Future of work: Five ways companies can get ready

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The future of work is already upon us. Technological advances, entrepreneurship, and an emphasis on digital skills are shaking up the workplace at an unprecedented pace, ushering in a new set of rules for both employers and employees.

This year, AmCham hosted the first Future of Work Forum. Industry experts grappled with some pressing questions: Will technology create enough new jobs to outweigh those it eliminates? How are young people changing the workplace? What role can businesses play in providing a positive working atmosphere?

Here are FIVE key insights from the event:

  1. Creativity and soft skills are just as important, if not more important, than digital skills.

    Soft skills will stand the test of time, and will continue to shape talent requirements over the next few decades. 

    “People don’t just want specialist skills, they want more generalist skills. They want people who are commercially savvy, they want people with good communications. They want people who are multilingual,” said Andrew Simmonds, founder and Managing Director of Talent Tree.
  2. Talent retention will be a key local and regional issue for a wide range of industries. 

    More and more employees will abandon their positions to seek new opportunities. What can employers do to slow turnover?

    Our Keynote speaker, Hong Kong Executive Council Member Bernard Chan, believes that shared values and a sense of purpose and community are the keys to employee engagement. Engaged employees are more committed to the organizations they work for.

    “Employees need to feel that they are associating with a company that they are proud of,” Chan said.

    Chan, whose new initiative Big Little Things calls on businesses to help address issues faced by grassroots communities, emphasized that employees’ perception of their company’s values is a key driver in employee retention. 

    “One of the challenges we face is the complete disconnect between the haves and have nots,” says Chan.

    When employees see support for causes they care about that go beyond just charity walks, it creates a sense of shared values between employees and the corporations they work for.
  3. Not everyone needs to code, but basic coding skills can give you a competitive edge in the digital economy.

    Skills and knowledge requirements can change at a breathtaking pace in the digital economy. How can employees and corporations make sure their skill-set remains competitive?

    Head of Stamford American School Karrie Dietz, who offers coding classes at her school, says digital skills are important, but there’s more to it than just coding.

    “Coding is just one piece of the future of work,” said Dietz. “Soft skills are equally important. So teaching students to be innovative, creative, to have a global mindset, to take risks and learn from failures.”

    Since expectations are rapidly changing, it’s important for employees to be agile and adopt a growth mindset to remain competitive in the digital environment. 
  4. Companies need to adapt to attract new talent, especially young female talent.

    Women possess more skills that are less likely to be automated – creativity, collaboration, and people management.

    But companies will need to adapt and include women at all levels of management to attract younger talent.

    “I don’t see why I would work for a company where I stop seeing women at the management level because it tells me I’m not going to get very far at this company, why would I work for them?” said Senior Manager of Business Development at Aetna International, Emma Kenyon.

    Companies will also have to become well-versed in technology to provide flexible, efficient and productive work experience for the younger generation. 
  5. Mental health and well-being will continue to be an essential topic in conversations about the future of work.

    As the stigma surrounding mental illness begins to erode, there is now growing awareness around mental health, well-being, and stress at the workplace.

    Striving to create a work-life balance is a struggle for modern families, but prioritizing the well-being of employees is one of the keys to productivity at the workplace.

    “My job is just one part of my life. Life is much broader than that. Think about the other things you’re passionate about that give you energy and go out and do them,” said David Cruikshank from BNY Mellon.