The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has completely altered our way of life and work. Businesses have had to implement new initiatives and technologies quickly to ensure employee safety while maintaining productivity. Working from home has become the norm for many of us, and adapting to these new modes of operation is critical for business continuity.
As we look to the future and consider the skills required, it is critical to first consider the different perspectives of employers and employees. According to recent research, there is a potential disconnect between what employees believe are the skills required in the future (technology specializations) and what organizations require (agility, flexibility, curiosity).
Agility is a skill that organizations are increasingly seeing as valuable, particularly following the disruption of the pandemic and the resulting pace of change. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, which was released in October, the workforce is automating faster than expected, displacing 85 million jobs over the next five years – but that same “robot revolution” could create 97 million new jobs.
Top Skills Required for 2025
Half of the top ten skills identified for 2025 revolve around problem-solving, with analytical thinking, creativity, and flexibility ranking high. Data and artificial intelligence, content creation, and cloud computing are all emerging as top professions that necessitate those skills. Organizations should look to create a culture of learning agility to support their people through this change, a concept based on maximizing the human instinct to learn, adapt, unlearn, and relearn.
Forbes recently referred to learning agility as the “organizational ‘it’ factor” for future-ready businesses in a recent article. Some powerful questions are proposed as a starting point for those responsible for business skill development:
- What changes are coming in the industry?
- What skillsets will employees need to be successful?
- Which steps should be taken, as an organization, to reskill employees who are at risk of becoming obsolete?
Investing in ‘long-term’ skills and proactive reskilling
When upskilling and reskilling aren’t options, the people profession should look to build strong relationships with different types of organizations to help create out skilling programs, preparing their workforce for alternative work in other sectors or environments.
The most competitive businesses will be those that invest in proactive reskilling and upskilling of employees, inclusively doing this by considering the communities at risk of disruption that may need additional support to participate in programs. Often, the areas of our workforce that are most vulnerable to technological displacement are those that are the most difficult to release – those working on production lines or in operational environments.
How can today’s employers help develop tomorrow’s employees?
One-third of workers today are anxious about their future, and much of that concern can be attributed to technology and automation. While not surprising, it’s a very problematic number as that anxiety crushes self-confidence and inhibits a worker’s willingness, and ability, to adapt.
As more work moves online, self-employment and short-term contracts will become more prevalent, resulting in less job security, more financial instability, and even greater stress. An out-of-office workplace and the lack of a social environment mean less job control and participation in decision-making. The inevitable anxiety often causes several physical and psychological health issues.
On the more positive side, research reports that 74% of workers are prepared to learn new skills or completely retrain to remain employable in the future.