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7 things you need to know about work and the future of health

17 Nov 2020

What workplace trends will shape the future of working in health? Thought leaders in our tech and science communities share their insights.

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Technology is already transforming work in many sectors and health is no exception – from AI and machine learning impacting healthcare organisations and the workforce, to the potential integration of emerging technologies such as 3D printing and VR.

So what does this mean for people working in healthcare in the future? We asked some leaders in the tech and science sectors about how professional and technology trends could shape work in health.

1. Soft skills will be critical

Soft skills along with technical expertise will be necessary in the future of healthcare, according to Hays’ Alex Dawson.

Gerard McDonough, people and organisation partner at PwC, added that although the need to be “digitally savvy” is increasingly important across any industry, “great communication, emotional intelligence and the deeper people skills are as essential as the technical skills”.

Andrea Johnson, senior director at Workhuman, agreed that it “goes beyond tech skills”. Human skills, she said, will be critical.

2. Lifelong learners will be needed

Work in any area in the future will require “learning, agility and flexibility”, according to Viasat’s university recruiting manager, Sarah Iglesias, as the technical landscape is constantly evolving. “Technologies that an engineer will work with in five years may be entirely different from the tools they use today,” she said.

With new developments continuously arising in areas such as medtech and pharma tech, those hoping to lead in these fields will need to be committed to lifelong learning.

Irene Blat, a senior director at Genuity Science, told us that learning has been a big part of her career in genomics as she has to stay up to date on advances in the field. And MSD’s Danny Lyne, who leads pharmaceutical operations at the company’s Ballydine site, said his journey to date has taught him that on-the-job training is crucial to securing opportunities in the field.

3. There will be a focus on technical and digital literacy

According to Claire Chung, CIO at Citi, technology has become “the true enabler of all aspects of our lives”. Keeping that momentum going in the future will require the right blend of technical professionals.

But Chung believes that specific “core competencies” will be more important for workers in the future. “Good problem-solving abilities, innovative thinking and communication skills are a must for anyone who is going to be successful. If we can’t understand the problems we are trying to solve and communicate the solutions, we will get nowhere.”

As tech has become a bigger part of the health sector, Accenture has developed a healthcare consulting division. It works with clients to help them develop more efficient processes and insight-driven health.

Accenture Ireland’s HR director, Lisa Rose, said: “The diversity of services we offer our clients requires us to be able to attract skills such as artificial intelligence, analytics, augmented reality, data science, digital technologies, software engineering and life sciences skills. We are constantly seeking innovators with backgrounds in maths and engineering to assist us to prototype innovative solutions for our clients.”

4. Passionate people will still be essential

One of the big promises of the future of work is that automation will give people time to spend on more meaningful and purposeful work. This could be particularly important in health-related industries, where compassion and care can be key.

And in turn, the sector will also need people who are passionate. Fidelity Investments’ Karen Conway works in technology management and with the company’s future skills programme. “All the technical training in the world won’t give us the workforce we need,” she said. “They also need to have enthusiasm and ambition driving them every day.”

Genuity’s Rachael Carr recently told us that she is motivated by how her job affects patients. She works on the company’s GenoFit project, the best part of which is “knowing the impact you have on people’s lives”.

5. Openness to change will be a must

Though change is a guarantee in every sector, those working in health need to be willing to adapt.

Amgen’s Michelle Somers, a senior manager in engineering, argued that people shouldn’t be afraid of change. “Approaching change with a positive attitude can really help you deal with the change.”

6. We’ll need to find and train the right leaders

As with any industry, the future of health will need a strong pipeline of leadership talent. Johnson & Johnson is encouraging this through its Global Operations and Leadership Development (GOLD) programme.

According to Leah O’Keeffe, a physiology graduate who is currently on the GOLD programme in Ireland, such initiatives are crucial for preparing those who will lead the sector in the future.

7. Teamwork will be key

Plenty of healthcare innovation already requires teamwork, and this collaboration is likely to continue.

At Takeda, for example, employees work on self-directed work teams. Last year, a new recruit at the company, Sarah Gallagher, spoke to Siliconrepublic.com about how this team model helped her further hone her life sciences skills as a quality control analyst in microbiology.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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