The Future of Work, with Alejandro Melamed

Alejandro Melamed Business of Platforms podcast

Internationally recognized lecturer, speaker and futurist, Alejandro Melamed joins us on the Business of Platforms podcast to share insights into the future of work. In conversation with Vivaldi’s Founder and CEO Erich Joachimsthaler, Alejandro introduces the concept of “employability,” a critical quality all employees should possess as our world becomes increasingly digital. Tune in to learn more about how organizations can develop employable people for the future, what businesses should do as more Gen Z employees enter the workforce, and how companies can build an agile, interdependent ecosystem.

See below for highlights from their conversation:

Q: What will be the balance of people vs. technology? How will the evolving tech practices affect the workforce?

A: The new era sees robots and human beings co-living. The new way of working is trying to understand where robots add value, where AI add value, and where human beings add value. Many people fear of the robots, thinking that they will kill many jobs. But if we change our mindset and start thinking in another way, we can solve many problems.

Q: AI customer service chatbots already exist, if I work at a call center, shouldn’t I be worried?

A: When you see tasks that are repetitive and low on human and intellectual touch, the cost of the robot will be lower than the cost of the human, and the human will be replaced. However there are a lot of new activities where the human touch is becoming increasingly more important.

The new word that we need to start discussing is “employability,” which is the ability to have employment today, tomorrow, in five years, ten years, etc. So I think the big challenge that all the companies have now, is how to start thinking in terms of the new social responsibility, which is the technological and employability responsibility. Responsibility is the ability to response – it’s not only being aware, but also acting to re-skill and build the capabilities, the knowledge, and the attitudes in my employees. Companies need to start paying attention to the person and not solely the employment. This way, companies will be able to develop people for the world, for the future – people who have lifelong employability. To have lifelong employability, we also need to start implementing lifelong learning. It is the companies’ responsibilities to grant opportunities to their employees to continuously re-skill throughout their whole life.

Q: How does an organization maintain a strong corporate culture during a time of increased remote work?

A: The old mindset is that we need to work together in the same place, all the time, to build a culture, but now in the new word, the most important word is “agility.” Mindset agility, learning agility, structure activity, place agility… But when you think of how to recruit people to work with you, how to build teams, the most important topic to pay attention to is values. When you share values, you share the most important thing that you have, that is the willingness to work together. So when selecting people you need to pay attention on that, and when you build your culture, you need to define what values will be important for your company.

The biggest challenge that almost all the big companies have now is how to change their mindset. Digital transformation is not doing digital, it’s being digital. Being digital is an issue of mindset – how you approach different topics and what your point of view is regarding each of the topics. So being digital is being diverse, agile, mobile, flexible, and being digital is the willingness to adopt new technologies when they appear.

Q: As a leader, is our task to motivate and inspire employees to use new technologies? Can you provide some examples of what CEO’s can do?

A: For example, Netflix gives all the employees the opportunity to choose how many days of vacation to take. In a traditional company, this will be a mess. But at Netflix, employees realize that this is doable, if they are willing to be responsible and take on the challenge to achieve certain goals within a given timeframe. I think that the new way of working is starting to think in a different manner. We need to start thinking that we collaborate. W3 need to build an ecosystem, where the different parts within a company are interconnected and interdependent. The most important word is “interdependency.” So we may be in the bar, in Starbucks, at home, but we need to connect. So technology, we need to understand, it’s not the the goal, it’s the enabler, then technology is the bridge to connect one person with another person.

Q: If the future if work is so different, how do I prepare for it and what can an employer do to prepare for jobs that don’t exist today?

A: I think that there is a new capability that is critical for the company: learn to learn. We don’t know what we need to use in the future, so the most important is the capacity to learn very fast to adopt the new technologies and new challenges that will come. There are skills that we need to develop:

  1. Hard skills – This is what we call STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math).
  2. Emotional Intelligence – As technology impacts people and businesses, empathy becomes increasingly critical. We need to develop arts, because we need to exercise the other side of the minds of our people. This is called STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math)

This should be the new learning plan for companies, so with all of these condiments, we can build the employability of our people and they will start learn to learn.

Q: As non-linear career trajectories and differentiated skillsets become more commonplace, how will companies have to adjust their criteria and expectations of the talent pool?

A: We used to recruit knowers. What is it knower? A person who knows everything. Today, this is no longer the right answer. We need people that are humble, that have curiosity, and not only that, we need people that have the the willingness to learn more and more, and to have the the capacity to adapt to different types of environments and contexts.

Q: Gen Z is an aspirational generation who wants to work for a purpose. How can companies prepare to attract this new generation?

A: The problem of many companies that they have a goal, and after that, they build the purpose. This process should be the other way around. Companies should develop a purpose before having goals. I think you need to ask yourself, “Why do you exist in this world?” You need to discover what your real purpose is in the world, and this is organizational as well as personal. Values and purpose are the core, and they are the things that connect your company, your brands, your customers, your employees, and your entire ecosystem. As technology and digital transformation increase their influences on business, the human touch and the human side of the company becomes more and more important. Please don’t just think about technology, because people are the core of your business, the rest, it’s just there.