- Employee training is "investment number one" for modern organizations, business author Tom Peters said during a Knowledge@Wharton podcast episode.
- Several forecasts project that the pace of job automation will ramp up in the not-too-distant future, Peters said, but the author believes that compared to new tech, "[People will be] far more important than ever, if they are well-trained, well-led [and] if they are engaged in what they're doing."
- Businesses should strive for differentiation in the customer experience, Peters said, setting themselves and their employees apart from the competition with exceptional service. Peters also spoke to the importance of creating customer relationships and a good company culture, the latter of which "is not an HR issue. It's a CEO issue — every minute, every day, forever and ever, amen."
Peters' strong stance on the importance of soft skills and general training are important to keep in mind as experts analyze the onset of the "fourth industrial revolution" threatening over 1 million jobs nationwide. Up to 47% of U.S. jobs could be at risk over the next 20 years, according to an Oxford University study. The need to train staff for jobs that don’t even exist today in readiness for the future is critical.
Training for soft skills, like communication and leadership, has been tagged as a top priority by leading employers, reflecting the demand for these skills even as technological innovation pushes on. In order for employers to keep pace with ever-encroaching online sellers, customer care will be key.
It's perhaps in the retail industry where consumer demand for technology has created the most intense debate. Though predictions as to how many retail jobs are being lost to e-commerce, questions remain about whether or not brick and mortar stores will survive. Yet the role of human beings seems without dispute; recent reports show retailers who lower staffing levels risk sales and customer loyalty.