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March 31, 2017
Being human is more valuable than ever
By: Clemens Oertel

Our latest report about the digital workforce, “Harnessing revolution: Creating the future workforce today," says companies must make sure their employees stay relevant and adaptable in the rapidly changing technological landscape, or risk their entire business.

When I saw that, along with a particular figure in the report, I relived my own experience. What jumped out at me was this statement: By 2020, more than one-third of the desired skill sets of most jobs will be comprised of skills not yet considered crucial today.

This is exactly what happened to me, even if it happened in a time warp different than the speed of change today.

Yes, I just said “time warp” … please allow me to explain.

Jokes aside, you should know that I was trained as a lawyer, and I began in the consulting business in 1992 with “traditional” topics such as organizational reengineering and cost structure optimization. Some 25 years later, I lead digital strategy at Accenture for the German-speaking countries. No crystal ball could have ever made me believe this would be true.

Even just a few years ago, it was not so obvious what skills I would need to do my job today. I was leading our Marketing, Sales and Customer Service Consulting business in Austria, Switzerland and Germany, among other things, and few—including myself—would have guessed I now spend my days advising on new digital business models, the digitization of current business models and value creation out of digital technologies (To get a glimpse of the ideas driving us, read the Accenture Technology Vision 2017).

Both our technology vision and the digital workforce report that I’ve referenced have a positive outlook on the role of people in the digital workforce. Instead of a doomsday scenario of unemployed and underemployed people in the future, the digital workforce report says “in this era of rapid and widespread technological change, being human is more valuable than ever.”

Research done with the World Economic Forum (WEF) concluded that two thirds of the up and coming digital use cases will augment the worker’s tasks or create new roles. And human skills that cannot be matched by computers will count even more by 2020, including complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity, as shown by the WEF research.

Now, I will admit that younger generations are indeed asked to adapt much more quickly than my generation had to. Their “time warps” happen at a faster pace, so to speak.

Also in Germany, some 86 percent of respondents to the future workforce study said they would invest free time to learn new skills to stay relevant, and 70 percent have a positive attitude about the impact of automation on the work experience in the next five years.

This shows a clear understanding that to excel in the digital workforce means embracing change. (The study surveyed more than 10,000 people across skill levels and generations in Germany and nine more countries around the world about their attitudes on the impact of technological advances on work today and in the future.)

In the end, I think similar things drive the various generations. I personally am fueled by my love of learning. It thrills me to be a driver of change in my own organization and for our clients.

And it’s fascinating to see the massive impact of digitalization on our economy and our society.

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