I had an interesting conversation the other day with Michael Stephan, a principal in Deloitte Consulting’s Human Capital practice. He and I spoke during an interview for an upcoming feature story I’m writing.
Stephan consults regularly with some of the largest and most well-known companies in the U.S. A number of them are, not surprisingly, focused on how to prepare their workforces for the changes that automation and machine learning (aka artificial intelligence) will be bringing to many of today’s jobs. Managers in particular are seeing their roles greatly altered and this is giving rise to what Deloitte is calling the “superjob,” says Stephan.
As an example, he cites a company that operates warehouse-distribution centers. At those locations, many jobs formerly performed by humans are now being performed by robots, thanks in part because it’s so hard to fill these often-grueling jobs in a tight labor market. At the same time, many vital tasks are still done by humans. That’s why a manager’s role at distribution centers like these is becoming a superjob — he or she must not only have the technical and business expertise necessary for the work but be able to determine when hand-offs between the robots and the humans will occur and when changes in such arrangements may be necessary, says Stephan.
Likewise, at a pharmaceutical company, being a manager in the research-and-development division has evolved from overseeing human workers to managing both humans and chatbots as more basic R&D functions have become automated, says Stephan.
“A superjob is developing new technical capabilities while at the same time figuring out how to manage humans and bots side by side,” he says.
(The term “superjob” is of course not to be confused with SuperJob.com, one of Russia’s main job sites and a compiler of statistics such as what the average meatpacker earns in Pskov.)
According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends survey, 41% of respondents are investing in automation extensively across multiple functions, with AI enabling human workers to focus on higher-value tasks.
Superjobs require a combination of technical skills and soft skills such as communication and collaboration, says Stephan. They often bring together work and responsibilities from multiple traditional jobs and are enabled by tech that can augment and broaden the scope of work to be performed.
“A superjob requires the ability to know what’s working and what isn’t, and when and how to make necessary changes,” he says.