The question is often raised in jest: Are robots going to take our jobs? The answer is, well, yes — and then what? Automation and artificial intelligence are changing the ways we do business and the ways we work. Forrester estimates that by 2025, AI systems will have eliminated 7 percent of jobs, including those of customer service representatives and truck drivers. To not only keep pace but thrive, businesses need to change the ways they hire for jobs that will eventually morph or disappear entirely.
Employers still need those jobs done now, and it can be a challenge to recruit for jobs you expect to eliminate as technology advances. Walking this line will be critical for managing a more flexible and resilient workforce. “If we don’t plan for the reality of these jobs getting phased out and start talking about them and preparing people now, the risk is that we lose really good people who could be in the pipeline for the future,” says Cheryl Cran, a future-of-work expert who consults internationally about change leadership.
Here’s how to persuade someone to take on a job we already know won’t be around in 10 years.
Embrace Radical Transparency
Change is often uncomfortable, and “if you have someone who has worked 9-to-5 their entire life, this is scary. All they’ve known is job security,” Cran says. Whether you’re communicating with current employees who realize their jobs will be changing significantly or recruiting people for roles that may quickly evolve or shrink, transparency is vital, Cran says. “Don’t ignore the reality of the future; talk about how the jobs are morphing now.”
That means having a clear communication plan and being open and upfront about the present reality and future plans at your organization, she says. Be very clear about what you need from the role now, how long you expect the position to last and what opportunities you offer for training workers into new positions, she says.
Screen for Resilience
If you’re using trait assessments as part of your hiring process, Cran recommends adding questions that assess a candidate’s resilience and flexibility. Someone who just wants a job and doesn’t want to be a generalist might not be flexible enough to grow as their role evolves, Cran says. Candidates who display resilience have a better chance of adapting when things change.
Truck drivers, for example, are facing the eventuality of self-driving vehicles disrupting their industry — and jobs. But many of them also have some tech skills from dealing with onboard tracking systems, says Ira Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions, an employee assessment company. Some of those truck drivers will be out of a job in a few years, but others will be doing technology work on autonomous vehicles, Wolfe says. By measuring flexibility, creativity and resilience when recruiting for jobs you expect to change, you can identify employees and candidates who are more likely to succeed into the future.
When you recruit for roles you expect to change significantly in the coming years, look for ways to turn those changes into opportunities. You’re bringing on people who you think are a good fit for your company, so creating opportunities for them to move into as time goes on will help you retain strong performers.
“Up-skilling the current workforce and training employees on new technology, processes and systems are approaches we are taking with our staff members and associates,” says Patrick Beharelle, president and chief operating officer of TrueBlue, a staffing firm that specializes in sectors including manufacturing and transportation. “We want every employee to stay relevant. It’s smarter for us to invest in continuously training and retaining our staff than to deal with turnover.”