Employees in the Smart Machine Age: 5 Things HR Leaders Should Know

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One of the greatest impacts of the technological revolution is a shift in what organizations look for in candidates

Machine intelligence and the proliferation of emerging technologies — from virtual reality to AI — will likely impact job seekers. In the book, "Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age," authors Edward Hess and Katherine Ludwig argue that one of the greatest impacts of the technological revolution is a shift in what organizations look for in candidates. Here are five things HR leaders should know about employees in the Smart Machine Age.

1. Employees Must Adjust Their Positioning and Expectations

Many people assume machine intelligence puts specific jobs or sectors, like manufacturing, at higher risk. As Harvard Business Review notes, "Credible scientists and research firms have predicted that the likely automation of service sectors and professional jobs in the United States will be more than 10 times as large as the number of manufacturing jobs automated to date." Everyone in your organization — from the CEO to administrators — needs to consider what impact AI and other emerging forms of tech could have on their role.

2. Expect a Shift From Smart to NewSmart

One of the biggest shifts your employees are likely to experience is a new definition of "smart." Many organizations hire based on an employee's level of knowledge — how much they know and how quickly they can put that into practice. However, the authors note that trying to compete against computers in terms of quantity or speed is a losing battle. Instead, employees will have to align with an evolving definition of smart that includes self-awareness, as well as the ability to learn quickly, listen well and collaborate effectively.

3. Embrace a Positioning That Values Humility

Hess and Ludwig note that tomorrow's most successful employees will embrace a humility-focused mindset, which can best be described as "a mindset about oneself that is open-minded, self-accurate, and 'not all about me' and that enables one to embrace the world as it is in pursuit of human excellence." Employees will have to show how they're open to learning from their mistakes, how they perceive the world in a realistic way that's focused on solutions and how they operate as part of a team.

4. Look for Candidates With Advanced Communications Skills

Strong communications skills will be increasingly important to employers. According to Hess and Ludwig, two behaviors that will contribute to an employee's ability to stand out will be reflective listening and managing thoughts and emotions to communicate more effectively. Strong listening skills can help employees understand problems. Critical thinking skills can support innovative solutions. Employees with strong listening and communications skills will be differentiated in any position.

5. Collaboration Is Key

Today's organizations may look for top individual contributors or managers. However, Hess and Ludwig note that collaboration skills will be critical for employees. This involves quieting the ego so the individual can focus on goals larger than their own agenda. Another component of this is managing thoughts and emotions to create the conditions for optimum collaboration. Finally, an expert collaborator develops an array of skills that make it easier to connect with, build rapport with and work closely with a team made up of diverse individuals. Current definitions of collaboration will likely move beyond the question of whether prospective candidates are familiar with specific technologies.

The Smart Machine Age is bringing many changes with it, and one is how emerging technologies like machine intelligence will change employment relationships. Tomorrow's employees won't be differentiated by knowledge or speed. Instead, self-awareness, critical thinking and the ability to communicate and collaborate will be what top employers look for when onboarding new team members. Employees who recognize that today and begin to cultivate those skills — as well as highlight them as part of their professional brand — will stand out and be in demand for the jobs of tomorrow.

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