Training for superjobs: How can you help people be ready?

Q&A from our Superjobs Dbriefs webinar

Posted by Michael Griffiths and Julie Hiipakka on October 30, 2019.

Participants in our Dbriefs webinars always ask great questions, but we often run out of time to address them. Our recent Superjobs Dbriefs was no exception—so many great questions, so little time. Superjobs are an evolving concept from our 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, reflecting a future where work is reimagined to enable people and technology to work together in new ways. We previously covered a question about superjobs and remote work. Now we’d like to address a question that asked: How do you see training evolve when trying to prepare employees currently in traditional jobs to be ready for superjobs?

Superjobs leverage our human capabilities
Superjobs are emerging because technology is evolving to the point where bots and other forms of AI can be taught to take over many repeatable tasks associated with jobs, like number-crunching for an actuary or screening candidates for a recruiter. While this has prompted a fair amount of fear that “the robots are taking our jobs,” a more accurate description might be, “the robots are taking over the more mundane, least interesting parts of our jobs, so people can focus on the work that creates customer and organizational value.”

For example, an actuary may be freed to analyze data to generate business insights or a recruiter to build closer relationships within a talent community. These are activities that require domain skills and also rely on “enduring human capabilities” that are innate in humans.

There’s a lot packed into this phrase “enduring human capabilities”:

  • Enduring—apply to virtually any job, past, present, and future.
  • Human—are not qualities that machines can replicate.
  • Capabilities—do not have a shelf life; unlike skills, which can become obsolete, sometimes rapidly, as technology evolves.

Humans are born with these capabilities. Like muscles, they must be used to grow stronger, and atrophy if not leveraged. This is why capabilities can be amplified (e.g., empathy, curiosity, resilience) as well as developed through experience and practice (e.g., teaming, critical thinking, emotional intelligence).

Performance in any job, super or otherwise, requires both capabilities and skills. Skills are context-specific—for example, assessing the resume of a candidate requires familiarity with the open position, the company, and industry. You can teach someone that information. Giving workers on-demand access to curated resources that let them build skills as they need them in the flow of work is a big part of where Learning & Development is headed. But communicating with the candidate in a way that creates a positive experience requires empathy and curiosity—innate capabilities that are demonstrated more with practice. Along with that is helping workers nurture their adaptability and resilience, so workers engage in continual learning as a part of life (not just work) to help make today’s environment of constant change be less stressful and more engaging.

Training for superjobs means nurturing capabilities unique to us as humans
Starting to train for superjobs means rethinking work itself. That starts with understanding the outcomes you want to see from the work, and then cascading down into what roles, what tasks, and what skills and capabilities are needed to generate those outcomes.

One of the biggest challenges organizations face is how to bridge the gap from where they are to where they should be—and we won’t lie, it’s not easy. This “should be” needs to be based in the context of the organization/industry/market and consider what skills and capabilities are needed for the future, given how work is changing.

Nurturing enduring human capabilities might use some of the tools used for learning, but in different ways. An example? A digital bootcamp experience where people can evaluate themselves and practice working with others in contextual learning experiences, supported by peers in a cohort setting. For example, Deloitte’s AdeptPro participants bring their own problems to work on in the digital bootcamp. The actual experience of solving a problem in context, aided by coaching from both peers and moderators, develops those enduring human capabilities—things like how to break down decision-making, demonstrating teaming and team-building, showing that you can creatively think through solutions, applying what you know from your past experiences, and putting the mirror back on yourself to understand your strengths and needs.

Another approach is to leverage virtual or augmented reality (VR/AR) to provide greater scalability and richer, more dynamic and “real” scenarios that let people see themselves as others see them, as well as take another person’s point of view in a conversation.

Building muscle that endures
Enduring human capabilities are something everyone is born with, but just like muscles, they can wither from lack of use. Practicing and nurturing these capabilities are ways to future-proof yourself to be able to thrive in the future of work—and not just in superjobs or even knowledge work. As machines take over the mundane aspects of more jobs, workers across industries will have the opportunity to do more value-added, satisfying work—whether that’s engaging with customers in a quick-service restaurant or assisting shoppers in a retail setting.

Certainly different work requires different combinations and strengths of capabilities. And, as we said, there’s value in individuals knowing for themselves where their strengths and weaknesses lie and how much practice or nurturing they might need in a particular area. Just as you might wear a fitness tracker or work with a personal trainer to become more in tune with your physical self, learning experiences that help you understand and build your mental/emotional/ “soft skills” self are a valuable way to guide and gauge your progress and fitness for the jobs of the future.

Michael Griffiths is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP and leads Deloitte’s Learning Consulting practice in North America.

Julie Hiipakka is a vice president and the learning research leader at Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

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