From a structural perspective, things like the sharing economy, telework, and freelancing continue to reshape traditional workplace job roles and how people generate income. Some of those pre-recession jobs aren’t coming back, and the one’s that do might look a lot different. We are truly in a new world of work.
Machines and the Information Age
One of the more poignant views of this transformation comes from Tyler Cowen’s new book “Average Is Over.” The New York Times’ David Brooks wrote a recent piece on Cowen’s analysis, which attempted to pair “mental abilities” with Mr. Cowen’s perspective on “mechanized intelligence.”
His description of “synthesizers” is one that captures a lot of what’s happening in every industry. Software is automating processes and the need for extrapolation and manipulation is increasing. Brooks describes the skill set as such:
“The computerized world presents us with a surplus of information. The synthesizer has the capacity to surf through vast amounts of online data and crystallize a generalized pattern or story.”
If we look a little deeper, down to roles and responsibilities, it’s obvious that yesterday’s workplace statistician is a bit different than today’s oft-described data scientist.
McKinsey’s Dominic Barton mentioned some of the changes we’ve seen as businesses have increased their digital and data expertise throughout the workplace.
“Leading in the Digital Age may require creating new roles such as Chief Digital Officer, Chief Analytics Officer, or Chief Data Officer, though relatively few companies so far have taken such steps,” Barton said.
So what are three new roles that are crafting this new world of work?
The Digital Machinist: Remaking the Role of Manufacturing
Whether it’s an industrial scanner, 3-D printer, or robotic laser, machine operators are the human element in an increasingly automated and computerized world. In this “Second Machine Age,” coexistence with computers once again seems to be the direction we’re headed. That doesn’t mean operators need to be software engineers, they just need to be capable of understanding the languages that control the machines. Manufacturing is where we can see this playing out. Technology has digitized much of the assembly line and production process.
Larger factories, especially in precision manufacturing areas like medical, automotive, and aerospace, are often dominated by robotics and intelligent automation. But with more machines comes more management and maintenance. The digital machinist might do less true fabrication, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have less responsibility.
The Data Specialist: Building Bridges in the Cloud
First it was SEO and building websites. Next it was online communities and enterprise social networks. Now it’s about building bridges between all of these, and doing it in the cloud. The on-demand mentality is spurring the need for not only new technical skills sets to manage and deploy services, but also the expertise to spot new business opportunities.
Think of mashups. That used to be overused jargon for mixing and matching apps to create something new and useful. Today’s cloud specialists can see through the glitz and quickly put new computing resources to use across the organization. They’re business people first because they have to understand how a line of business works.
The cloud specialist today is part community manager, part communications consultant, and part cheerleader. They can pitch in on intranet best practices, bring a sales enablement tool online, and even spur an effort to find the best knowledge inside the firewall. Their job is to consumerize everything in the enterprise.
The Chief Sustainability Officer: The Risk of Not Going Green
The green movement has evolved beyond the clichés. In the workplace, it’s become something entrenched in the day-to-day operations. While recycling was just about the only thing waving the sustainability banner a few years ago, sustainability is now a by-product of the right risk analysis strategy. The rise of the Chief Sustainability Officer is accelerating and it’s now commonplace to see the role occupy as much of the c-suite as other executive roles.
CSOs find the waste and turn it into something useful. Whether raw materials or labor, the important thing is to utilize idle assets and put them to good use. For years, the Ops team has looked for the low-hanging fruit. Now it has the tools to analyze the data, and it’s the CSO’s team that’s driving the strategy. They know where to look and know how to create a roadmap that everyone sticks to.
That encompasses a lot of the features that sustainability has always sought to embody: solid, long-term, durable and resilient. Call it what you want, but that’s the kind of expertise that every business needs. And that’s the smart workplace of today: no waste and high efficiency.