Future proofing professional jobs

Those in professional service roles have been largely sitting on the sidelines until now, watching as retail, customer service and warehousing jobs have been buffeted by the winds of technological change.

I recently presented at the World Congress of Accountants and my message to accountants was they are on borrowed time. The topic was “The changing Role of the Trusted Advisor”, and I started with a scary reality check.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2018 report on the future of jobs, skills like managing finances or technology are expected to decline in the next four years, and those that require “grey area” thinking (often called soft-skills) will rise.

Skills in decline

The upshot is any profession that has relied on its technical knowledge – like accountants and lawyers – will find the bulk of their role replaced by technology. Wherever you have an “if/then” scenario, you are at risk of replacement by an algorithm.

There is only one way to future proof roles in these fields – get better at the people side. That’s dealing in the murk of difficult, grey area decisions. The murk of influencing what people do.

Designing an App? You need to influence people to download it.

Creating a website? You need to influence people to click.

Selling a driverless car? You need to get people to use it.

Being a “trusted advisor”? You need people to trust you.

A structured approach to influencing action

Accountants have had accounting standards to govern their technical work. Lawyers have precedent and legislation. What is the equivalent for professionals for behavioural influence? Behavioural economics. In my view a codified model of behavioural economics provides a common set of principles that define the basis of behaviour. Drawing on behavioural science means you can formalise how you engage with people rather than relying on guesswork.

Whatever job you have now or in the future, all roads lead back to influence. Become an expert in that and you will future proof your profession.

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