The one characteristic that will define the future worker

It's one of the most vexing questions facing businesses today. But the answer may be less around physical skills than a particular mindset.

Cannings Purple 29 Nov 2019
3 mins
The Resources Technology Showcase

It’s one of the most vexing questions facing any sector in a rapidly changing world: what will the future worker look like?

It’s no small conundrum, when you consider estimates that between 65 per cent and 85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 are yet to be invented.

But as Perth’s Resources Technology Showcase was told on Thursday morning, it might be less a query around physical and academic skills and much more of one about mindset.

That line of discussion – one of the most interesting talking points across a fascinating conference – started with a question to Caterpillar’s vice president of surface mining and technology Jean Savage.

Ms Savage, having completed her keynote speech ahead of schedule, was able to engage in an impromptu Q & A.

Asked what qualities Caterpillar looked for in current and future hires, her answer was immediate and unequivocal.

“The number one thing is that we want people who want to learn,” she said.

Jean Savage from Caterpillar

Jean Savage from Caterpillar talks at the Resources Technology Showcase in Perth. Photo: Ross Swanborough, The West Australian.

That theme was maintained in a follow-up panel session that included WA Premier Mark McGowan, INPEX director of drilling Manuel Sessink, Fortescue Management Group’s manager of people Linda O’Farrell, BHP’s asset president of WA iron ore Edgar Basto and Woodside’s executive vice president of development Meg O’Neill.

The overriding sentiment was that technology and innovation would continue to rapidly change our everyday lives and how we work – and the best thing anyone could do was to be prepared to change with the times.

“There will be stuff that today we don’t know about, but which will change people’s lives,” Mr Sessink reflected.

“It’s not that long ago that I was lining up for the iPhone 1!”

Mr Basto said innovation would make jobs that were currently physical and repetitive, more interesting – by having employees find ways to apply technology to do the work.

There was widespread agreement that being able to use “remote control” in Perth (or another hub) to carry out work around the State provided opportunities to retain people who might otherwise leave the workforce, or recruit staff who hadn’t previously considered mining and resources as a career path.

These include young parents, who might prefer living in the metropolitan area for family reasons, or people who didn’t want to live regionally or be part of a FIFO arrangement.

Ms O’Farrell said the simple act of asking FMG employees what they might like to learn had been surprisingly fruitful.

She said there was “magnificent take-up” of learning opportunities from people the company previously “didn’t know” were interested in expanding their horizons.

“You need to be open-minded about who in your organisation might be open to learning new skills,” Ms O’Farrell said.

Mr Sessink said there was a clear need for management and executives to be flexible in how they dealt with people and their career paths.

He cited the creation of an Inpex Millennial Advisory Board – “they changed their name straight away to I2K!”- as an example of flexibility in action.

“Management means you are controlling something – that creates discipline and reliability,” Mr Sessink explained.

“But management also creates bureaucracy and that can stop creativity.”

The latter suggests that not only will the jobs of tomorrow be vastly different, but so too will be the way we manage, lead and engage with the future workforce.

Simon White is Cannings Purple’s Content Editor and manages The 268, our content and news hub, which was a finalist in the Branded Journalism category of the 2019 Asia Pacific SABRE Awards. He is a former editor of both and WAtoday. Email Simon.

Cannings Purple is a specialist communications consultancy with market-leading expertise in investor relationsgovernment relationsstakeholder engagementdesign and digitalcorporate affairscrisis communicationsmedia trainingmedia intelligencevideo production and bespoke content creation.

Main image: Ross Swanborough, The West Australian