There will be change in tomorrow’s business. Of that there is no doubt.
But what that change will be is anyone’s guess. To triumph amid such uncertainty, future workers must be curious and agile, the leader of one of the nation’s largest professional services firms told Broad Spartans at the 2018 Warrington Lecture.
“There’s lots of things for CEOs to think about,” Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte, told several hundred students on Thursday, Nov. 8. “Obviously, they’re very worried about not who is going to disrupt them, but what will disrupt them … what else is coming along? Is it AI? Social? Mobile? Blockchain? … CEOs are wondering what they should be doing.”
The annual Warrington Lecture, established by Edward and Jeannine James to honor Jeannine’s father Sylvan Warrington, invites C-suite leaders to campus to speak about ethics-related issues and topics for which they feel most passionate.
In her role, Engelbert leads nearly 100,000 employees and is listed among Fortune’s most powerful women in business. The event was moderated by Eli Broad College of Business Dean Sanjay Gupta, who asked her about business trends on the horizon.
Now defining the future is what Engelbert called the “three D’s: data, digital, and disruption. The data and digital transformations are creating the disruptions,” and along with it new opportunities and unexpected challenges.
One challenge created by the evolution of technology, industry and society is cybersecurity. “This is something that every executive is struggling with because, there are two sets of companies: those that have been hacked, and those that have been hacked and don’t know it yet,” she said.
Whatever drives changes, that evolution will create a job market that will constantly shift under the feet of a labor force that must adjust to the shifts to remain upright. That will put the onus on workers to continually evolve their skills.
“Think about the work of the future, and the types of skills that it will take to do this work of the future … the number one thing I would say, as you embark on your careers over the next few years, you have to be enormously curious,” Engelbert said. “Your curiosity has to be at an all-time high as you think about their work of the future.”
That’s because workers will have to be self-motivated to reinvent themselves as learned skills turn obsolete and new abilities are needed for evolving new lines of work.
“The World Economic Forum put out a report that [of] today’s school-aged children, 65 percent of them will eventually have a job that doesn’t exist today … you’re going to have to be agile,” Engelbert said. “You’re going to have to think about how you reskill and upskill yourself.”
For those looking to climb the corporate ladder, leadership starts on their first day on the most basic assignment, as their actions will influence those around them, for better or worse.
“You may not think, when you come in as a first-year person or an entry-level person, that you’re a leader. But after a few weeks … other people will be hired behind you, and you start to become a role model pretty quickly,” Engelbert said. “You have to know, you’re being watched, with how you carry yourself; how you conduct yourself; the ethics and integrity that you exhibit.”
Other insights offered by Engelbert included:
- Changes aren’t just being driven by technology. There has been a “rise of employee activism,” illustrated by the recent walkout of around 20,000 workers at Google over the company’s sexual harassment policy. “You’re seeing a lot more of purpose over profit,” she said.
- The nation’s corporate leaders are “generally pretty confident and optimistic” about the future, but there are “some trade worries,” she said.
- The role of people working in a world of artificial intelligence will involve HI — human ingenuity — that works in sync with AI. “AI plus HI is the new winning formula. You’ve got to figure out how to … work together with automation in order not to be left behind,” she said.
- As workers look for your future employers, “you need to look for a culture that matches your core beliefs and your core values … get a feel for the culture. This is a really important point, because ethics, integrity have got to be at the top of the list,” she said.
- Exiting comfort zones will expose one to skills, relationships, and opportunities to which they would otherwise have remained oblivious. “What will always differentiate yourself is taking risk,” she said.