or rewards or learning & development.
Imagining a new vision for work
The essence of reimagining work is shifting workers’ time, effort, and attention from executing routine tasks to identifying and addressing unseen problems and new opportunities. We’ll look at the “how” of this in our next post, where we’ll explore how you can go about composing new jobs as well as the workforce for a more human-centered Future of Work.
Kathi Enderes PhD, is a vice president and the talent & workforce research leader at BersinTM, Deloitte Consulting LLP.
1 Adam Grant, “How customers can rally your troops,” Harvard Business Review, June 2011. https://hbr.org/2011/06/how-customers-can-rally-your-troops