By Wilhelm Crous
October 25, 2023

New work arrangements, technologies, automation, and now Artificial Intelligence make it challenging to predict the future, let alone discern which jobs will persist and which new roles will emerge. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, author of “I Human: AI, Automation and the Quest to Reclaim What Makes Us Unique”^1, and Chief Innovation Officer at ManpowerGroup, has recently suggested ways to nurture talent for an unpredictable future.

While AI may be rendering some jobs obsolete, it will also create new ones. However, the stark reality is that those displaced by AI and technology won’t necessarily have access to the new roles technology brings. They may lack the requisite skills, or the new roles may be located far from where old jobs were lost. For instance, a coal miner in Mpumalanga is quite distant from the Northern Cape, where solar and green jobs emerge. It’s evident that new technologies necessitate significant investment in talent. Erik Brynjolfsson reckons that for every pound organisations spend on technology, they should allocate an additional nine pounds to talent and associated processes. The linchpin of digital transformation isn’t the technology itself but rather the human element: Talent.

What’s crucial is “pre-skilling” — proactively preparing talent and reshaping careers, even before we understand what the sought-after roles and skills of tomorrow will be. How should we approach this? Chamorro-Premuzic offers several overarching suggestions:

Focus on Potential

Recruit and elevate individuals based on their future potential rather than past achievements. This entails valuing soft skills like learning capability, curiosity, resilience, and adaptability over technical skills such as programming or data mining. It’s a fair assumption that curious, emotionally intelligent, driven, and sharp individuals will generally be better prepared to acquire necessary skills.

Focus on Talent Expansion

Concentrate on enhancing and diversifying individuals’ talents. This doesn’t mean merely leveraging their existing strengths, but aiding them in cultivating new ones, allowing them to evolve into more adaptable versions of themselves. The transition to skill-centric recruitment will pave the way for a broader, previously untapped cohort of potential employees. This also means that employers might need to scout for talent in previously uncharted territories.

Invest in Mid-level Managers

Chamorro-Premuzic highlights the pivotal role managers play in harnessing human potential at work, especially when rejuvenating and re-envisioning talent is the order of the day. Modern managers must grapple with novel and intricate challenges, such as overseeing hybrid and remote teams, fostering psychological safety, enhancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and guiding teams in the human-AI era, all while upholding traditional managerial competencies.

Invest in Leadership Skills

Many of today’s eminent leaders might be ill-suited for the challenges of the future. Often, their past successes, rooted in replicating proven methods, become barriers to adaptation and learning. The focus should pivot towards qualities essential for inspiring and galvanising others in an era intertwined with AI, ideally termed the human-AI epoch. Chamorro-Premuzic also observes that we should move away from overvaluing factors like ‘cultural-fit’ and technical prowess, instead emphasising ability, curiosity, integrity, and interpersonal skills. Additionally, organisations ought to champion diversity, promote inclusive leadership, and foster cognitive diversity, thus shattering any monotony in leadership profiles.

For talent managers aspiring to future-proof their organisations, the shift should lean more towards pre-skilling, rather than solely reskilling or upskilling employees.

For those who are eager to delve deeper into the intricacies of talent development in the era of AI and unpredictable futures, there are upcoming events that promise to be enlightening. The HR Summit is slated to be held on the 15th and 16th of November 2023 in Cape Town and will move to Johannesburg on the 22nd and 23rd of November. Furthermore, the Talent Management Conference is scheduled for the 29th and 30th of November in Johannesburg, and for those unable to attend in person, an online option will be available. These events provide excellent opportunities for networking, sharing best practices, and keeping abreast of the latest trends in talent management and human resources.


    1. Chamorro-Premuzic, T., 2023. 5 Ways to Develop Talent for an Unpredictable Future. Harvard Business Review. Available at: