Technology in the workplace has undergone a period of rapid advancement. The pace of progress is unlikely to slow at this point, meaning professionals must adapt in order to thrive at work.
Victoria Sprott (Talent Acquisitions Director at Robert Half) discussed the new role of technology within the workplace when she hosted a panel of experts as part of the ongoing Your Future webinar series. Panellists included Sheryl Miller (Transformation Director & Career Coach, author of Smashing Stereotypes), Simon Bennett (Technology Director at Riverstone Living), Chris Lawton (Director at Robert Half) and Matt Robinson (Corporate Learning Manager at Robert Half).
Here are their insights regarding technologies which are becoming commonplace, predictions for future innovations and how you can upskill accordingly.
Webinar: YOUR SKILLS – Technology advances
Adapt to the challenges and opportunities of remote working
Video conferencing has drastically affected our approach to work and it’s a technology we’re likely to retain into the future. Adapting to it is crucial.
Although remote working has replaced the traditional nine-to-five with the opportunity for greater flexibility, professionals should be aware of the cybersecurity challenges it presents.
“I think we all have a duty to understand how to keep things secure”, says Simon. “I think employers may be looking for that going forward — that you've got some understanding of how the security of systems work and how to keep yourselves and your employers secure.”
It’s also important to learn when and how to switch off from work when you’re in a remote environment. Time management is key, as are clear barriers between work and home. Try to create that distance and differentiation by designating a specific area for work, so you have the option to leave it behind at the end of the day.
The rise of video calls can also serve to increase stress, so Sheryl recommends demoting some of those back to simple phone calls, “if you can demote some of the calls to a phone call, then don't be afraid to do that because it does take the pressure off.”
Choosing the right communication tools
Technology can lead to greater efficiency, but only when you opt to use the right type for the situation at hand. Think about what you’re trying to achieve before you reach out.
Email, text messages and WhatsApp are great for communicating fixed facts, such as confirming your attendance for a meeting or sending a document — you can send it and move on with minimal interaction. However, if you want engagement and effective collaboration, opt for technology which promotes two-way communication, such as telephone, Skype or Zoom. Collaborating is about seeking feedback, sharing ideas and wanting to build relationships, and these types of tech will allow for that dialogue.
Social media is a good medium for forming relationships and expanding your network. Try to be more selective when reaching out and don’t allow yourself to fade into the background.
“When you send a LinkedIn request, don't just send a request and leave it,” says Chris. He advises following up with an extra message to entice an invite acceptance and to help get the conversation flowing.
Technology today and beyond
Cloud-based accounting and back office is becoming more commonplace — not just for storage reasons but also standard processes and standard ways of working.
Data modelling is helping businesses to control costs and to forecast market activity. It allows businesses to gain sufficient insight with a smaller headcount. Similarly, robotic process automation (RPA) and AI, will help to mine rich sources of complex data and extrapolate meaning from them.
“Those things absolutely are going to be key,”, says Sheryl.
Embarking on a digital recruitment process
Technology has changed the recruitment process vastly. Cultural fit is extremely important to employers and, without the ability to meet in person, they are placing more emphasis on the virtual meeting process.
“Here at Robert Half, we are very bought into the model of meeting everybody face-to-face” says Chris.
“We believe that the cultural fit and the insight you get from physically meeting gives you a much better ability to match people and gives you a much better understanding of what people's wants and needs are so [technology has] had a massive, massive impact.”
This means that jobseekers should strive to make the right impression during a video interview. They should also be prepared to undergo multiple rounds of meetings so their fit can be properly determined.
Interview preparation should include finding out which video conferencing software the interviewer plans to use and ensuring that you have a good understanding of it, to prevent any added stress or delay on the day. Plan what you’ll do if you have a technical hitch and choose a professional, clean space to conduct the video call.
“Think about your background and where you're sitting — don't have piles of dirty washing or an old bicycle in the background or something like that,” says Simon. “Check with the recruiter about what is considered to be the right way of dressing; whether it is a shirt and tie or whether it is more casual, but just make sure you get it right.”
Demonstrating your skills remotely
Standing out in a crowded job market can feel tough, so look for ways you can showcase yourself as a top candidate. The first and most important place to start is to have tangible examples of your skills and how they were applied.
“Never make statements on CVs, applications or cover letters — or even in an interview — without backing it up with a great example,” says Chris.
He recommends using the STAR model: situation, task, action, results. What situation were you in? What tasks did you have to complete? What action did you take and what was the end result?
Use your personal statement and cover letter to bring relevant technical skills to the forefront and to highlight what makes you different. Adopting a growth mindset is also incredibly helpful at a time when the job market is so fierce. Try to talk about your personality, how you approach your job and what you are willing to do as an individual to master the skills that are required.
“Show that you are receptive to technology, show that you are receptive to change,” says Sheryl, “willingness to work with new technology and new changes is good, in and of itself, even if you don't have the technical skills.”
The impact of AI on the job market
Artificial intelligence is steadily moving into the recruitment process as employers strive for the ideal CV now that face-to-face contact is so minimal. Jobseekers can leverage this by writing a CV which is tailored to the job advert or the job description. Look at the keywords that the employer or the recruiter is using and bring them into your application and onto your LinkedIn profile multiple times to increase the chances of AI picking it up.
“AI is used to sift through thousands of CVs within minutes to identify the right fit.”, says Matt. “What that's doing is providing a recommended shortlist for the recruiter, so it does save time, and it can make the recruitment process more effective.”
Upskilling for the future of tech
There are plenty of free services that can be used to upskill for new technology, such as free trials or paid subscriptions on LinkedIn Learning, Udemy or Coursera. Registered candidates with Robert Half also have access to e-Learning resources to prepare them for the new future of work.
Matt says: “with agencies, you can be offered skill tests. If you're upskilling yourself in an area of technology, you can take a test to demonstrate your skills and take that to an employer when you're in the recruitment process.”
Before you commit to any specific learning program, try to pinpoint what will be most relevant for your job role and go from there. “Lots of organisations out there like Gartner and McKinsey are really good at sharing what the technologies and developments are in your industry,” says Sheryl.
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