Lifelong learning: the key to career longevity with workplace automation

By Phil Sheridan 23rd March 2017

Never has the attention of global leaders and business titans been more focused on the importance of employee training as a facilitator for positive change. Theresa May’s industrial strategy encouraged employers to ‘explore ambitious new approaches to encouraging 'lifelong learning’ aiming to boost the amount of time and resources dedicated to career development and advancement.

As workplace automation and artificial intelligence start to shape global agendas, as recently seen at World Economic Forum this year, the need for lifelong learning has never been more pressing. Education and employee training must keep pace with technological change or risk creating skill gaps and inequality.

So, how can business prepare for workplace automation and ensure they reap the benefits?

Future-proof skills

Technological advancement and the positive influence of automation are already evolving accounting and finance departments, enabling teams to adopt more valuable and fulfilling business partnering roles. Despite the positive progression, this has not come without its challenges. Insights from the Finance 2020: closer than you think report highlight that accounting and finance professionals need to retrain and learn new approaches, particularly soft skills such as effective leadership and communication. Assess the skills needed moving forward, ensure training schemes are in place to meet future needs, plug potential skill gaps, and empower employees with the tools they need to succeed.

Plan for redeployment

Machines will be complimented by human involvement – only then will businesses and society experience the benefits of innovation. Organisations must establish which processes can be automated, where employees can be re-deployed and how they can embrace higher value activities that further their development.

Remove the mystery from automation

With innovation comes opportunity so ensure employees understand how processes will be automated and what it means to them. By enabling employees, at all levels, to acquire new skills, organisations can focus discussions on redeployment and re-skilling, rather than replacement. Combining the digital transformation of the workplace with the automation of certain tasks, will liberate people from mundane tasks and allow them to concentrate on higher value and more interesting work.

As soon as businesses realise that technology compliments talent and waves of innovation make way for fresh opportunities, the global workplace will thrive. A positive approach to workplace automation that combines education and experimentation, will allow employees to see automation in action and reduce misconceptions and concerns. Ultimately, those who embrace digital transformation and the automation it brings, will have the chance to build a sustainable competitive advantage, whilst attracting and retaining the very best employees in the long-term.

Phil Sheridan, Senior Managing Director, Robert Half UK, South America and Middle East

Phil Sheridan is the senior managing director for Robert Half UK, South America and Middle East where he is responsible for leading the organisation’s strategy and direction. Trained as a Chartered Accountant, Phil quickly learned that accounting was not the right career path and instead wanted to leverage his educational background into finding individuals meaningful employment. Phil graduated from the University of Ulster with a Bachelor of Science degree and later completed a CA designation. With over 20 years of experience in the recruitment industry, he is often called upon by media and industry leaders to offer his insights on employment and workplace trends.

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