The future of work is.... to focus on the irreplaceable skills as many technical skills will be replaced

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Predictions vary about how many jobs will be taken over by robots but it is hard to ignore the pace of change. For anyone not familiar with the futuristic Henn-na Hotel in Japan which opened its doors this year, you are greeted by robotic staff that run 90% of the hotel. The other 10% is handled by the hotel’s only 10 human employees. Inevitably anything that can be turned into a predictable, repeatable process will be able to be done by a machine or robot.

It is important to recognise that jobs have regularly been replaced by machines - think of the advances in farming or clothes manufacturing however jobs have always evolved. What is critical is to ensure that you have key skills that will be needed throughout your career regardless of how quick our society looks like a scene from I-Robot.  

Here are three skills that are not going to go out of fashion any time soon and will benefit you in almost any job you do:

1.Writing: Being able to write well is more important than ever (think about how many messages you receive daily). How many of us read a twenty line email that could have been written in four lines. Quite soon you will be getting the TLDR response that is now being used by my kids (too long didn’t read!). So writing cogently and concisely is a key skill as it is more than writing it is communicating and influencing that come about through clear writing.

2.Presentations while regularly quoted as the number one public fear, it is a skill that is only going to become more important. More and more our “time-poor” employees want someone to communicate the information they need in an informed and hopefully entertaining way. So stop yourself from saying “you probably cannot read this slide but…” remember it’s your slide so make it readable! Secondly, stop reading your slides as then you may as well not be there. Finally, practice more, a great presentation needs to be practiced many times.

3.Synthesising information: With quicker decisions needed and with too much available data, this is also a critical skill. It will not only be synthesising the information but also critically assessing what is relevant and what is not and executing based on this. There is no point creating dashboards and analytics reports if you are not taking actions and decisions based on these reports.

Finally, remember that the biggest unfair advantage you can have in your career is doing something you love. When you are in this zone time flies by, you research and read up on things because you want to and not because you have to. While the jobs you do will evolve through technology, we will always want to listen to a person who is passionate about what they do and not the robot replacement!

Peter Cosgrove set up the Future of Work Institute in Ireland in 2014, you can read more about this at