Automation is changing the way we work – so how can the Swiss workforce, companies and educational system adapt?
Zurich, 11 May 2017
New Deloitte research on the key competencies of employees in the digital age
According to the latest Deloitte study on the impact of automation on the Swiss economy, more jobs have been created than lost thanks to automation in the past 25 years. This trend is likely to continue and the structural transformation of the job market will also likely accelerate. Deloitte’s latest study «What key competencies are needed in the digital age? The impact of automation on employees, companies and education» explores the effects on employees, employers and Switzerland’s educational system alike.
Automation has had a positive impact on the Swiss labour market, having created more jobs than it has destroyed. Between 1990 and 2013, net job creation has topped 800,000. According to new research in Deloitte’s latest automation study, of those 800,000 or so new jobs created, some 200,000 can be attributed solely to automation. And in future years, automation is likely to continue to create more jobs than it destroys. On the other hand, ongoing structural transformation will change the job market, as automation will move jobs both within and between industries.
“Automation will transform the way we work: the sectors we work in, the job roles we have and the day-to-day activities we perform,” says Markus Koch, Head Strategic Development, Consumer & Industrial Products at Deloitte. “This has consequences for employees, who will need to engage in lifelong learning to respond as rapidly as possible to changes in skills requirements triggered by automation and digitalisation. Employers, on the other hand, need to consider their future requirements for competencies, and adapt their talent management system to support employees accordingly and to recruit and retain new talent. Lastly, Switzerland will need to adapt its education and training system, in particular in in offering individualized programmes for trained employees to retrain for a new profession and in placing a greater focus on basic education in ICT competencies and social intelligence.”
The key question is which competencies and expertise will be needed from employees in the future. The new Deloitte study explores this question, based on quantitative research and interviews with decision-makers from Swiss companies, associations and academic institutes. The study shows how competency requirements have changed over the past 25 years and how they are likely to change in future.
The competencies of the future: Creativity, social intelligence and ICT expertise
Creativity and social intelligence are likely to be essential competencies for most new jobs created between now and 2030. Because these competencies still give humans a clear advantage over machines and software, they also offer protection against developments in automation, making jobs ‘future-proof’. There will also be greater demand for individuals with expertise in ICT and excellent mathematical competencies.
Job prospects and protection against automation will be even better for individuals who can combine mathematical and technological competencies with social intelligence. Employment in occupations that require high levels of mathematical competencies (e.g. number facility and knowledge in mathematics) but low levels of social competencies (e.g. social perceptiveness, persuasion and negotiation skills) has stagnated in recent years; a trend expected to continue. The opposite is true when a high level of social competencies is required – irrespective if combined with other competencies or not: Such jobs, e.g. architects, engineers and managers, exhibit high growth rates and will probably continue to do so.
Moreover, the future will provide good job prospects for employees with excellent knowledge in the areas of education & training, health, and communications. Although this knowledge may not be crucial to most newly-created jobs in future, it offers protection against automation in these ‘niche occupations’.
Not only do humans have an advantage over machines for their creativity and social intelligence, but also because they can demonstrate versatility and situational adaptability. These competencies are important for occupations requiring fewer or lower qualifications, but where craft skills and psychomotor skills are needed, such as cooking and hairdressing (see more examples on the report webpage).
The Swiss education and training system: well-positioned with potential for improvement
The permeability and practical orientation of the education system and high levels of qualification among employees give Switzerland an advantage in labour market terms. However, the training system must adapt to the challenges of automation and digitalisation. This includes accelerating changes in vocational training, so that it is able to respond rapidly to evolving occupational profiles and skills requirements, and focusing more on basic education in ICT competencies and social intelligence.
Lifelong learning and further training crucial in the digital age
In addition to the provision of initial (basic) training, further training and retraining will be important. Employees will have to engage in lifelong learning if they are to be capable of responding as rapidly as possible to changes in competencies requirements triggered by automation and digitalisation. However, lower-skilled employees in particular are often unwilling to undergo further training. Efforts need to be undertaken to raise awareness in this segment about the importance and opportunities of lifelong learning.
And what should and can companies do?
Talent management that focuses on the needs of individuals and enhances their employability can increase employee motivation and productivity, and improve the attractiveness of companies as employers – issues that are currently crucial for recruiting and retaining staff. This also applies to further training: companies should embed the importance of further training within their corporate culture. They should also make use of digital technologies to enhance training opportunities.
- Discover various job and key competencies examples, as well as the full report, on our website.
- Explore our first three reports in the Deloitte series on the impact of automation on the Swiss economy:
Man and Machine: Robots on the rise? The impact of automation on the Swiss job market (Nov 2015),
Structural change creates jobs – How automation will impact employment in Switzerland (May 2016) and
Transforming the Swiss economy – The impact of automation on employment and industries (Oct 2016).
About Deloitte in Switzerland
Deloitte is a leading auditing and consulting company in Switzerland and offers industry specific services in the audit & risk advisory, consulting, financial advisory as well as tax & legal sectors. With over 1.700 employees at the six locations of Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Lugano and Zürich (head office) Deloitte looks after companies and institutions of every legal status and size from all economic sectors. Deloitte AG is a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP, the member company of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) in the United Kingdom. Via DTTL their member companies are represented in more than 150 countries with over 245.000 employees.
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