Key takeaways from an evening looking at the future of tech with Applied Futurist, Tom Cheesewright
“Technology is the biggest driver for change. Full stop.” This was how Tom Cheesewright, Applied Futurist, started his speech at Lorien’s event looking at the future of technology, tech talent, and the world of work. Technology, in its purist sense, is as old as man, he noted.
Since the dawn of time, we have used tools to remove the friction from our lives and to improve efficiency. The difference now, is that technology-driven change feels larger and more encompassing than ever before. The world feels volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). And how do you prepare for that?
Here are some of the key takeaways from the evening, addressing the future and our questions about it. You can also find answers in ‘A Brighter Future’.
High Frequency Change
70% of the UK population believe that change is happening faster than 20 years ago. But is it? And is the change we experience today more significant than in previous eras? According to Tom, change should be viewed as a wave – with both amplitude and frequency.
While the changes we experienced years ago were low in frequency but high in impact – consider how the washing machine cut down hours per week spent on domestic labour by 71%. Today, we also see change happening with lower immediate impact but at an increased rate. These waves of high frequency change overlay the background of slower change, giving us the impression of speed and volume.
By lowering the friction in our day-to-day life, technology also increases our expectations. We order our favourite products and expect them the next day. We phone someone and expect an immediate response. We turn to the internet and expect instant information.
For Tom, the clearest example of this was the stock market’s introduction of a fibre optic cable with an air gap in the middle to ensure that transactions could take place a fraction of a second faster – because the speed of light through the old solid glass fibres simply wasn’t fast enough.
Change is Power
The businesses at the front of the competition are the ones that are embracing change, and are adapting quickly to it. From ‘A Brighter Future’, Tom referenced both the transformative power of Extended Reality (XR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). While XR will change how we interact with the world – with digital reality overlaid so closely on the physical world that it is almost photorealistic – AI will displace huge chunks of lower-level work.
Areas such as customer service will be affected by these two trends, as both XR and AI create a realistic, effective simulation of the services we have come to expect – but quicker, smoother, more streamlined. For companies and individuals quick to recognise and adopt these changes, the natural evolution is greater value being placed on ‘human’ skills and upskilling.
The Three Cs
Demand for decisive, responsive action in business is changing the way we qualify talent. Today, companies need to react quickly to market shifts. There is no time for layers of decision-making – individuals must be trusted to make the right decision at the right time. And while many companies are changing their business structure to enable greater autonomy and speed up processes, there is still a challenge to attract people with the right skills.
These skills are known as the ‘Three Cs’:
• Curation (the ability to discover and qualify information – unpicking true from false, listening to the market, and identifying gaps)
• Creation (the ability to synthesise information to develop new ideas)
• Communication (the ability to take new ideas and sell them to peers – internally and externally).
Attracting talent with these ‘soft’ skills means that decisions can increasingly be made at the edge of business, rather than through hierarchies – meaning faster, more creative, and more informed responses.
The education system is struggling to adjust to the high-frequency change of the labour market. While technology skills are quickly outdated due to the pace of change, there is also limited focus on broader ‘soft’ skills – such as the three Cs – meaning that many students leave education ill-equipped for the modern world of work.
Teaching these vital skills therefore often falls to companies. At university, there needs to be a focus on either highly specialist degrees or degrees that cover a broader skillset – so that graduates leave with agile minds. In work, there also needs to be a focus on continuous learning.
A hard stop after university isn’t enough to keep up with change. David Gettins, Managing Director at Lorien, highlighted that this was a good opportunity to use your Apprenticeship Levy (for companies that this applies to), to invest in the mobility of your existing workforce by upskilling.
Improving diversity in business remains a challenge and a priority for many companies. However, change is slow. And while steps to address the gap are being taken by many, there are still organisations failing to consider diversity and inclusion in their hiring process.
Tom believed that diversity and inclusion is a case of gradual progress, facilitated by results. Ultimately, research shows that diverse businesses consistently outperform their non-diverse counterparts in multiple metrics – from collaboration and innovation through to the bottom line.
As a result, companies will change their behaviour not because they ‘should’, but because they have to in order to stay competitive. In this sense, diverse companies will over time displace non-diverse companies, until D&I is a norm rather than a strategic initiative.
Analysing the future is tough. If change is to be viewed as a wave, then it’s often below the surface, invisible until it crests. The key to understanding and adapting to tech and talent changes, in our view, is to take into consideration all known trends, challenges, and shifts simultaneously.
Because these are often a precedent for more significant or faster changes to come. Staying ahead means being aware and being prepared. This is what we help our clients to do every day. Contact us at email@example.com for more information.
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