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Redesigning Jobs for Tomorrow: Preparing Organizations for the Changing Nature of Work


Technology is rapidly transforming the nature of work. Many jobs are being automated through advances in robotics and artificial intelligence, even as new jobs continue to emerge. For organizations to thrive in this changing environment, they must thoughtfully redesign existing jobs and create new roles to take advantage of emerging opportunities.


Today we will explore key considerations for redesigning jobs based on research into the future of work.


Redesigning Jobs to Maximize Human Capabilities


As jobs change due to technology, organizations should redesign roles to maximize core human strengths that complement automation. Research suggests focusing job design on tasks requiring creativity, social-emotional skills, and complex problem-solving (World Economic Forum, 2018). By understanding which human capabilities technology cannot (yet) replace, organizations can strategically redesign jobs accordingly.


Strategically Combining Human and Machine Strengths: Rather than fearing technology replacing humans, organizations should view it as an opportunity to amplify human performance through symbiotic human-machine collaboration (Brynjolfsson & McAffee, 2014). Job design should analyze which tasks are best performed by humans, machines, or jointly. For example, accounting roles may involve machines automating routine data entry, freeing accountants for more strategic advisory work utilizing interpersonal skills. By thoughtfully combining human and digital strengths, jobs can become more engaging and impactful.


Continuously Updating Job Descriptions: As technologies evolve rapidly, job design cannot be a one-time effort but must continually adapt. Organizations should establish ongoing processes to systematically review and update each job description annually based on changing business needs and emerging technologies (World Economic Forum, 2018). Flexible job frameworks allow employees to easily gain new skills and transition into new roles, preparing the workforce for continuous change.


Reskilling and Upskilling the Workforce: Even with thoughtfully redesigned jobs, certain roles will be disrupted by technology requiring employees to gain new skills. Organizations must invest in reskilling and upskilling workers for the jobs of tomorrow (World Economic Forum, 2018). Accessible continuous learning programs allow employees to gain in-demand abilities like data analytics, computer programming, and strategic communication. Considering employees’ current skills, interests, and career trajectories helps identify suitable reskilling and growth opportunities.


Redefining Performance Metrics: As job roles evolve, performance metrics must also change to align with new responsibilities and ways of working. For example, metrics for collaborative problem-solving roles may weigh interpersonal skills and initiative more heavily than throughput metrics tied to routine tasks (World Economic Forum, 2018). By thoughtfully redefining metrics, performance management can motivate employees in their redesigned jobs and new ways of contributing value.


Creating Meaningful Transitional Jobs: For roles fully automated, organizations face the challenge of helping displaced employees find new meaningful work. Job transition programs match workers to roles requiring skills similar to their previous work, but also provide skill-building support and wraparound services like career coaching and resources (World Economic Forum, 2018). In manufacturing, roles inspecting product quality still require human judgment even as production lines automate. Transitional programs aid a smooth workforce transition amid technological change.


Redesigning Jobs in Financial Services


The financial services industry exemplifies job redesign opportunities as digital technologies automate tasks but also open possibilities. One large bank redesigned roles at all levels to identify strategic work for humans versus machines. For example, customer service representatives now spend less time on routine inquiries addressed through virtual agents. Freed from transactional tasks, representatives focus on complex customer needs utilizing strengths in counseling and problem-solving (Accenture, 2019).


Tellers now participate in digital self-service for basic transactions while concentrating “live” sessions on consulting customers on financial goals, products, and services. Data analytics roles emerged analyzing trends to enhance products, strategize new offerings, and detect fraudulent activity. Even executives benefit as automation of manual reporting allows more focus on using insights to drive high-impact decisions. By thoughtfully redesigning jobs amid automation, this bank empowered employees and customers through the strategic combination of human and digital capabilities.


Applying Job Redesign in Healthcare


Similarly, the healthcare industry faces workforce challenges amid technological change affecting clinical and non-clinical roles. For example, many diagnostic and routine monitoring tasks are now performed through remote patient monitoring technologies and AI assistants (World Economic Forum, 2018). This allows redesigned roles for nurses and medical technologists to focus on higher-level responsibilities involving human judgement, compassion, and holistic care coordination instead of transactional duties.


New "health coach" roles emerged empowering patients through virtual and remote lifestyle guidance utilizing behavior change and motivational interviewing skills. In hospitals, environmental services workers take on "clinical support" functions sanitizing medical equipment and transporting patients - roles requiring emotional intelligence skills to comfort patients (World Economic Forum, 2018). By thoughtfully redesigning roles to concentrate on core human strengths, the healthcare sector prepares its workforce for ongoing technological transformation.


Conclusion


As technology rapidly changes the nature of work, thoughtful job redesign allows organizations to strategically prepare their workforce and seize new opportunities. By maximizing human capabilities that complement automation, continuously adapting job descriptions, investing in reskilling and new learning programs, redefining metrics, and thoughtfully transitioning displaced talent - companies can build dynamic, fulfilling work for the future. With strategic job redesign approaches tailored to different sectors’ contexts, organizations can thrive amid ongoing technological disruption. Overall, job redesign holds great promise for building an empowered workforce and richer employee experiences as work continually evolutes.


References


 

Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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