In its wide-ranging report ‘The Future of Jobs’, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicted the workplace of 2020 will be almost unrecognisable from the present, as new technology such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation replaces millions of current jobs with positions not yet dreamed up.

Matt Cavalier, Managing Director of the Australian Institute of Management (AIM), has spent a lot of time thinking about these trends. His role involves overseeing a range of short courses, accredited diplomas and certificates and tailored corporate solutions on offer at AIM, and ensuring they remain relevant to this fast-changing work environment.

Adapt and reinvent to remain relevant

Matt says that technical skills will continue to be valuable, but the sheer rate of change means broader, more transferable skills will be the most valuable part of an executive’s toolkit. Tomorrow’s leaders will need the ability to adapt and reinvent their organisations to remain relevant in the kind of disrupted and unpredictable labour market the WEF anticipates.

A willingness to innovate, and an understanding of how to go about this, will also be mandatory for C-suite executives. “Leaders can’t be afraid of the ‘F word’ – failure,” Matt begins. “They need to look at what they have learned in the past and how they can incorporate those learnings into the next operation.”

Matt has extensive experience working in start-ups and has some valuable lessons on handling innovation. “You need to either iterate or stop and move on quickly. This is a lesson that is just as relevant to larger organisations as it is to a start-up.”

Matt Cavalier, Managing Director, AIM
Matt Cavalier, Managing Director, AIM

“Great leaders continually ask themselves what they can do too improve their leadership capability.” – Matt Cavalier, Managing Director, AIM

The strategy executives and human resource leaders surveyed by the WEF nominated the changing nature of work as the most likely source of disruption. With this in mind, it will be vital that leaders have the kind of transferable skills that will allow them to recalibrate their organisations in a dynamic environment.

Matt says AIM has been helping executive staff develop and refine their soft skills for 76 years. Courses such as ‘Leading with Emotional Intelligence’ and ‘People Management’ have been tailored for a disrupted job market, and new offerings such as ‘Design Thinking’ and ‘Human-Centred Design’ offer cutting-edge strategies for companies moving into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“These modules really help organisations rethink their business models and increase the value they offer customers, while also decreasing their non-value-added activities. Businesses are becoming more lean and agile, with a greater customer focus. We are helping to build companies that can tie into that digital disruption and change to accommodate the new digital era.”

The future of work will likely be one where collaborative projects are increasingly important. The leaders of tomorrow will need high-level skills in engaging productively with people from different backgrounds and across multiple disciplines and industries.

Engaging productively

“That requires a different set of social skills in the workplace,” Matt acknowledges. “There will be more mobile technology and more time pressure, so that adds to the challenge. A lot of companies are continuously evolving to ensure they are getting the competitive advantage to stay ahead of other organisations.

“To collaborate effectively, people need to feel a sense that there is a common purpose. This typically involves motivating people towards a shared goal, respecting the input of the individuals and being able to effectively resolve conflict if and when it occurs. We have classes equipping individuals with those skill sets, including ‘Diversity in the Workplace’ and ‘Change Management’.”

Matt has worked across the media, finance and entertainment industries, and says that both his own experience and studies on the changing workplace have made clear the value of qualities like resilience and soft skills like people management. “What we have seen as important for leaders is their ability to work effectively in teams, collaborate and solve business challenges.”

Ongoing education can combat a mindset of complacency and inertia. “Leaders need to be self-reflective and assess their own strengths and weaknesses”, Matt begins. “Great leaders continually ask themselves what they can do to improve their leadership capability and take steps to learn and grow.”