News: We must change how we view roles and skills: IBM

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We must change how we view roles and skills: IBM

We need to reconsider how we think about roles in the new economy and how we assess people for their skills.
We must change how we view roles and skills: IBM

As the pace of technology advances, roles will change, the skills needed to fill those roles will change, and even the way people acquire those skills will change, said industry leaders at the launch of the IBM C-Suite study “Build Your Trust Advantage” yesterday.

One huge difference will be found in the human-technology partnership, according to Michelle Peluso, the chief marketing officer of IBM. Using call centers as an example, she predicted that the incorporation of new technology will no longer be about just introducing the new system; it will involve a complete overhaul of the entire business model, so that instead of a roomful of customer service agents each dealing with one customer at a time, there will be teams of 10 people monitoring 1,000 chatbots that handle the basic interactions, while the people themselves stand by to intervene when necessary.

When this happens, she said, everything will change: not just the skills needed but also the entire approach taken to the job, right down to the key performance indicators and how the role is evaluated. For the call center example, “You can’t measure things like the time of resolution because it’s not relevant any more,” she pointed out.

But there is a problem: the time lag between the speed of change and the time it takes to produce an employee with the expected educational qualifications is becoming unacceptable.

Howie Lau, the chief industry development officer of the Infocomm Media Development Authority, pointed out that a university student takes three years to graduate, but technology is changing within one year or less. Hence it is no longer practical for employers to merely look at whether someone has a degree or not. Instead, their potential to settle into the industry should be a larger factor.

“It’s not just about focusing on talent per se, but about how you shift the profile of talent in a more dynamic way,” he said. The solution, he suggested, is not to just focus on the new roles, but on the roadmap for getting people into those roles. Out of an estimated 200,000 ICT professionals in Singapore, nearly half are freshly trained or re-trained: and with this proportion of new entrants expected to rise, it is critical to create a relevant and frequently updated skills framework that can let people better understand how to enter and remain in the industry.

Aspiring ICT professionals, especially those who are changing fields early- or mid-career, should be realistic, however, Lau cautioned. Adjacent disciplines such as engineering and mathematics will make the transition easier, while diametrically different backgrounds will be an obstacle, and of course the nature of the role will play a big part.

“Some jobs are just easier or harder to move into,” he added.

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