Wrapping up my series of observations on the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, I think it’s important to examine the people angle of the conference theme, “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

As carriers assess whether or not they are equipped to both counter the threats of digital disruption and take advantage of the opportunities it presents, they need to consider the impact technology will have on the insurance workforce of the future. One of the WEF panel discussions, hosted by Accenture’s CTO Paul Daugherty, debated this topic. I’ve highlighted a few of the key points that I thought were particularly important:

  • One panelist noted that most technology advancements in the recent past have led primarily to personal welfare as opposed to financial benefits—he quoted Wikipedia as an example, which had added exactly zero to GDP. However, he expects the next wave of advancements to increasingly boost productivity in the services sector.
  • The panelists stressed that productivity gains will not equate to job losses, but rather will enable companies to offer new products and services. That will mean new jobs, which will necessitate worker retraining. The Bank of America’s Andrea Smith, and Accenture’s Ellyn Shook, both confirmed this had happened to thousands of employees in their two organizations.
  • Following on from this, the ability and willingness to learn and change will be critical for workers. As one of the panelists noted: nothing stays the same for very long.
  • Social skills will be imperative. Andy McAffee of MIT said they complement “book smarts” and are getting more valuable all the time. He’s not sure which of the two aptitudes is more important, but he’s convinced it’s not an either/or situation.
  • And finally, workers are fairly optimistic about the changes that this tech-driven age has in store for them. New Accenture research shows that six out of 10 surveyed workers believe digital technology will improve their jobs, and more than half expect they will be able to find work more easily. This positive attitude should be harnessed by company leaders.

To watch this and other panel sessions from Davos, click on the links below.

People and machines in the digital era

The digital workforce of the future

The platform economy

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