John O'Connor

We’re hearing more about technology’s growing role in the long-term care field. And to be sure, there are many positive things to be said about the shift.

Thanks to recent technological breakthroughs and applications, operators are now doing a better job of monitoring residents, buildings, information, workers and more.

We’re even starting to see some experimentation that involves robots as caregivers. It’s not too hard to see why. Chronic understaffing remains a perennial industry challenge. Caregiving robots could potentially ease staffing shortages while trimming labor costs. That’s the good news. The bad news is that your job as a manager might also be threatened.

“When the AI tech tsunami hits, the only jobs that will be safe are the ones that require a human element,” says Edward D. Hess, Ph.D. He is a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

In his new book “Learn or Die” (Columbia Business School Publishing) Hess examines recent advances in neuroscience, psychology, behavioral economics, education and high-performing businesses. The key message: We need to do a better job of learning how to learn.

Here are three ways leaders in the long-term care field can help ensure continued employment, Hess says.

1. Overcome cognitive blindness. As humans, we tend to be lazy, sub-optimal thinkers. We seek to confirm what we already believe, and we tend not to be open-minded or rational. To overcome this, strengthen your critical thinking. Start asking yourself: Why do I believe this? What do I truly know? What don’t I know? What do I need to know?

2. Get good at not knowing. Hess notes that we need to change our mindset about what being smart really is. In the technology-enabled world, how much you know will be irrelevant, because smart machines and the Internet will always know more than you. Become an adaptive learner — someone who knows what you don’t know and how to learn it by asking the right questions.

3. Become an egoless collaborator. “The powerful work connections that will be needed to build successful organizations will result from relationships that are built by authentically relating to another person, recognizing their uniqueness, and doing so in a respectful way that builds trust,” he says. If you can’t manage your own emotions and ego, read those of others, or connect with the people around you on more than a superficial level, then you won’t be a successful collaborator.

Yes, technology will make operators’ lives better in many ways. But it also will challenge professionals to adapt, get better and be smarter. In other words, you’ll have to continue doing the things that have allowed you to make it this far.

John O’Connor is McKnight’s Editorial Director.