As you’ve likely heard, change is coming to workplaces. Automation, artificial intelligence (AI), 5G and numerous other technologies will drastically alter the way everyone works. In the future of work, you’ll need a revamped set of skills to remain employable. Being part of a community can help develop those abilities and futureproof a career in other ways. Through networking, for example, or providing peer-led support and advice.

How work will change

Automation, for example, threatens 1.5 million existing jobs in the UK. Most of those are manual and time-intensive positions that are ‘codifiable’ - their tasks can be broken down and translated into code, taught to a computer and automated. Assembly line workers, typists, clerks and store assistants are most likely to see their roles automated. The workers who’ll come out on top in the automation age will be ones who develop their ‘human’ skills.

Skills in demand

Three skill sets have been identified for workers who don’t want to be ‘left behind’ in the future. Higher cognitive skills such as writing, critical thinking and complex information processing will be relatively futureproofed. Soft skills such as negotiation, empathy, continuous learning and communication will also be in demand. Finally, there are technological skills such as data analysis, engineering and research. These enable workers to oversee automation and AI - a critical ability in the future as more roles move towards management instead of execution.

Communities can develop future skills

Communities are well-placed to build many of these skills. On the tech-front, many communities already exist to help data scientists, engineers and developers swap best practice, tips and solutions. GitHub is one such example.

But it’s with the soft skills where communities prove exceptionally powerful. The demand for social and emotional skills is predicted to increase by 26%. Those abilities are developed by communicating and engaging with other people. Being part of a community (or several) will help people develop those skills. It doesn’t have to be in person either as online communities are on the rise. The market is predicted to reach $1.2 billion by the end of 2019 - a compound annual growth rate of 24.3%.

The rise of remote working

Community participation becomes increasingly vital as remote working rises. Half the UK workforce will work remotely by 2020. These workers won’t have daily office interactions and ‘watercooler’ chat. So, they’ll have to turn to alternate ways to foster soft skills. Communities offer an effective alternative, with many already operating as extensions to the workplace. Meetups are commonplace in many cities, whilst online communities exist in the form of Salesforce Trailblazers, the Hoxby Collective and Sage City. Informally, several groups have sprung up to target freelancers and remote workers. The Copywriter Club and Digital Nomad Girls exist on Facebook, for example.

Lifelong learning through community

Continuous training is essential in the future as nobody can be 100% sure if their job will be safe from automation. There will also be many new roles created - much like how social media managers didn’t exist just a few years ago. To take advantage, people must be more flexible and adapt to different careers and industries. Again, communities help with this. If someone joins a new industry, they can turn to its established communities for advice. If their organisation has its own community, they can quickly grasp its working practices and company culture.

Upskilling becomes easier when part of a community. 87% of workers now believe that lifelong learning will be essential to keep up with workplace changes. This won’t always involve formal academic education. More people will turn to peer learning and mentorship to rapidly learn new skills, keep up with industry trends and plan their next career steps.

Finding new roles

Leveraging an existing network can help people find new roles if their current one is automated. This is already happening on LinkedIn, where people post updates when looking for work. Some communities, such as GitHub also have dedicated jobs sections.

Many industries face a widening skills gap, particularly with data and digital skills. A company community can help them find talent on-demand and keep skilled workers engaged with job opportunities. This takes advantage of passive recruits who aren’t actively searching for new roles. It can also be extended beyond internal workforces to include freelancers and contractors.

Corporate responsibility

When considering how automation will cause job shifts, a question lingers around who is responsible for reskilling and moving employees. Organisations have a duty-of-care to their employees and developing a company network may help mitigate some of the negative impacts of automation and AI.

HSBC has the ‘HSBC Partnership for Skills’ initiative to help prepare its community for future workforce demands. This includes a focus on tech skills, empathy and cultural understanding. It has extended this to educational institutions to prepare the next generation. In doing so, the community project has become a key part of its CSR efforts.

Become future-ready

The next decade will bring many changes for everyone. Being part of a community will prepare you for those changes and lessen any unforeseen negative impacts of it. Investing in your future is easier after you build an extensive professional network. This can take many forms, from online or mobile forums to in-person events.

Don’t limit yourself to a single community either. There are ones out there to fulfil every interest, working style and career ambition. Developing a portfolio of networks will give you rounded advice, experiences, potential mentors and career opportunities.

Signing up to a community today, is one of the best things you can do for your tomorrow.


Photo by Werner Du plessis on Unsplash.