Tech Talk: Three skills to prepare your child for the future of work

Tech Talk: Three skills to prepare your child for the future of work

How do we help our children prepare for the future world of work and the impact of AI on businesses? Megan Marie Butler, AI Research Analyst specialising in HR at CognitionX explains the three most important skills we should help children to build.

I remember as a child sitting at the dining room table listening to my father and his business partners talking about how, in the future, you will be able to see company brochures on the computer – do you remember what company brochures were? If you do, then you get what I am talking about. Without revealing my true age, only a few decades later printed brochures are nearly non-existent, and every company has a website.

I also remember my father telling me that I was going to work in a future that he couldn’t even imagine, in a role not yet named, and he was right. I am an AI research analyst examining HR products and how AI will impact the way we work. Just as my father couldn’t imagine the types of roles I would have, it’s hard for most parents today to understand what roles their children will have.

Most parents want to ensure that their child is prepared for the future and will excel in their chosen field. In my research, understanding the impact of AI on the future of work, I have come to identify three key skills that all parents should foster in their children to future proof them – no matter what their career choice.   

Before we look at those skills, it’s important to have an understanding of AI technology and how it is impacting the workplace. There is a lot of hype about AI and what it could potentially do. However, it’s important to focus on the reality of how AI is impacting businesses right now.

To understand AI, most people try to understand the words (artificial and intelligence) and relate it to examples that they may have experienced (Terminator) – this is problematic. John McCarthy first coined the phrase in 1955 and later continued to explain what he meant by the term:

Artificial = synthetic 

Intelligence = able to obtain a goal

However, what most people think of AI can be defined as General Artificial Intelligence (AGI) (AGI, like AI is ill-defined but is generally understood to be AI that is able to cover a broad range of tasks or have cross-domain application). Some researchers believe that AGI is an achievable goal, while others are less optimistic. At the moment, the AI that is more widely in use is considered narrow AI – in other words, where AI systems are really good at a specific task or activity. 

This means that AI is mainly having three key effects on businesses1: 

1) Automation: This can be the automation of computer-based processes, like reading resumes and interpreting skills, or when linked with robotics, it can be used to scan and stack shelves at your local supermarket, for example. 

2) Cognitive Engagement: This covers the way we interact with technology, for example, a chatbot system can be fed FAQs on company policies along with employee-specific data. Employees can then ask the chatbot questions and get answers to their queries in real-time, rather than sifting through online FAQS or calling the HR helpdesk. 

3) Cognitive Insights: Building on data and analytics, AI tools are able to model predictions on likely outcomes for different events and make recommendations. At an advanced level, the system will learn from outcomes and improve the models from these outcomes. For example, developing predictive models for hiring and then using performance data of the hires (after the fact) to improve the predictive models. 

Each of these examples is not about replacing humans, but rather augment and improve what humans are already capable of. Thus, we are seeing roles shift and evolve rather than people being eliminated. To find out more about AI and its impact on HR (a good first step for anyone wanting to understand the impact of AI on business) download our free report from

So now that you have a better understanding of how AI is starting to change the world of work, I want to return to the three key skills that parents today need to focus on to prepare their children for the impact this is having on the workplace. 

1) Technology curiosity: This could also be understood as digital literacy with an increased understanding in how technology works. It’s a fallacy to believe that children that who grew up with technology will somehow develop an innate ability to understand it. Just as children in the 80s and 90s were taught media literacy to understand the media programming they grew up with, children today need to be taught digital literacy and to foster a curiosity of technology. 

This does not mean giving free reign overusing technology, but rather understanding how it works and how it could be applied in different ways as a tool. 

Note: It is important to note here that we also need to develop attention span and concentration. As our world becomes faster and faster with technology and media, having the ability to focus and develop critical thinking skills will become a differentiator as it already is in education and the workplace. 

2)  Soft-skills2: It would seem that in a future full of technology it would be important to press hard-skills and sciences. While they are undoubtedly important, regardless of the career that children will want to pursue, interpersonal and communication skills will continue to dominate in any career, if not become more important than technical skills. It is important to remember that roles will change and evolve with technology, however, technology will likely never be able to replace the human factor within the role. 

3) Developmental Mindset: Of all of the skills, I feel like this is the most important one. In the 80s and 90's Carole Dweck researched the importance of mindset in development. The research has been repeated in a number of different ways on children and adults with the same results. Having a developmental mindset meant that people see learning as an enjoyable challenge and it improves their ability to learn – in other words, having a developmental mindset as a skill improves your ability to learn new things, also known as learning agility. This will also be increasingly important as employees change jobs more frequently and skills become irrelevant more quickly than ever before.  Continuous learning will be an essential component for all workers to keep up with the changing world of work.

Here is a great video if you want to understand more about a growth/developmental mindset and how to foster it in your children.

Regardless of the path a child wants to pursue, by fostering the three key skills above, our children will be armed with the basic skills to thrive and adapt to any changes from the impact of AI and technology that may happen in the future. 


1) Davenport, T. H. & Ronanki, R., 2018. Harvard Business Review - Technology: Artificial Intelligence for the Real World. 

2) British Council Employer panel discussion, Kuala Lumpur May 2018


By Megan Marie Butler, BA, MBA IHRM, Cert. HRM CIPD and MCMI level 7 member. Megan Is an AI Research Analyst specalising in HR at CognitionX, the Expert Advice Platform that connects organisations with a global on-demand network of AI experts. The platform allows experts in AI from the around the world to share invaluable expertise with organisations of any size and sector who want to tap into that knowledge.

Founded in 2015 CognitionX’s mission is to drive innovation in, and deployment of, AI by making expertise universally accessible, levelling the playing field for the millions of organisations who don’t have access to strategy consultants or advisory boards, while also giving AI experts a new outlet for, and way to monetise, their expertise.

Twitter: @cognition_x

Released On 2nd Jul 2018


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