While I’m certainly no Luddite, I must confess that I’ve always been a bit sceptical of technology and its encroaching influence on modern life. After all, it’s impossible to ignore the extent to which new tech is changing the way we work. With that caveat out in the open, it’s fair to say that I didn’t really know what to expect to from my visit to this year’s Changeboard Future Talent Conference, where the overarching theme was technology and how it impacts us as humans.
Listening to Jonas Prising, CEO of international recruitment firm Manpower Group, explain that automation is, far from destroying the labour market, birthing more work felt reassuring.
His company’s recent market research found that a quarter of the businesses which plan to automate tasks over the next two years expect to create more jobs out of it. This doesn’t mean, however, that we can sit back and watch it all unfold.
Conference speakers warned the future success hinges on upskilling and reskilling the workforce. Diversity came up again and again, too. The consensus was that readying the world for automation will only happen if we draw from the biggest pool of people possible.
Katy Hampshire, from the Education and Employers Taskforce, claimed that changing the way we educate the workforce is everyone’s responsibility. Hampshire’s initiative provides signatories with the opportunity to visit schools and speak about what they do. Its goal is to break down barriers and open children’s eyes to the opportunities available to them regardless of their background.
Of course, we can’t ignore the legitimate threats that technology poses. With fake news spreading and data now being used to quantify just about every aspect of life, philosopher Robert Rowland Smith’s key message was to slow down. We can only learn by asking the right questions and this begins with business leaders, he added.
It was, however, Lucy Winkett’s keynote address that most inspired me. As the first woman rector of St Paul’s Cathedral, she urged delegates to stay true to our convictions no matter what happens in the future. Winkett’s reminder that we’re all human beings, not human ‘doings’, is something that will stay with me for a long time. Whatever technology might throw at us, we must stay true to our beliefs and let these beliefs not only guide our personal life but our work life, too.
I might have entered Changeboard’s conference a technology sceptic, but I left with a little more belief.